Some women seem to have it all. High-flying career, babies-in-the-backseat and an enviable social life – annoyingly polished off with a serene smile and a sickly-sweet topping of ‘togetherness’. Not a freak-out in sight. How does she cope? Maybe she’s born with it…or maybe it’s mindfulness.
Mindfulness has become very fashionable lately. In her book Mindful London: How to Find Calm and Contentment in the Chaos of the City, Tessa Watt gives a useful guide on how to incorporate mindfulness practice into hectic city-living and tracks down peaceful spots in the capital to escape the madness.
Mindfulness – training or retraining in the art of living life as it’s happening – has been repeatedly proven to help people cope better with stress, thrive at work, concentrate better and feel more content. You don’t have to be in a yoga class or at the spa to practice mindfulness; little tweaks to your daily routine can bring about a world of difference. Taking short pauses during the day to be present, concentrate on the breath and tune into your body will get you on the path to a more mindful existence. Here are 3 simple mindfulness exercises that you can easily integrate into a day at the office.
Start your daily commute with mindful walking to the bus stop or train station. Leave your house 20 minutes early so that you don’t feel rushed, put your phone on silent and leave your headphones in your bag. Before you set off, stand for a while feet hip-width apart, focusing on the feeling of your feet in contact with the ground. Try slowly shifting your weight around on the balls and heels of your feet, how does this feel?
As you take your first steps, pay close attention to how it feels in your feet and the rest of your body as the weight shifts between legs – take slow, deliberate steps. Continue to walk mindfully, concentrating on each movement – when you find yourself distracted by thoughts, escort yourself back into the present moment by bringing your full attention to the feelings inside your feet and legs.
Once you are fully grounded in the activity of walking, allow your awareness to open up to your surroundings – hear the birds and cars and notice the nature and people around you. If your mind drifts back into thoughts, bring your full attention back to the physical sensations of walking.
Mindful Tube Journey
Your daily commute is a great ‘time-out’ opportunity for mediation and mindfulness practice. Use your headphones to transform an unpleasant experience into the most relaxing part of your day. Downloading a guided meditation or grounding exercise onto your iPod or phone can transform your state of mind before you have even reached the office. Close your eyes, sit straight against your seat, breathe deeply and immerse yourself in the exercise. There are loads of great, free meditation apps or simply listen to some relaxing music and focus on your breath.
Mindful Tea Break
Get more out of your tea break by bringing mindfulness into the act of making and drinking tea. Leave your mobile phone at your desk and with it any current thoughts about work. Bring awareness to your body as you are waiting for the kettle to boil. Feel your feet in contact with the floor. How do your legs feel? How does the breath inside your body feel? Focus on your breathing until the kettle has boiled.
When you are choosing a mug and pouring the tea bring your full attention to your actions during each step of the process. As you wait for the tea to brew, bring your attention back to the breath and the sensations as it fills each part of your body.
If possible drink your tea away from your desk. When you are sipping the tea fully appreciate the taste and smell and immerse yourself in the warmth of the experience. Too much caffeine is likely to send you into autopilot – the opposite of living mindfully. Switch to Rooibos or uplifting fruit and herb blends.
Buy Mindful London: How to Find Calm and Contentment in the Chaos of the City here.