1. Schedule some quiet time
Mindfulness often includes the practice of breathing, meditation and yoga. In your busy life, you may often forget to take time to be quiet. So remember to pencil in some time for just being quiet and practising mindfulness. This is especially important when things are particularly busy and your diary is full. Make an appointment with yourself, and honour it as you would any other commitment.
Practising something at the same time every day can help you develop a routine that is easier for you to stick to. Think about a time of day that works well for you; it could be first thing in the morning, at lunch time, during a coffee break or in the evening. Turn off technology and other distractions and spend some time being present with yourself. This could be as simple as taking the time to take five deep breaths and just noticing what it feels like to do this. You could try some gentle yoga movements and notice what you feel in your body as you do this.
If you’re really tight for time, perhaps take a moment just to stretch or raise your arms in the air and observe what it feels like to do this. Pay attention to the movement in your body; what muscles you notice and what sensations you become aware of. If you are creative, you may choose to spend this time drawing or colouring. When your mind wanders – which it will do – just acknowledge it and gently bring your attention back to the moment.
2. Keep a gratitude diary
We all experience problems, large or small, and it’s easy to focus on what's going wrong rather than the positive things in our lives. Keeping a gratitude diary is a great way to become more mindful and appreciative of the good things in your life that you are thankful for. These may be big things like valuing an important person in your life. Or it could be smaller things like drinking your favourite tea, appreciating sunshine or having an enjoyable conversation with someone.
There’s no right or wrong way to do it, but it can help to try and be as specific and detailed as you can and to practise this regularly. Perhaps try keeping this diary daily. Research suggests that practising gratitude can increase your sense of wellbeing.
3. Try a body scan
A body scan is where you move your attention through different parts of your body, noticing how you feel at each point. Try starting at your feet and noticing how they feel and what they are doing. Notice the temperature. Notice what they are in contact with – it might be your socks, shoes or the floor. What textures can you feel? Can you move freely or are you restricted? What is that like for you?
Slowly move up through your body, taking time to recognise any aches or pains or other sensations such as heaviness, warmth of calmness. This can sometimes be tricky to do alone at first so try out our guided body scan podcast and see how you get on.
4. Notice the beauty of nature
Modern life can sometimes make it easy to forget that we are part of the natural world. Refresh yourself and reconnect with nature by taking in your surroundings when you are walking, or just looking out the window. Notice the sounds and smells around you, and the feel of the sun or breeze on your skin. Take in the shape of the clouds and the colour of the leaves or the sky. Spending time in nature has been found to help increase our sense of physical, psychological and spiritual wellbeing.
5. Notice others and smile
When you’re busy, it’s easy to keep your head down and get a bit lost in your own thoughts, forgetting the world and people around you. It’s something a lot of us do. Sometimes this can make you feel disconnected from others. Try looking up and noticing others around you.
Perhaps try smiling at the people you pass on the street – the barista who makes your coffee or your colleagues in the office. Notice how many people you pass and how it feels to make eye contact with others and to smile mindfully. Notice how others respond to this.
Smiling can make you feel happier and more connected, resulting in more positive responses from others. The physical act of smiling can make you feel emotionally happier. It also tends to result in more positive responses from other people, which will also make you feel good.
6. Practise awareness and acceptance
At first it can feel strange to actively tune in to your feelings, emotions and sensations, but try to be curious about them. See how it feels to watch them come and go with acceptance and without judgement. Try not to get ‘caught’ onto a particular train of thought. As soon as you realise you’re doing this, relax, focus in on your breathing and come back to the present.
7. Listen kindly to yourself
Mindfulness is a skill that you can build up with practice. When you are quiet and tune into yourself, you may become more aware of the inner voice that we all have running through our heads. Take this opportunity to listen kindly to yourself. As best you can, try not to be critical of yourself if you notice your mind has wandered.
Recognise that your mind has wandered and then gently bring your attention back to them moment you are in.
If you notice yourself being self-critical, try developing self-compassion by considering what you might say to your best friend in the same situation and apply this to yourself. And then again, bring your attention back to just noticing your internal voice.
8. Turn a routine into a mindful moment
Whether it's cleaning your teeth, showering or doing the washing up, your daily routine is full of moments for mindfulness. Pick one thing you do every day and make it a habit to give this activity your full attention. If you choose to focus on washing your hands for example, notice:
- what it feels like to turn on the tap
- the temperature of the water
- how the water looks and where it falls
- how you experience the sensation of your hands being wet
- the smell of the soap
- the texture of the paper towels or the feel of the air from the hand-drier
9. Take a lunch break
When it's time for lunch, give yourself a proper break. Get away from your usual workspace to relax and enjoy your lunch. This is just as helpful if you’re at home during the day. When you’re eating, try focusing just on your meal. Notice the tastes, textures and flavours of your food, and take your time to enjoy it. Eating is something you do every day, but how often do you really experience and enjoy the food you eat? To help you get started with this, try out our mindful eating masterclass.
Pay attention to your breathing. You can do this any time of the day or night. Try starting with 10 breaths, counting each one. Don’t try to make your breathing faster or slower – just allow your body to breathe as normal and notice how it feels. With regular practice, you can increase the number of breaths.
11. Try gentle mindful movement
You can practise mindfulness anywhere – sitting at your desk, on the train, in a queue, or during quiet moments on breaks. Some people like to bring movement into their practice. You could do this through mindful walking (try out our mindful walking meditation podcast) or through exercise such as yoga .
Pick some of the ideas you like the sound of and give them a try. Notice how you feel afterwards – if you feel calmer or notice any benefits. It can be tricky to learn how to switch off at first, especially when you’re used to leading a busy life, and sometimes it can feel frustrating trying to learn something new. But with practice, these exercises become easier and can become part of your daily lifestyle. When you’re busy, you can easily forget to take time to check in on how you are. Think of mindfulness exercises as a way to take a few moments out to increase your awareness of your mind, body and environment and enable you to respond more consciously rather than reactively.
Mindfulness is a great way to nurture your mental health. Our health insurance allows you to skip GP referral in some cases, and speak straight to a consultant.