Mindfulness is a technique that requires paying more attention and being fully engaged in the present moment. This simply means paying attention to thoughts, sounds, bodily sensations, and your surroundings. Mindfulness has been found to be extremely beneficial for stress reduction and overall wellbeing.
If you find yourself feeling overwhelmed during the festive period, you might want to try Rachel Ward-Lilley’s 7-day mindfulness challenge which will help you start practicing mindfulness a little bit every day. You should find that after a week, mindfulness will start to gradually become a habit that you will want to continue into the New Year and beyond.
Day 1 - Have a mindful meal
For one meal today, practice being really present for each bite. What does it mean to fully taste your food? What happens when you bring attention to the texture, flavour and temperature of each dish? Take this opportunity to relate to food not merely as fuel for the ‘vehicle’ of the body, but as a nourishing experience of interconnection. The food we eat connects us to other people and our planet in profound ways. Perhaps start by considering the chain of events that allowed for this meal to arrive in front of you. Reflect on the many hands, seen and unseen, that may have played a role in it. Seven mindful eating practices:
Day 2 - Change your routine
Many of us are creatures of habit and often our most deep-seated patterns of thought and action are formed unconsciously. Without realising it we form deep grooves with our habits, and they begin to insidiously shape our lives and decisions. Yet, we also have the power to rewire those habits and rediscover the possibilities of each moment. This shift can be sparked in the midst of our most ordinary activities. At some point today, experiment with doing something that is not usual for you. Perhaps you’ll take a different route to the shops or brush your teeth using your non-dominant hand. Maybe you’ll change your routine by taking a 5-minute walk outside during lunch. Whatever you decide to do, bring your full attention to it and enjoy the moments!
Day 3 - Find magic in the mundane
Lurking in the most dreaded and dullest of tasks is an invitation to uncover the gifts of the mundane. Today as you wash dishes, notice the pattern on the plates, the feeling of the water on your hands, and the sound of the utensils clinking. Or as you log onto a computer take a moment to reflect on this now taken-for-granted technology interacts with your life. Or while you’re warming up a meal perhaps you’ll take a moment to savor the aroma of the food. There are so many activities in our day that can seem repetitive or tedious – today is the day to watch them bloom into something beautiful under the gaze of our full attention.
Day 4 - Make time to practice silence
Stillness and silence have been sanctuaries for the human spirit ever since ancient times. By relinquishing the need for perpetual motion, and by carving space away from the din and chatter of daily life we have an opportunity to reconnect with who we are underneath our various roles and activities. We have the rare chance to just – be. Today is a day to practice mindfulness in receptive silence. Carve out ten or more minutes from your day, and sit down in a quiet space, whether it’s in your living room or at your desk and simply watch your breath with eyes closed and in silence. If thoughts arise watch them too and release them gently without getting ‘involved’ with them. Practicing in this way for as little as 10 minutes has been scientifically shown to have dramatic effects for the mind to discover new ways of looking at the world.
Day 5 - Do something kind for someone
Kindness is not new to most people – but today we’re going to step things up to another level by either becoming mindful of new ways to be kind, or by bringing extra mindfulness to our old ways. Kindness in any form is a powerful daily practice, but sometimes we fall into an empty routine with it. Like when we ask someone how their day is, but don’t really pay attention to the response. Today, as you go through your day look for new opportunities of kindness that you may not have noticed before. Or – if you’re doing something kind that you’ve done many times in the past, see if you can bring your full presence to it and tune into the uniqueness of this particular moment. After all, no two acts of kindness can ever be exactly alike!
Day 6 - Reflect on your intentions
Intentions are the powerful seeds from which so much in our lives blooms. Today is a good time to reflect on this given that you have nearly completed your 7-day mindfulness challenge. As you move through the day, remember the intention or intentions that brought you here. There are powerful, diverse and heartfelt reasons we each have for participating. Take 5 minutes today to write about your intentions and the insights from the small practices you’ve been experimenting with thus far. Are there any practices that you would like to continue implementing in your life?
Day 7 - Tune into nature
Being in nature is one of those simple actions that can be powerfully restorative. It can move you out of your head and into your heart. It can lift you out of the cubicle-mindset and remind you of how vast life’s canvas really is. Today spend at least ten minutes outdoors with the sole intention of being present to nature. Take it all in, from the feeling of wind in your hair, the pattern of clouds in the sky, and the sight of flowers in a front garden to the sound of birdsong or grasshoppers chirping. Awaken your senses to be present to all of it. And see if over the course of your time, the subtlety of what you notice changes.
Rachel Ward Lilley is a business and educational psychologist. She has worked for many years advising SMEs and her current work relates to issues of resilience, communication, personal development, team building and motivation. Over the past 12 years Rachel has extended her work into the educational field. Find out more here www.rachelwl.co.uk.