I’m a notorious multi-tasker. At the moment, I’ve got a load of washing on the go, am entertaining an eight month old baby, sterilising some bottles, writing a blog post, studying for a uni exam and have some trashy TV on in the background. Did I mention I also just ate some dark chocolate at so fast a pace I can barely remember eating it? Oh, and where did the glass of wine I just poured go? That’s right…I drank it at rocket speed (woooo)!! If you’re anything like me, you might on occasion (or on a regular basis…) find yourself on auto-pilot, racing through life so busy thinking about all the things you have to do that you lose sight of the present moment, and often miss out on fully engaging in the task at hand.
Pot and pot stand - Kmart
Do you ever find yourself so caught up in your thoughts that you miss out on all sorts of exciting things? Like realising that you’re halfway through a conversation with a friend, but you haven’t actually listened because you’re thinking about what a mess your house is, or you’re playing with the kids, but realise that instead of really engaging, you’re thinking about work stuff, financial stress etc…
This is where mindfulness comes in. Mindfulness can be defined as “Paying attention on purpose, without judgment to our experience as it unfolds moment by moment” (Kabat-Zin, 1990).
Through regular practise of mindfulness, we can learn to remain in the present, allowing us to fully engage in the activity we are doing. Mindfulness allows us to “unhook” from our thoughts so that we can focus on what’s going on around us. A second key component of mindfulness is openness and non-judgement – this means that whilst even the most mindful of people will experience stressful thoughts, they are able to appraise them through a lens of curiosity, seeing those difficult thoughts as simply thoughts, which are neither good or bad, without the judgement and loading we usually attach to our thinking (the way we appraise our thinking subsequently affects the emotions we feel!!).
Mindfulness isn’t designed as a relaxation technique, but many people find that they feel more relaxed once they begin practising mindfulness.
“Great, where do I sign up?” you say! Just remember, like any new skill, learning mindfulness takes practice, practice, practice!! If you can allocate five to ten minutes a day to practice, you will be well on the way to improving your skills in mindfulness.
“but I barely have five minutes to shower, let alone sit and meditate!!” you say. Fear not – there are simple ways you can factor mindfulness practice into activities that you are already doing on a daily basis!! Here are some suggestions, but you can probably come up with some of your own once you get started.
- Choose a particularly devious food that you enjoy (like a piece of dark chocolate). Put the piece of chocolate in your mouth, and instead of eating it faster than you can say “pass me some more,” try savouring the experience of eating the chocolate. Bring your full awareness to the chocolate. Notice the depth of flavour. Notice the smell of the chocolate. Notice the texture of the chocolate change as it melts in your mouth. Each time you find your mind wandering, gently unhook from the distracting thoughts, by bringing your awareness back to the sensory experience of eating the chocolate. If you get distracted from the delicious task at hand, remember that this is completely normal, and continue to draw your awareness back to the delicious, delicious chocolate. Repeat, as often as required 😉
- Choose a tedious housework task that you don’t love, but have to do most days (this might be washing the dishes or hanging out the washing). We will use the example of washing the dishes – as you are washing the dishes, focus your awareness on the sound of the running water as you fill the sink. Notice the sound of the bubbles as you pour in the detergent. Notice the warmth of the water as you immerse your hands in to begin scrubbing the dishes. Listen for sounds – the clink of plates, the scrape of a fork on the bottom of the sink. Notice the feeling of the dishes, the slipperiness of the detergent, the feel of the bubbles. What can you feel? What can you see? Can you smell the scent of the detergent? As you do this task, your mind will wander (time and time again). Each time you notice that your mind has wandered, simply notice this has happened, and without judgement of the thoughts that have swept you away, bring your awareness back to the experience of the task of doing the dishes. Think of the task as an anchor, which you can use to bring your awareness back to the present, each time your mind wanders. If you find yourself caught up in your thoughts, try not to judge or appraise your thinking – if you need to label your thoughts, simply label them as “thinking,” then bring your awareness back to the feel, the sound, the smells etc of the task at hand.
So here are two techniques for “mindfulness on the fly.” They don’t take a lot of time, and can be factored in to your every day experiences. Just remember, the more you practice mindfulness, the better you will get!!
Would you try these techniques? I’d love to hear how you go.