Do you find your mind wandering to the past and getting stuck there? Or do you find yourself thinking about the worst case scenario for the future? Perhaps you just want to cultivate a little more calm in you life?
No problem, because I'm going to share some really quick and simple mindfulness practices that you can use to help you stay present and to ultimately support your emotional wellness and mental health! These will become some really effective self-help tools that you can pull out of your wellness toolkit, whenever you need! You're going to learn how to be mindful with 3 simple practices so that you can feel in control of your emotions and curb your anxiety.
1 - The 5 Senses Practice
This has to be one of my favourites because it really is so simple and can been done anywhere - really!
It goes like this... Become aware of your surroundings and notice:
5 things you can see (can you see anything you wouldn't usually notice?)
4 things you can feel (what can you physically feel? The chair? Your shoes?)
3 things you can hear (if it's really quiet, can you hear your breath? you hearbeat?)
2 things you can smell (maybe it's your own perfume or deodorant?)
1 thing you can taste (the food you've just eaten? your toothpaste? have a drink)
In times of panic and extreme anxiety, even this might seem too difficult so don't put pressure on yourself - just try and notice ONE thing for each sense or if some of the senses are too hard for you to connect with, can you find more of one sense and less of another? It doesn't matter if you do it exact, what does matter is that you're giving your mind something else to focus on.
2 - Observe Your Breath
Our breath is a fantastic indicator of how we're feeling emotionally but we often don't give any time over to checking in with it. If we're feeling tense and/or anxious, it's likely that our breath will be shallower and quicker.
Step 1 - Notice your breath. Is it fast or slow? Shallow or deep? Do you find that you're
holding your breath at certain points? Are you breathing out of your mouth or
Step 2 - Change your breath. If you find that your breath is quick and shallow, you
might like to take a few moments to deepen it. Just take some deep breaths -
fill your lungs and feel your belly rise.
Deep breathing brings our heart rate in line with your breath which leads to the brain releasing endorphins - the calming chemical!
Interestingly, the way we breathe can also have an effect on how we feel. Shallow breathing doesn't allow the lowest part of the lungs to be fully oxygenated which can lead to feeling short of breath. This shortness of breath in itself can then lead us to feel a sense of anxiety. So, our feelings affect the way we breathe and the way we breathe can affect how we feel - that's why it's beneficial to take some time to observe your breath!
3 - The Body Scan
Ideally, this would be done in a quiet space, either lying down or sitting comfortably BUT I've used this practise before interviews, sat on public transport, stood in a queue - I'm fairly certain that this mindfulness practise can be done anywhere or at least an adaptation of it can be done anywhere! When written out, this might seem like a lengthy practise but in reality, it doesn't have to be! You can tailor it to be done quickly in a few minutes or to be done in an extended period of time, like before you go to sleep.
Step 1 - Begin by observing your breath (practise #2) and just notice what's going on there
Step 2 - Become aware of what you can sense (practise #1), just briefly. If you're sat, can you
feel where your body makes contact with the chair? Can you hear any sounds?
Step 3 - Start at the bottom of your body with your toes or wherever that might be for you
and 'scan' all the different parts of your body all the way up to the top.
Let's say you're starting with your left toes, become aware of them. Become aware of each toe from the little toe, all the way up to the big toe. Can you sense the spaces between your toes? Can you feel your toes making contact with your sock? Take your time, once you're satisfied you've sensed everything there is to sense, move onto your foot.
Bring awareness to the ball of your foot, then the arch, then the heel. Bring awareness to the top of your foot until you get to the ankle. Notice how your ankle feels then move up to you shin and calf. Continue scanning the individual sections of your leg until you get to the hip then do the same thing on the other leg.
When you've done both legs, bring awareness to the buttocks, the abdomen, the stomach and the chest, up to the shoulders then focus on bringing awareness to your back from the bottom to the top, all the way along the spine. Once you're back up to the shoulders, bring awareness to each arm, starting with the fingertips and working your way back up to the shoulder following the same process as you did for each leg.
Once you get to the neck, bring awareness to any feelings there then move onto your face. Are you tensing your jaw? Are your lips pursed? Are your cheeks relaxed and eyes soft? How does your forehead feel? What about the back of your head, your scalp and crown?
If you find tension anywhere during your body scan try and relax it. You might find that you're physically tensing a muscle, in which case try and release the tension. You might find it helpful to tense a particular muscle then let it go so you can feel the relief. 'Breathing into' a particular area might also help you release tension - as you breath in focus on 'sending' the breath that area.
As you practise this, you'll find that you're better able to connect with and bring awareness to more and more specific areas of the body. You might begin to be able to bring awareness to your ears or your tongue, you might be able to feel every specific area where your body makes contact with something else - your clothes, the chair etc. Each time you practise, try and build on the previous time!
Body Scan - in brief!
If you don't have a lot of time or need a quick fix you can adapt this practise to take less time - just don't take as long focusing on each section of your body OR choose just ONE area to bring awareness too - maybe it's your left leg, your right hand or your face?
And that's it! Super simple and quick right? I hope you now feel empowered to use these easy (and free!) practices as self-help tools whenever and wherever you need to feel more calmness or when your mind decides to run away from you. They are so easy but SO effective in supporting our mental and emotional health.
Don't forget to follow me on Instagram where I'll be sharing helpful videos and explanations on more mindfulness tips and where you can save them to return to whenever you need!
You can find me on Instagram at: @the.tarot.counsellor
I look forward to seeing you there! Wishing you a mindful day,
'The Little Book of Mindfulness' - Dr Patrizia Collard