Be mindful, take notice, notice the everyday, notice the little things, live life in the present moment, be thankful.
Research shows that practising gratitude and mindfulness increases levels of dopamine and serotonin and improves our wellbeing and mental health. The benefits of mindfulness are well researched and practising mindfulness has been shown to reduces stress, anxiety, burnout and improve overall feelings of wellbeing.
Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT) is a recommended treatment option in the NICE guideline for depression. Studies have shown doctors who practice mindfulness have higher patient satisfaction scores, lower levels of burnout and improved communication skills.
What is Mindfulness?
Mindfulness is simply learning to be aware of the present moment. It is paying more attention to what is going on in the world around you, your thoughts and feelings and accepting it without judgement.
It is easy to rush through life on auto pilot without stopping to notice much – how often have you eaten a meal and not tasted the food or driven somewhere and can’t remember the journey? How often are you wishing away the working week, or plan to start doing all the nice things in life once you’ve lost that weight or finished that project?
Life is happening now! – that 20 minutes in a traffic jam or 10 minutes doing the washing up is life and it is passing us by. Being more mindful allows us to notice all that is happening in life, live in the present moment and appreciate that moment.
They are many possibilities for learning how to practise mindfulness, ranging from reading a book, attending a course, using an app or simply practising being more present in your daily life using one of our practical exercises below. The most important thing is to try and be mindful on a daily basis, it is a habit that needs to be learnt and practiced.
Give yourself a holiday from your mind and use one of our daily activities as a perfect opportunity to pay attention and practise being present in the moment.
As you stand under the falling water close your eyes and take notice of your senses.
How does the water feel? Is it hot, cold, just right?
Notice the sensations you experience as the water hits your body. Notice how the shower gel feels – be mindful of how your hands feel as they touch your skin.
How do your muscles feel as the water falls on them, are they relaxed or tight?
Notice the smell of the shower gel or shampoo. Notice the sight of the steam and shower droplets.
What can you hear? How does the water sound? What other sounds can you hear?
Enjoy being in the present moment, if thoughts drift into your mind, acknowledge them but let them float away, this exercise is not about thinking about the past or the present but being in the present moment
Take a deep breath and enjoy your shower!
Mindful Teeth Cleaning
Notice how the toothbrush feels in your hand, notice the temperature and the weight.
Notice how the toothpaste tastes in your mouth and how the bristles feel as they move across your teeth.
Notice how each part of your mouth feels after cleaning.
What sounds can you hear around you?
Notice the thoughts that come into your mind, you may be thinking about the day ahead, you may feel silly doing this exercise – let the thoughts come and go and bring your attention back to the present moment.
Mindful Work Break
Take 30 seconds to empty your mind.
Turn away from your computer or phone and be as present as you can for the next few moments
Sit back in your chair and notice how the chair feels against your body, notice any areas of tension in your body
Listen. Notice the sounds around you that we normally tune out.
Notice the thoughts that drift into your mind and bring yourself back into the present moment.
Take four deep breaths.
You can set timers on your phone and there are various apps that will remind you to take this mini mindful break throughout your day
Mindful Hand Washing
A useful exercise for doctors who wash their hands multiple times a day and a great way to incorporate a mindful minute into your day.
You will come to associate this activity with a time for relaxation and calm in the midst of a busy working day.
You may wish to print off this exercise and put it above the sink in your workplace or toilet to encourage others to take the time to empty their mind and be present.
As you approach the sink take a deep breath, this is one minute for you to empty your mind.
Let the water flow.
Take a deep breath.
Listen to the sounds of the water and notice any sounds around you.
Notice how the water feels as it flows over your hands, notice the temperature, the soothing sensation.
Notice the texture of the soap and how it feels to massage the soap into your hands.
Watch the water flow into the sink over your hands, notice as the water flows away, taking away any germs you have washed off and feel your mind empty itself of thoughts as it does so.
If thoughts come into your mind, acknowledge them and bring yourself back to the present.
Notice your breathing, slow it down if you are breathing quickly.
Notice any areas of tension in your body, notice your posture.
Continue to breathe slowly and deeply.
Now dry your hands, feeling the texture of the towel against your skin.
Throw the towel in the bin and back to work.
Congratulations, you have just practiced one minute of mindfulness.
Focus fully on the meal in front of you. Remove any distractions, turn off the TV and your phone
Notice any smells and how the food looks.
Allow yourself to properly taste each mouthful of food
Notice the texture of the food and the flavours with each mouthful.
Notice how you feel as you eat the meal, notice when you begin to feel satisfied
You may wish to practice this with a single piece of chocolate or a raisin.
Mindful: Mindful is a mission-driven non-profit. Their aim is to inspire, guide and connect anyone who wants to explore mindfulness and to enjoy better health, more caring relationships and a compassionate society.
Calm: meditation to Relax, Sleep, Relieve Anxiety and Lower Stress. Calm is a popular mindfulness app and has free beginner programme with option to upgrade. It has free guided meditations and sleep stories to help you relax, sleep and feel happier
Research shows taking notice of the things we are grateful for in our lives can significantly improve our wellbeing, mental health, sleep, empathy, resilience, self-esteem and even our immune system. Being thankful also reduces social comparisons and noticing what we are grateful for helps reduce jealousy and resentment towards others you may feel have more than you.
Try writing down three things each day that you are grateful for and have brought you joy or pleasure. This could be anything from seeing a beautiful sunset, a friend making you smile, a hug from your children to gratitude for your health or a roof over your head.
Only write positive things and think about how your life would be without some of the things you have in it now. While having a moan every now and then can be therapeutic, focusing on the positive things in your life can help relieve stress and foster a positive outlook. Try and turn negatives into positives. For example, instead of ‘My friend cancelled on me’, you could write ‘I had the unexpected opportunity to spend some time by myself’.
Be specific. instead of writing ‘I’m grateful to have a job’, you could write ‘I’m grateful to have a job that pays my bills and to work with colleagues that I like’.
Consider treating yourself to a beautiful book to write down your gratitudes in or use an app such as Happier.
The Grateful app is also a good resource, prompting you to think of what you are grateful for.
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