Five quick mindfulness tips

Author: Siobhan Martin  

Five quick mindfulness tips

I am writing this while sitting in a friend’s house in New Zealand, enjoying a wonderful view of the Poor Knights Islands. The two islands lie 23 kilometres off the North Island, three hours drive north of Auckland.

Up until the early 1800s, they were inhabited by a Maori tribe. But, after a battle with a rival group the tribe was almost completely wiped out and the islands were abandoned. They are now a marine reserve, and have been rated by the Scuba pioneer Jacques Cousteau as one of  the top ten dive spots in the world.

Rising from the Tasman Sea, the islands appear to be two knights lying at rest, their shields clutched to their chests. Looking out at them, I’m trying to practice some mindfulness, inspired both by their repose, and by a woman I had met the night before at a pizza party thrown by our friends to celebrate our arrival.

Amanda had been about to jet off to Sydney to take part in a week-long mindfulness course and, over pizza pulled from the backyard pizza oven, we discussed the ins and outs of meditation.

It’s very easy to practice mindfulness when you are on holidays, but how do we fit it into our busy lives?

Here are my top five tips for everyday, easy mindfulness.

Practice five senses mindfulness

This is a great one to recentre yourself. I do it at my desk, after lunch, to help focus before I get back into work. While it works for relaxation, I also think it is terrific in helping you connect with your surroundings.

Become more artistically aware

The creative arts have long offered a soothing balm for the difficulties of everyday life. But in the modern world, we often find it hard to connect with the arts on any level other than passive: watching TV or listening to music. Your brain will benefit, as will your emotions, if you get more actively involved.

Choose a poem, a piece of text from a favourite novel, part of a speech from someone you admire, or a monologue from a film, and memorise it. Think about what it means as you learn it. Think about its context (best not to choose something from Reservoir Dogs!) If it’s a poem, what imagery does it conjure for you? If a monologue or speech, think about the emotions the person was feeling as they delivered it, and what it means to you.

You may prefer the visual arts. If so, print off some colour copies of your favourite painting, drawing or piece of pottery. Spend five minutes examining them each day.

These methods are a great way to take time out from the often artistically deprived lives we lead.

Eat mindfully

There are plenty of tips on how to eat mindfully. While I would encourage you to read up on these, most  comprise a long list of dos and don’ts, which can seem overwhelming.

I usually practice mindful eating when I’m snacking (I mostly do healthy, but it works perfectly well for a chocolate biscuit, too!)

Take whatever you’re eating — a piece of carrot, or apple, or handful of nuts — and look at the colour, feel the texture. If you’re eating nuts or seeds, roll them around in your palm. If it’s a chocolate biscuit (I’m thinking TimTam!) run your fingertip over it; is it smooth, or slightly ridged?

Pop the food in your mouth. Eat slowly. Really savour the chocolate as it melts, or taste the salt from the nuts on your tongue. Leave it there for a minute. Is it only sweetness and salt you can taste or are there other flavours?

Then crunch down. Feel the crumbs in your mouth. Swallow and feel the gentle abrasion as the food passes down your throat.

Two tips for the end of the day

Usually, I am asleep five minutes after I turn off the light. My daughter, Ms Nine, is not. To help her relax, I taught her the following technique.

With each outward breath, breathe out all the negative energy and emotion you have absorbed during the day. She may have had a falling out with a friend or a sibling. You may have had a meeting that didn’t go your way. Exhale the negativity and imagine it leaves a clean, empty space behind.

Then inhale good vibes: the thought that tomorrow will be a better day, and how you can make it better; the delight you felt at coming home and seeing your children happy; the good meal you had, or the situation comedy on the telly that made you laugh. As you inhale, imagine that all the good stuff is filling the empty space left by the bad stuff.

Finally, if that is a little too much for you, simply lie in bed and think if five things you are thankful for, and why.

Then, you’ll be well on your way to attaining the repose enjoyed by the Poor Knights fast asleep in the sea.

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