Mindfulness has had a lot of interest in recent years as a way of improving mental and physical health. Mindfulness is the practice of maintaining a state of awareness of one’s thoughts, emotions, or experiences on a moment-to-moment basis – or to put it more simply to be in the present moment.
The key to the practice is observing the flow of our inner thoughts, feelings and bodily sensations without judging them as right or wrong. By doing this we can begin to experience greater joy and happiness. The benefits of a regular mindfulness practice include improved sleep, reduced stress and increased concentration.
Here are some exercises to practice mindfulness, try for a few minutes at a time to begin and as you practice you will find it easier to do it for longer.
Spend time in nature, even if it’s from your own home. Find a comfortable spot near a window. Pick a cloud in the sky, and then just breathe, watch it and wait for it to pass or change shape. If it’s the evening you could wait until the sun completely sets or sit until the birds finish their song.
Research shows that showing compassion for others can help improve our own mental health as it releases endorphins – the feel good hormones. There’s lots of small ways that we can be mindful of others;
- Offer a smile to a neighbour or stranger that would otherwise go unnoticed.
- Hold a door open for someone, just because.
- Call a friend and share a kind word.
- Say “thank you”.
- Notice how it feels to be caring and to give from a kind heart.
This “five senses” exercise is a way of practicing mindfulness in nearly any situation or place. All you need to do is to notice something you are experiencing with each of the five senses.
- Notice five things you can see
- Notice four things you can feel
- Notice three things you can hear
- Notice two things you can smell
- Notice one thing you can taste