Creative Mindfulness.

Creative Mindfulness.

In my opinion, I’ve saved the best for last. After all, who doesn’t love a bit of colouring or something practical when they’re learning a new skill… well technically I learn best by talking to myself (which sounds weird) but that’s beside the point, I just love colouring.

I found this kind of mindfulness through the book, I am here now which I bought on Amazon a while ago. It’s got some great ideas in there and they’re all really varied which is nice. Probably the best bit about it is that it doesn’t involve closing your eyes and breathing deeply, which can be a little uncomfortable in a public place. I’d definitely recommend at least having a look at it, I carry it everywhere with me in case I get a little stressed while I’m out.

The most obvious activity is one that I’ve already mentioned, and you may not have realised its uses as a tool for mindfulness. Colouring! It’s pretty simple, while you colour keep your mind on the picture in front of you and colour. Focus on the different shades, on keeping within the lines and on the pattern in front of you. If you’re focusing on this stuff rather than the muddle inside your head, that’s mindfulness! Simple.

One of my favourites from the book is an exercise where you draw a line with every breath to create a pattern. Make sure your pen follows the breath, rather than the other way round. When you’ve done you can even colour it in, double whammy! It explains it much better in the book, unfortunately words allude me on this one, but I used to draw these with my mum when I was little and the nostalgia adds an extra element of calm for me.

You can probably do anything creative mindfully – in fact you can do anything that you want to do in a mindful way. As I mentioned last week, I drive, walk and eat mindfully; if I can do that then mindful papier mache, collaging and painting are definitely legitimate options.

So if you’re a creative person, or just fancy giving this a try why not do it today! Let me know how it goes.

Mindfulness – Experiencing Life.

Mindfulness – Experiencing Life.

Every day we do things that we don’t truly experience. We shower, but spend it thinking about the day behind/ahead rather than noticing the water’s temperature or pressure, or the smell of the soap. We drive, but spend the time daydreaming rather than paying real attention to our surroundings or the sensations in our body. We eat, but we shove the food down our throats and move onto another activity without really taking the time to taste the flavours in our meals.

While we might not have time to box in Mindfulness practice, we can work on being mindful during these every day activities. I’ve been working on that during this week. Paying attention to my hands gripping the steering wheel, how I’m sat in the seat and the different colours of the cars around me. Blocking out my thoughts while I shower and focusing on the scent of the soap and shampoo, changing the temperature/pressure of the water and listening to the sound of the water crashing into the bathtub beneath my feet. Taking the time to savour every different hint of flavour in my food and seeing how many ingredients I can identify. All of these practises are being mindful – and it doesn’t take any extra time because I’m working them into my daily routine.

Our daily routine is another place where we can be mindful. Each of us follows subconscious routines without realising it: we put our trousers on a certain leg first, we brush our teeth with the same hand, we use the same mug in the mornings. These are routines which we’ve adopted without even noticing! By paying attention to these things and perhaps changing them around every so often, we can take control of our routines and thus better accustom ourselves to changes in our lives.

Why not give it a go this week? Wear your watch on the wrong arm, use a different shampoo, swap the order of your breakfast and shower around. How does it feel? If you are brave enough to give this a go please drop me a line, I’d love to hear about it.

Firing Mindfulness.

Firing Mindfulness.

When I say ‘firing’ I’m not talking about giving it the sack because it’s awful, I’m talking about taking aim and shooting it at certain situations. Mindfulness may sound calm and placid, but when you’re battling against a mental illness or stress, this is the perfect ammo.

This week I’ve been practising Mindfulness exercises that are aimed at certain things:

  • Getting to sleep.
  • Dealing with difficult memories.
  • Waking up & starting a new day.
  • Calming yourself down before/after a stressful experience.

The problem is, when you’re stressed busyness is probably a contributor. If you’re busy you’ll probably not be too keen on adding another thing to your daily routine, but these very short exercises can make a real difference to your productivity. When something upset me earlier this week, I lay in bed and picked up my Mindfulness exercise for dealing with difficult memories:

I closed my eyes and breathed deeply.

I pictured that memory and allowed it to sit in my mind for just a moment.

I watched that memory float away on a cloud.

It didn’t work immediately, nothing good ever does, but after a couple of goes I felt a bit calmer. If I’d tried to block those emotions out and carried on with my day, I would probably have been much less productive with that nagging thought hanging around in the background, waving its arms around and distracting me. But taking those five minutes to allow the emotion its place in the world, and then letting it go, meant it was absent from the rest of my day.I was free!

Similarly, going back to sleep for an extra five minutes is much more tempting than slipping in a Mindfulness exercise in the morning. But when you’ve done it your mind is ready to fight through whatever may attack it on the coming day. In case you’re feeling the urge to give that one a go:

Stay in bed & stretch your body into a starfish shape, wiggling your fingers and toes.

Become aware of any discomfort or aching in your body.

Stretch & sit upright.

Look around the room and pick out 3 things you like: a picture, ornament, item of clothing.

Get up & stand with your feet a hip’s width apart.

Stretch your arms over your head, then drop them to the ground and shake out the tension.

Take a deep breath in & out – you’re ready to start your day!

