The human brain is capable of producing 50,000 thoughts a day, so it’s little wonder that we sometimes feel overwhelmed, anxious, or as if our minds are racing at a million miles a minute. If it feels like your life is getting out of control, like you’re not getting enough done or constantly playing catch-up, then mindfulness might be for you.
In a nutshell, mindfulness is exactly that: being mindful; it’s about being actively aware of what you’re doing in the present. For instance, if you’re cooking dinner or doing the vacuuming, concentrate on what you’re doing in that moment rather than what you’ll be doing in a few hours.
Most of the time, that feeling of not having enough time in the day or of being overwhelmed by all the responsibilities you have on your shoulders, is the result of not concentrating on the task at hand and worrying instead about all the other things you have to do.
That little expression, ‘take it one step at a time’ couldn’t be more appropriate in terms of mindfulness. Stop thinking about all the things you have to do today or this week, and just think about one task at a time. Each time you finish one task – whether it’s something work related, a household errand, or simply catching up with friends – then, and only then, turn your mind to the next thing you have to do.
Eventually, you’ll come to realise that all those nagging little things you had to do that were making you feel anxious and overwhelmed, were actually quite achievable, and not even remotely worth the worry and sleepless nights you caused yourself thinking about them.
There are four things you can do everyday to achieve mindfulness and become happier and more productive in your life:
- Make The Time: Set aside a small block of time everyday that you can commit to – 15 minutes after lunch, for example.
- Breathe: Take a few deep breaths – about five or so – and on your last breath, close your eyes.
- Take In The Present Moment: Focus on what the room smells like, how your body feels, and whether you can feel any stress in your body. Allow your thoughts to drift through your mind. Stay a passive observer of them, rather than worrying about their possible implications.
- Make a Plan and Take Action: It might be as simple as, ‘After this I am going to make a cup of coffee’ or it might be something more targeted, such as: ‘I am going to write an email to our landlord about the leaky pipe in the downstairs bathroom.’ Whatever it is, make a plan for achieving it, and then take action.
It may also be worthwhile to try and have a few hours out of each day where you’re disconnected from technology and the world that exists on the other end of it. Turn off your mobile phone, log off the Internet, forget about Facebook and Twitter, and go for a walk or a run or sit on the beach or a park. This time to yourself, away from the distractions of life is invaluable in helping you to achieve and maintain mindfulness.
Marcus Andrews is the founder and director of Life Supports, which was established in 2002. He has extensive professional experience working as a counsellor and family therapist across a broad range of issues. The core component of his role at Life Supports involves the supervision of other counsellors, including secondary consultations. Marcus has worked in many sectors, including private, government, non-profit, health, forensic and community practice.