For years, I wanted to live a ‘mindful’ life, filled with meditation, sunrise yoga, and very green smoothies. I thought it’d be easy and make me a better person. I thought burning incense and hanging tapestry meant I would be calmer and cooler.
It didn’t mean that at all. I may have looked the part, but nothing about me was mindful or zen. I was still angry. I was still eating poorly, drinking too much alcohol, and smoking regularly.
Fast forward to 2020 and the global pandemic forced us all to reassess our priorities, values, and the way we live our life. After spending the first few months in free fall, I decided to make some meaningful changes. I started therapy, improved my sleep habits, and started living more mindfully. Read on to find out more.
What is mindfulness?
Before I dive into the how let’s start with the what. Mindfulness is the practice of being present and aware of what’s happening in your current surroundings.
Sounds simple, right? Of course, it’s a lot more complicated as modern life is filled with distractions. Meaning many of us are never truly present because we’re scrolling on Instagram while watching TV, or reliving that awkward encounter we had while our friend tells us a story.
Fortunately, mindfulness is something that lives within all of us. It just takes practice, patience, and an understanding that we’ll never ‘perfect’ it.
I’m still on my journey and I’m certainly no expert, but here are a few easy ways to start your mindfulness journey without spending ££££s on a retreat.
Go for a mindful walk
When you’re feeling stressed or erratic, it’s easy to seek comfort through social media, video games, or TV. These things give us an instant dopamine hit and can make us feel better in the short term.
However, after a while, staring at screens while curled up on the sofa actually does more harm than good. It can prolong our negative mood, heighten our anxiety and prevent us from sleeping.
Instead, try going for a walk. Trust me, I know how difficult it can be to get out of the house. Especially in the winter. But walking around somewhere green, like a park or field, has been proven to improve your mood and overall well-being.
Filling up your lungs with fresh air and surrounding yourself with nature can help give you a fresh perspective on your situation and feel better. Just remember to keep your phone in your pocket and try to focus on your breathing and taking in your surroundings.
Meditation is often a daunting concept for anyone who’s never tried it before. It can seem boring and difficult, plus who has time to just sit and breathe?
Guided meditation is an easy way to learn how to meditate because you have someone talking you through what to do, reassuring you what’s normal, and teaching you how to refocus your thoughts.
Fortunately, there are plenty of guided meditation apps available, meaning you can access a private mindfulness tutor from the palm of your hand.
I’m sure you’ve heard of Headspace before and for good reason. I’ve been using it for years and it has so many themed guided meditations, so once you’ve got the basics down, you can apply the techniques to many situations.
It also has dedicated tabs for helping you sleep, finding music for focusing, and trying mindful exercise videos.
Listen to focus music while you work
Focusing while I’m working is one of my biggest mindful challenges. I’m very easily distracted, especially when I’m in an office filled with colleagues who want a chat.
A few years ago, I invested in some noise-cancelling over-ear headphones and they changed my life. I now use them whenever I need to get work done, even if I’m home alone, so I can block out all the distractions and focus on what’s in front of me.
However, the music I pick is as important as the noise-cancelling feature. If it’s a song I want to sing along to, or a playlist I keep skipping, I’ll spend too much time focused on the music rather than the work.
That’s why I listen to focus music. Whether it’s liquid D’n’B, chillhop, lofi hiphop or piano music, choosing genres with minimal words is essential to helping me work mindfully.
Here are a few of my fave Spotify playlists:
- Chill Out Music – a calming, meditative playlist.
- Liquid Drum and Bass – filled with upbeat music, perfect for a Friday afternoon.
- Peaceful Hideaway – a perfect mix of ambient nature music
Switch off your phone’s notifications
I hate how often I pick my phone up, scroll mindlessly and waste hours being entranced by an inanimate object.
One of the ways I’ve combatted this is by muting the majority of my notifications. This means I’m in control of when I check my phone and don’t get notified when someone sends me a DM or I get yet another marketing email.
The only time my phone makes a noise is when I’m getting a phone call and I only receive push notifications when someone WhatsApps me. Otherwise, I try to limit the time I pick my phone up and check it.