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Do you ever feel like you are rushing through life, ticking everything off your to-do list and never really present? This can have a huge impact on your mental health. But making some small changes, being more in the moment and paying attention to your thoughts and feelings can be a real mood booster. Here is How To Be More Mindful.
Being more aware of your feelings and thoughts, rather than ignoring them, is what is referred to as mindfulness. It can help you to react better to situations in your life and get so much more enjoyment out of the every day things in life. As part of my AXA PPP healthcare challenge to “Own Your Fears“, I have been using my fear of being in front of the camera to drive me to make some positive changes in my life, and one of those has been to be more mindful. My AXA PPP healthcare coach, Amy, recommended that I download the Calm app (which is a guided mediation app) and it has honestly been life changing and has taught me how to be more mindful.
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The Calm app has helped me to own my fears. It has helped me to get down to the real reason I have a fear of the camera. It is a fear of not being good enough. A fear of being a disappointment to the people I am meant to be “inspiring” and really just putting too much focus on aesthetics as sadly that is the industry I work in (blogging) – but that is changing. The Calm app has really taken everything back to basics for me. It’s helped me to not worry about the past, too far into the future, or what other people think. Now, I just try to focus on how amazing my body is for everything it can do.
Fear can hold us back from so much in life, and it can be debilitating. Research from AXA PPP healthcare shows that 1 in 5 (20 per cent) of Brits think about their biggest fear every single day. But it doesn’t have to hold you back! 73 per cent of Brits believe it’s possible for fear to be used in a positive way. That is what I am focusing on at the moment too. I’m using it as my driving force and it is what pushed me towards finding how to be more mindful.
What is mindfulness?
Mindfulness is all about knowing what is going on inside our bodies, and happening around us, moment by moment. Being present in that moment and being aware of what is actually happening, rather than what we think is happening and it’s a way to gain more enjoyment from life. One of my worst traits is being too inside my head, thinking I know what is happening and what people are thinking, which is where my fear of being in front of the camera comes from. It is the main source of my anxiety and depression and something I have been working on for a while.
We can get caught up by those feelings and they can take over our emotions and really affect our relationships with others. Being more mindful means re-connecting with our bodies, how they feel when we do certain things and really taking things back to basics with noticing the sounds, smells and sights around us. Too often we rush through life, through experiences, and we miss all of that.
Why should we be more mindful? It requires us to stop worrying about what is coming up, or any negative things that have happened in the past and just be in the now. You have no idea how freeing that is. You can literally feel a weight lifting off your shoulders. Always thinking about what is next can really build up your stress and anxiety, so stop for a moment and focus on the now.
Being more mindful, and living more in the moment, allows us to process our feelings there and then, rather than letting them build and exploding later on. It has also allowed me to have a bit of breathing space between what has happening and how I am going to react to it – I have stopped for a few minutes before reacting negatively. I have become less reactive and that has had a positive impact on my personal and professional life. You can start to see if you have a thought pattern, especially if it is a negative one and it makes it so much easier to let things go. That has had a big impact on my mental health. In the moment, I process my thoughts and ask myself “what will holding on to this negative though achieve? How will I benefit from this?”.
I have been focusing on being more mindful for about 4 weeks now, so I thought I would share some of the things I have learnt. So, if you are looking for tips on How To Be More Mindful, these should help.
How To Be More Mindful
Stop Living In The Past or Future
How can you be more present if you are always living in, and worrying about, the past or thinking about and predicting the future? The answer is, you can’t. For years I have been trapped in the past, never being able to let go of things people have done. Or I have spent too much time worrying about what is going to happen in the future, even when it was out of my control. Sometimes those feelings can be beneficially, but mostly they aren’t. Try living more in the moment, letting go of past situations and not worrying about what is still to come.
Notice The Small Things
Meditation, and practising mindfulness, has allowed me to notice the small every day things that we might take for granted. It can be something like noticing the way your body moves when you breathe or the smell of the trees when out for a walk. Sometimes we can feel like we just exist, living our lives on auto-pilot and just getting stuff done. Trying to be more mindful and noticing the small things like the smells and noises around us can interrupt this autopilot. That can allow us to see our world in a different way. We are missing out on so much in life by just “getting through the day”. Stop, listen, smell, engage – see things in a different way.
Do Something Different
One of the reasons it is so hard for us to break from auto-pilot and notice different things is because we are always doing the same thing. We get in a routine, and stuck in ruts, and that can be a huge pull on our mental health. Try doing something different. It doesn’t have to be anything major, just something like walking a different way to work or going to a different coffee shop. Change is good and it can make you more mindful of your surroundings.
This sounds way more medical than it actually is. It’s one of the real basic (but effective) mindfulness practises that I like to start my day with. Sit somewhere quiet and starting from your head, focus on each of your body parts and how they feel. Work your way down to your toes, stopping at your neck, shoulders, chest, arms, stomach, hips and legs. Do any of them ache? That’s okay – you are not trying to change that, just being aware of it. How do they feel when you take a deep breath in and out? How do they serve you? This has really helped me be present in that moment and focus on all the amazing things my body can do, rather than just how it looks.
What better way to live in the moment and notice what’s going on around you than in the great outdoors. You don’t have to sit in a quiet room for 10 minutes every morning to practice mindfulness, you can go out for a walk to practise it. Be aware of the sound your feet make when they meet the ground with every step. How do the trees sound when they sway in the wind? Can you hear your breathing as you walk a bit faster? Try to block out all the extra brain chatter and just focus on what is happening there and then.
Download the Calm App
Seriously, it has been life changing. I never would have known about it if I hadn’t of been challenged by AXA PPP healthcare over the past few months to own my fears, but it has become such an important part of my every day and has made a huge difference. Sitting there reading my tips about how to be more mindful is a great start. For some people you might be able to implement them straight away, but for other people they need a bit of help. The app offers you a guided meditation and you can choose to focus on mindfulness. They even have a 7 day free trail, so you can see if you like it.
Commit To It
Pick a certain time each day that you are going to dedicate to being more mindful. After a while it will become like second nature, and you will do it without even thinking about it. But in the beginning you will need to set aside some time to really focus on it. That is why the app is so great, because it is 10 minutes to focus on just that. But even if you don’t have the app, set aside 10 minutes every morning and sit somewhere quiet and focus on your breathing. Focus on the way your body moves and the sounds around you.
Don’t Expect To Get It Right Straight Away
Being mindful and living in the now can be really difficult for many. I found it almost impossible to begin with, but it got easier really quickly. I found myself have a lot of intrusive thoughts about the past, or thinking about the day/week/month ahead rather than concentrating on what is happening right now. But that’s okay, you mind is always going to want to be busy. As soon as you start to notice this happening, just bring yourself back to the moment with no judgement for letting your mind slip. Mindfulness is all about returning to the present moment over and over again. No matter how many times it wanders off, and always being kind to yourself when you come back.
Practising mindfulness is really simple, and can be done anywhere without any special equipment, but that doesn’t mean it is easy. It will take some time and practise, but the impact it has already had on my life is honestly profound. It has been more than worth investing 20 minutes a day in. This has been the biggest change as part of my Own Your Fears challenge. I can’t wait to share my final post on the challenge next month. That will be an update on how I feel about posting photos of myself online now.
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