If you’re not ready to take time out of your day, that’s fine. Next Friday, I’ll be talking about exercises which you can slot into things you already do on a daily basis. No need for time out! But before I go I just want to encourage you to give one of these exercises a try. Aiming your Mindfulness at particular things that’re bothering you can be powerful ammo when you’re fighting for control of your mind and body. After all, you wouldn’t go into battle and fire a gun without checking your aim, would you?

I get some of my ideas from these books and I’d definitely recommend grabbing one! 

I am here now

The Mindfulness Journal

 

Mindfulness – Taking Time Out.

Mindfulness – Taking Time Out.

In this busy world it can be hard to find time to sit down with a cuppa, let alone find time just to sit and be. Mindfulness is something that normally takes a bit of practice, but it’s worth the effort; taking a few minutes out of your day to do some short exercises is a great way to live in the moment and really enjoy all the little things in life.

This week I’ve tried a few short mindfulness exercises and I realised two things:

  1. It’s really hard to be mindful while getting distracted by your mindfulness blog
  2. I’m really out of practice!

Something you’ll notice if you start practising mindfulness is that almost every exercise involves you ‘breathing deeply’. Personally, I do this by breathing in slowly, holding it for three counts, breathing out, holding it for three again, and repeating. Focusing on this breath helps you to focus on the moment, giving you a focal point to drag your attention back to when your mind wanders… and boy will wander! At first, it’ll try to escape the exercises every few seconds, but after a while you’ll manage to reign it in.

If you’re struggling with this, it might be useful for you to get an object to focus on instead. In my therapy group I learnt an exercise where we focused on a stone. It sounds over simplistic and maybe a little dull but it turned out to be one of my favourites. The best bit is that you can do with any object! It goes something like this:

Breathing deeply, take a look at the object. Examine every inch of its appearance.

Now feel the object, run your fingers over its every surface.

Shake it in your hand, does it make a sound?

Smell your object, what does it smell like? Is it a strong smell? What does it remind you of?

So I guess the question is whether this first week of mindfulness has made any changes to the way I feel?

I think it has, in a small way. It’s worth bearing in mind that for the last couple of years mindfulness has been a fairly consistent part of my life, I haven’t practised as much as I should, but I have dipped in and out through this time. This means it’ll probably make a little less difference to me, as I’m only increasing the amount I do, rather than starting a new practise.

Saying that, before I increased my hours, I was spiralling a little bit. My mental health was beginning to get out of control and I was struggling to keep up with my work. This week I’ve been more aware of what’s happening in my body and mind, this led to an increased awareness of emotions, which made them easier for me to control. As I go into week two, I’m feeling a little calmer; ever so slightly more ready for life.

If you’ve done any mindfulness this week please let me know! I’d love to hear what sort of exercises you enjoyed, and try out your recommendations. I’m even happy to hear from you if you’ve tried it, and hated it! Today was just an introduction, next week I’ll be looking at mindfulness for specific situations, which might take a little more time, but are more guided.

If you’d like to try mindfulness but want a little more guidance, try out one of the many mindfulness books:

I Am Here Now – creative mindfulness

The Mindfulness Journal

Experiencing Every Moment – Mindfulness.

Experiencing Every Moment – Mindfulness.

One day, in a room of strangers, I was told about the benefits of Mindfulness for those suffering with mental health problems. I was sceptical at first, I’d known the term only as a common practise in Buddhism and was wary of it as though it were some kind of witchcraft at first. This was naive, but for someone who had frequently seen a little boy wearing an orange coat hiding in her wardrobe, it’s not so crazy as it may seem.

They told us to close our eyes. I didn’t. I’ve never been one to let my guard down when surrounded by the unknown. After a few weeks of congregating in the room with the now not-so-strangers I settled enough to give it a go. We learnt the art of focusing on something in the moment, disregarding our thoughts. Whether it was a stone, candle or even our breath we were taught to push thoughts away and simply experience the moment.

My skills progressed throughout the course until I was able to be mindful of almost every moment. I became aware of routines which I hadn’t noticed before, such as putting my trousers onto my right leg first, and brushing my teeth with my right hand. By changing some of these routines I gained control over them. By focusing my thoughts, I gained control over them. I learnt grounding techniques, focusing on what is real right now. I learnt to accept my emotions and thoughts as they were, while acknowledging their possible unreliability and bias.

Over the course of 8 weeks I had learnt more than I expected – not disregarding the fact that mindfulness is not some strange art of witchcraft. By being more aware of the feelings within my body, and the surroundings outside of it I was able to control my reactions to situations and calm myself much more effectively. In my opinion, being mindful enables you to gain power over your brain and emotions, and is a really useful method for anyone to practise, regardless of whether you’re suffering with mental health problems or not. Everyone gets stressed or upset sometimes!

That’s why I’ll be focusing my Friday sessions on a month of mindfulness. I’ll be practising a number of exercises each day and giving feedback on which I find most useful. I’ll give some details of one for you to try if you’re interested at the bottom of each week’s post. So I’d encourage you to try this month of mindfulness with me and share your experiences in the comments. I’d love to hear from you!