Growing up I've dabbled in what I thought was mindfulness, lighting the odd incense stick in my bedroom as a teenager; which resulted in family members choking on the array of smells. I was very impatient and wanted to try all the different scents, at once! To then visiting spa hotels with friends and family, lounging in beautiful settings feeling totally chilled out. But when I reflect back on those one off experiences, I conclude they were memorable and relaxing, but then question how long it was before I was back to being Mind Full? Developing my mindset since 2017 has opened myself up to other forms of learning, resulting in areas such as Mindfulness and Well-being becoming significant and a holistic journey of self-awareness.
What is mindfulness?
What is Mindfulness considering we live in a fast paced world, where things are instant and our patience is tested if we are left waiting? For instance our shopping, we click for next day delivery or food, we click and it's delivered within 30 minutes. Gemma and I refer to these experiences as the Amazon Effect. The link we make at Grow Your Mindset is to the detrimental impact these experiences have on us as learners, whereby we expect to know things instantly and question, compare ourselves or begin to self-doubt when we don't have certain knowledge or skills straight away. Then there's the idea of success and wanting to experience it instantly, often without having to put in too much effort to get there. And whilst we can find ourselves spending a lot of time thinking about the past and daydreaming about the future, engaging in mindfulness pulls you back to the present, appreciating and engaging with what's going on in the here and now. Do you sometimes find yourself immersed in future plans and therefore you miss out on savouring the present moment?
Why is mindfulness so important?
Our social media platforms have allowed us to connect with so many amazing likeminded people, some in a similar situation to us (former teachers leaving the profession, to ensue a new career path thus following a different passion). Leanne of Purely Wellbeing is one of those individuals, who wrote, "One of the many things I love about mindfulness is how it can be practised and adapted to the individual." I also resonate here in relation to the importance of developing a mindset journey with children and adults, each journey is individual and bespoke based on their life experiences and influences, which have moulded their mindset over time. Plus becoming mindset aware is very much about your thoughts at that precise moment, the here and now. However, we often find ourselves reacting to our thoughts about the past or future which trigger our fixed mindset. I feel that bringing both the ability to connect with mindset and recognising our triggers alongside mindfulness, which slows the pace, opening up rational and logical thoughts in a calm way, reduces stress, increases focus and allows time to regulate our emotions. This undoubtably impacts positively on an individual's well-being.
How do you practice mindfulness?
As with anything that you practice it involves something that you consciously take the time and put the effort in to do. We naturally default to our normal habits and this is about forming new habits within your day. So for me, this also relates directly to my mindset journey in that I have consciously become aware of when my fixed mindset comes home to roost to pause, think and change my perspective to become more growth orientated. The same applies to mindfulness in that we take the time to make space for ourselves, to re-connect focusing on the now, our surroundings, our emotions, our breathing, not the past and not the future.
Does mindfulness help with anxiety?
As with developing an awareness of your Mindset taking the time to become Mindful also allows you to internalise experiences, so you are less reactive and more reflective. One of the biggest changes I've noticed in myself is my reflection on the mindset of the people around me. So the person who snaps at me or gives a look, in the past this could trigger me to worry and wonder what I had done wrong. Now I think where their mindset was at that moment, what sort of day have they had? So rather than acting instinctively you are able to detach yourself from the situation, this allows you time to respond with empathy and compassion, seeing the situation from a different perspective which alleviates worry and anxiety.
Mindfulness - Top Tips and Strategies.
Adopting one or two changes to your daily habits is the first step to recognising how being mindful can make a positive difference and allievate you feeling of being mind full.
1) Mindful Breathing - clarifying with children the difference between normal breathing and mindful breathing is important. Breathing twice a day for five minutes gives your busy mind a much needed break from autopilot and helps to calm your mind. Breathe slowly in through your nose, let the air pass down your throat, past your chest into your stomach. Feel your stomach rise and fall with each breath.
2) Mindful Eating - often we eat so quickly we don't taste what we have eaten and sometimes forget what we have actually eaten during a week. Taking the time to savour the food you are eating again reconnects you to the here and now. Imagine you have never experienced the types of food you are about to eat, whether it be a meal or bar of chocolate you are so desperate for. Look at the food, if appropriate hold it and then smell it before tasting it. Take your time and see if you notice a difference in the level of enjoyment of your food.
