Mindfulness excercise for busy stressed out Londoners

As well as posting about fun and charitable things to do in London, the HPL is going to focus on happiness in the coming weeks.  There will be posts on how to cope with stress in London with contributions from professionals who can help (yes, very GOOP); and mindfulness and meditation techniques to help you slow down

Although brilliantly exciting, London is a stressful, hectic place.  We’re always in a hurry, we work long hours and try to do a million and one things outside work.  Add to this regrets or disappointments about the past, and hopes about how great life would only be if something happens in the future (I will be happy once I lose weight/find the perfect partner/move job, etc etc), and it’s hard to feel content in the here and now.  

So how can mindfulness help? The concept comes from Eastern religious traditions, such as Buddhism, but is increasingly used by mental health professionals as something to help ease depression and anxiety.  Essentially, mindfulness is when you are consciously aware of the present moment and your awareness is non-evaluative or non- judgemental.  Mindfulness will help to clear your mind of  distractions, so that calmness and contentment can appear in it’s place – bingo!  

So today I’d like to try a little mindfulness exercise, inspired by the daily prompt on The Mindfulist website and a discussion that I had with the guys at Mindapples on mindfulness and its connection to happiness.

Not exactly the Northern Line at rush hour…

Here is a simple exercise:

1.  Sit down and try to relax

2. Take a long deep breath in through your nose and out through your mouth. Do this 3 times.  Now continue breathing and focusing on your breath throughout the exercise.  Focus on the sound and rhythm of your breath, the air pushing your belly in and out. 

3. Now focus on your body – any places that feel hot, tight, sore, tender?  How does your chair feel?  How are your feet sitting on the ground, where is the pressure?

4. Focus on what you have on your desk, and any other sounds in the room.  Be aware of only one thing at a time.  If  positive or negative feelings come to mind, try to let them go. 

Continue to concentrate on your body and your breathing.  You should now be in a state of mindfulness, well done you. 

If you can’t find peace in London, book a holiday instead…:)

Here’s some things to try now:

1. Every time a thought comes into your head, try not to think negatively or positively about it but write it down.  Even if you keep thinking the same thing, write it down, repetition is fine.

2. Is something bothering you?  Write down everything that is worrying you.  Next to each worry write down what you are going to do about it.  Either (i) deal with it right now – make a call, apologise, book the flight; (ii) write a to-do-list for tomorrow; or (iii) accept that you can’t do anything about it – let it go.  

3. Think of the thing you wish for most in the future  (I’ll be happy when I get married/get that promotion/have a baby/lose weight).  Now imagine you have it RIGHT NOW.  How do you feel?  Be aware of the thoughts you have – write them down. 

4.  For the rest of the week, try to be flexible – if you have a Twix at 4pm, have it at 3pm or at 5pm or have an orange instead; hold your knife and fork a different way; if you have sugar in your tea, leave it out.  Become aware of your patterns and try to break them, be aware of how the change makes you feel.

5. Pick something to do mindfully – such as brushing your teeth or doing the washing up.  Be aware of your 5 senses and notice 5 things that you hear, feel, see, smell and taste.  Be aware of each thought before moving onto the next.  How does the toothbrush feel in your hand?  How does the soapy water smell?

6. Do an engrossing activity that makes you forget all the buzzing in your mind for at least one hour a week – try yoga, meditation, running, playing music, gardening. 

For meditation and mindfulness courses, try the Shambhala Meditation Centre, a Buddhist venue in Clapham Old Town which is free and will talk you through meditation techniques; or Hot Power Yoga does meditation workshops.

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