The demands of modern life mean more people are turning to mindfulness to ease anxiety and manage stress. Here’s how it can help you.
From the moment we wake up, to the minute we go to bed, it can feel like we are on a hamster wheel, racing from one task to another, always worrying about the next thing on our to-do list.
But how often do we stop to appreciate the simple things in life — the smell of freshly-cut grass, the sound of children laughing or the first refreshing sip of an ice-cold drink on a hot summer’s day?
Living life at a million miles per hour can take a massive toll on both our physical and mental wellbeing, and can lead to mental health issues such as anxiety and depression.
Perhaps it’s not surprising, therefore, that in a recent survey carried out by wellbeing specialists, Forth With Life, 85 per cent of adults in the UK say they are regularly experiencing stress, with over a third of us feeling stressed for at least one full day per week.
So how can we ease our worry and anxiety?
In the book, The Easy Way to Mindfulness, Allen Carr — the man who was famous for getting over 30 million people worldwide to stop smoking — believed that practising mindfulness every day can lead to a calmer, happier state of mind.
He said: ‘Just 10 minutes a day is enough to make a difference. Just 10 minutes in which you step out of the chaos and focus on something real.’
What is mindfulness?
Mindfulness is a mental state achieved by taking time out to focus on the present moment — the sights, sounds, smells and tastes around us — using techniques like meditation, breathing and yoga.
How does this help?
The idea is that we become more aware of our thoughts and body sensations so that instead of being overwhelmed by them, we are better able to manage them.
Practising mindfulness can give people more insight into their emotions, boosting their concentration. It has been proven to help with stress, anxiety, depression and addictive behaviours, and can even have a positive effect on physical problems like hypertension, heart disease and chronic pain.
How do I start?
Try simple breathing exercises such as The Body Scan (see below). By focusing on the rhythm of our breath, worries can melt away.
Other activities such as swimming or running have the same effect as we focus on the rhythm of the exercises.
And the same can be said for eating. As you chew, pay attention not just to the taste, but also to the colour, smell and texture of the food on your plate.
In The Easy Way to Mindfulness, Allen Carr used berry eating to give beginners a taste of what to expect.
He encouraged first timers to hold a berry, then explore it using sight, touch, smell and taste, taking in every aspect.
In those moments, the only thoughts are of the berry, with other day-to-day niggles being pushed to one side.
It may seem hard to fit mindfulness into your routine. But whether it’s going for a walk on your lunch break, applying mindful eating at the dinner table or meditating in bed before falling asleep, just 10 minutes a day could improve your state of mind.
Edited by Rosie Evans
The Easy Way to Mindfulness, by Allen Carr is available from Amazon.co.uk, priced £6.51.
Exercise: The Body Scan
Get yourself into a comfortable position, be it sitting, standing or lying down. Relax your whole body, close your eyes and focus on the floor beneath you.
Pay attention to your breathing, concentrating on the rhythm and feeling.
Focus on the crown of your head — don’t change its position, just be aware of it. Then turn your attention to each body part, until you reach your toes.
If there’s tension anywhere in your body, recognise it, but don’t change anything.
When you’re ready, slowly start to come out of the meditative state by moving your body, taking a couple of deep breaths, opening your eyes and finishing with a stretch.
The whole process should take around 10 minutes.
Three ways to be more MINDFUL
Mindful walking — take the time to notice the feel of the ground underneath your feet, the aromas in the air and the people and places that you come into contact with.
Notice sounds around you — cars, birds singing, phones ringing and people talking. Take a few moments to really listen to these.
Focus on being instead of ‘doing’. When you have a few spare moments, practise mindfulness techniques instead of surfing the net or reading the paper.