You would need to have been living under a stone for the last few years to have not encountered someone suggesting you try mindfulness. The meditation app, Calm, says it has had more than 40 million downloads worldwide and over 1 million subscribers. I myself have had it suggested more than a few times as I rush from meeting to kids club and back again. We can all appreciate the benefits of a calmer and clearer mind, even if only for a few minutes a day.
But what do you do if you are one of those people that can’t easily quieten the mind? Whose brain is a google hangout of the all the tasks, projects, things to do, that everyday work and home life bring? Well you are not alone. But as I discovered recently there are other ways to quieten the noise. The key is regular, short bursts, of focused activity.
Here are my top 5 ways to practice mindfulness (for people who don’t do mindfulness).
1. Get dirty
No, not that way! Get to work outside – whether in the garden, vegetable bed, or flower box. Working outside can be enormously rewarding. The feel of the soil in your hands, the satisfaction of nurturing a new seedling or reaping the rewards of a healthy vegetable haul – there is something literally grounding to work in nature. Some of my coaching clients use their gardening endeavours as a measure of how well they are balancing their life. Weeds? Wilted flowers? Maybe you need to schedule some time for you.
2. Get cooking
My husband is the cook in our house, so I came late to the benefits and joys of following a recipe and watching patiently while your senses are devoured by the smells and tastes. Baking has become my go to mindful activity in the kitchen – the precision of measuring, kneading, mixing, and then waiting whilst your creation teases you with its slow baking aromas, before unveiling its freshly baked beauty – a joy only to be topped by savouring it – slowly.
3. Get creative
I have lost count of the number of people that have told me they are not creative. We are all creative! There’s a whole side of our brain dedicated to it! Some of us are just better at tapping into it than others. Whilst some historical creatives might bring images of tortured souls, creatives or rather creative activity is known to be one of the most effect ways to achieve a state of ‘flow’ – where we are so engaged in what we are doing that time or the outside world can pass us by. Drawing, painting, sewing, knitting (oh and pottery, wonderful pottery!) are just some creative activities that can take us from the outside chaos to a quieter place of calm.
4. Get out
I could walk for days given half a chance. Sadly that is not a luxury I can afford these days with a young family and a busy business to run around after. But getting outside – to walk, run, or cycle – is a luxury we can all easily achieve, and the benefits go way beyond physical. My only condition is that I touch nature whilst I am out there – pick up a stick, take off your trainers and feel the grass under your feet. Breathe, really breathe, and savour it for just a few seconds. It is well known fact that our brains function better with more oxygen. We sleep better too, which means we can handle stress better. It might not quieten the mind as much as the others do, but it will definitely make us more able to deal with it.
5. Get writing
Most of us with a spaghetti junction head have a common challenge – simplifying. Journaling is a great way to untangle the spaghetti and get more clarity. A lot people don’t know where to start with a journal, so I always suggest two ways. Firstly, if your head feels full of lists, then get them out of your head and on to paper. Then decide which of those you and only you can deal with. Your list is guaranteed to be a lot shorter than the list that has run around your head for weeks or even months. Secondly, if you struggle with clarity, write down what it is you need to achieve – then with no other information whatsoever, write what you would need to get there. Both result in shorter lists, and hopefully quieter minds.
“Mindfulness isn’t difficult. We just need to remember to do it” (Sharon Shaltzberg)