3) Mindful Movement - giving time to focus on movement also connects you to your body. It's not a work out it's a series of moves that allows you to think about what your body feels like during and after, as well as focusing on your breathing too. Exercises that engage the arms, legs, shoulders, toes, knees and back (the whole body) encourages you to pay attention to your body. Why not give these a go to get you started:
Reach for the Stars
Spread your legs shoulder-width apart with your arms by your side.
Your spine should be straight and your head balanced.
Take a deep breath and slowly raise your arms over your head.
With your feet firmly planted on the ground, stretch high.
Keep inhaling and exhaling.
Pay attention to how your shoulders feel right now, your arms, your hands and your fingers.
Breathe in… now exhale and bring your arms back down to your side.
Repeat two more times.
Jack In The Box
Bring your feet close together.
Then take a deep breath, keep your back straight and crouch down on your toes.
Keep your arms tucked into your chest.
Pay attention to how your legs feel, your feet, your toes. Try not to fall over!
Now breathe out, keep your feet on the ground and pop up like a Jack-in-the-box.
Push your arms to the sky. Reach high again.
Repeat two more times.
Your feet should be shoulder-width apart
Put your hands on your hips.
First bend your upper body to the left side. Really feel the stretch.
Now bend your upper body forward.
Now bend your body to the right side.
And now lean your upper body backwards a little.
Now put it all together and do it five times. Not too fast!
4) Mindful Listening - during a day there are many sounds competing for our attention. Mindful listening helps you to notice the many sounds around you rather than blocking out and focusing on just one or two. Sit and close your eyes, focus on the sounds around you, how many can you hear? Zoom out further, listen for other sounds in your environment. When people are talking to us it is important to change our focus and zoom in. Paying more attention to what they are saying, their body language and facial expressions rather than drifting off or thinking about what you are going to say in response improves our relationships as we become more thoughtful in the way we hear and respond to the words of others.
5) Body Focus - the next time you're lay in bed why not try a bit of body connection. By homing in on certain parts of your body and thinking about the sensations you are feeling connects your body and mind. How your body feels effects how your mind feels and vice versa. Breathe and exhale and spend a minute focusing firstly on your feet, then calves, thighs, hips, waist and so on. You are not tensing these parts of your body, but simply accepting any feelings of discomfort, tension and paying attention to your body.
6) Gratitude - taking the time to be grateful each day improves our resilience, health and happiness. Did you know that thinking about 3 things each day that you are grateful for rewires your brain to be happier? Why not give it a try? To shift our focus from what makes us feel bad to what makes us feel good encourages us to be more optimistic which helps us sleep better, plus practising gratitude really helps our mood too.
7) Your Happy Place - To think about a place that is quiet and still and taking time out to imagine you are there ignites your senses as you imagine the sights and smells as well as how it makes you feel, This is a lovely technique when you feel overwhelmed, are having a bad day or are experiencing negative emotions. And the best bit is you can travel there without leaving your home. I remember being on a holiday a couple of years ago. I sat on my sun bed in the Bahamas looking out at the pale blue sea, palm trees, golden sand and felt the warm sun on me. I distinctly remember saying to my niece I am going to blink and open my eyes and take a snap shot of the here and now and whenever I need to come back at this moment I can. And since lockdown I've visited that place on various occasions.
8) Mindful Walking - have you every driven or walked home via your normal route and wondered how on earth you got home or you don't even remember a thing about the journey? That is because your mind is in overdrive thinking about the past or future and not the present. By making a conscious effort to change your route and notice what is going on around you, you replace your thoughts with direct experiences. Even try sitting in a different seat in the staff room at work or turning off the TV during an evening and doing something else instead.
Writing this blog has definitely opened my mind to the close link between Mindset and Mindfulness. Imagine your mindset as the motorway, that's your foundation for everything you think, say, believe and do, by practising mindfulness this allows you to plug the potholes that can occur when the motorway is overused to help repair it. Yeah, I like that!
If you love a good read, why don't you check out our other blogs about mindsets.
If you would like to know more about Grow Your Mindset click here.