Start here if you are new to mindfulness or looking for some quick meditation ideas. Know that your focus on self-care and mental wellbeing is just as important as looking after your physical well-being. Next time you are counting steps or logging meals, take a minute to breathe in. And breathe out. And ease down into relaxation.
Becoming aware of your thoughts
I found that relaxation was something I had to learn. And for me, that started with noticing when tension would first appear. The following quick meditations are designed around the points in the day when a 60-second grounding technique can go unnoticed. Once you start to feel the benefits of relaxation you become aware of when you need it most. These quick stress management exercises can fit into your day and there is no equipment needed.
Busy mums and dads. Back to back meetings. Wrong side of the bed. Don’t let a bad day get the better of you. A common technique I have adopted from the practice of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy or CBT is to break your day up into thirds. This can help you gain control after an awful morning, restart your evening and find lots of little opportunities for quick mediations.
These are two different meditations both perfect for busy mornings. Both can be practiced in the shower or simply while washing your face. The idea is to observe your mega morning thoughts; the ones that make you feel like you have lived an entire day before even leaving the house, sometimes before leaving the bed. By listening to your thoughts you become an observer. The aim is not to control them; just to listen and let go.
In the shower, or standing at the wash hand basin, let the water start to flow and try to tune into the sound it makes as it rushes from the faucet or showerhead. Notice the change in pitch as the water hits your skin and the ceramic bath or sink. Let your morning brain activate; we are natural thinkers so it’s perfectly normal for your mind to present all of the day’s potential problems to you as you listen to the water’s changing pitch and speed.
Be kind to yourself; acknowledge your thoughts and notice when this happens. Take care to inhale and on the exhale, bring your mind back to the sound of the water; rushing from the shower head; changing tone and pace as it completes it short journey down the plughole. Take three slow cleansing breaths and turn the water off.
Well done; have a great day!
This is a really simple but effective practice. It takes no longer than the time it takes to dry yourself after a shower or in the few minutes sitting on the bed before you start to get dressed. It incorporates some self-massage techniques into your routine that I promise you will continue to use because this is a fantastically easy way to practice self-care.
As well as providing a great start to your day, this type of mindful practice is also perfect post-workout or post-workday when your body might be carrying tension and stress.
Using your own hand, begin by massaging your neck from the center to your ear and from center to your shoulder switching hands to cover both sides of your neck and both shoulders.
Close your eyes and focus on your breath. Inhale and exhale. Now move to the arm, working down one arm from the shoulder to the elbow, wrist, palm of your hand and fingers. Now massage the second arm, acknowledging the thoughts that enter and leave and using the out breath to come back to the body and the sensations you feel.
Feel any tension leave that part of your body as you exhale and notice any feelings of satisfaction or gratitude as you ease down into relaxation.
It is only natural that your thoughts return to the activities and challenges that today brought. Be mindful of these thoughts; notice and listen, but each time you move to another part of the body try to refocus on that massaging sensation and what is feels like. Feel any tension in the arms and hands, legs and feet and of course shoulders. Gently massage, one hand at a time, feeling the warmth the movement brings.
When you’re ready to open your eyes, take three deep breaths. Breath slowly and fill your stomach. Hold the breath and exhale slowly.
Well done. You listened to your thoughts but didn’t let them control you. This time was all yours and you gave yourself some self-care in the form of a mindful massage.
This has to be one of my favourites. But first let us cast the image of the raisin and our first experience of this practice out of our minds. There is so much to explore with this practice.
As you sit down, notice the sensation of smell and how the food conjures thoughts of the taste and the hunger. Using cereal as an example, pick up the table spoon, feel its temperature in your hand, its smoothness or texture. Notice how the spoon slides effortlessly into the cereal bowl and the noise this makes. Bring the spoon to your mouth and take that first mouthful.
If your mind wanders, notice this and return to the texture and taste of the cereal in your mouth. How your tongue activates those senses of taste and the thoughts associated. Now bring your attention to how that cereal got here, from the packet or box, from the store you bought it from. As you chew, think about how it got delivered to the store, how it was made in the factory, all the way back to the beginning of the wheat or rice being grown. Perhaps even the plants being planted or seeds sown. I find that I get lost in this imagination while eating and it helps ground and calm my mind. Fantastic!
Mindfulness of Touch
Find a comfortable seat at home and remove your shoes/slippers. Just sit in the seat as you would and begin scanning your sense of touch. Perhaps the sensations of your feet touching the floor. Maybe you begin with the back of your head or neck touching the sofa. See where your brain wants to go next, the back touching the sofa, your clothes resting against your shoulders or knees. Perhaps even your socks on your feet. When you notice your thoughts wandering, with kindness and without judgement, bring your focus back to the last sensation of touch. dont try and control the order of the sensing, just let it come automatically. Repeat this for 10 mins. Another self care start to ease the mind and promote awareness of a moment between body and mind.
Awakening the Breathe
Begin this exercise first thing in the morning or perhaps for at lunch. Start by taking in 5 long deep breathes. Controlling the breathing and bring focus to that control. Keep the breathing long and deep, into the chest. Observing the expansion and contraction. Repeat this for 2 minutes. On the emergence of the next out breathe, bring the focus of the breathing down to the stomach, noticing the sensations of the rising and falling stomach. Repeat this for 2 minutes. As the next out breath comes round, place the imagnation on the whole body breathing. As you breathe in the air comes in through the lungs, down into the stomach, legs and feet. As you breathe out, imagine all that air coming out of the feet, back up the legs, up through the stomach and lungs. Repeat for 2 minutes. Now return the focus back to the breathing down to the stomach, repeat for two minutes. Now return to the breathing at the chest for 2 minutes. Taking your time and bring yourself back to where you are, sitting, lying down at home, on the train or even in the office. Enjoy.
As the Alarm awakes you, reset it today for just 10 minutes later. Just today. Take your time. While you lie in bed, notice the warmth and comfort and how it makes you feel. Really take your time. Listen to the birds outside. The kids in the other room. The cars passing in the street. Now bring something positive to the front of you mind. Something positive you will do today. For yourself. Help others? Maybe its that favourite song. Favourite walk. That hot bath. Calling a friend or family member. Helping a colleague.
When you have decided, cast your mind forward to that positive moment. What will it feel like? How will you feel? Smile ( even fake ones work you know). Now let alarm go off and start your day….ahhh…..ready?
To start this exercise, find a quiet room at home. Begin by standing feet, hip width apart. Bend the knees slightly, no locked joints please. Pull in your pelvic floor and core. Notice how this strenghts the back and posture. Place both arms by your side palms resting against the side of each leg. Now start by taking in a nice slow deep breathe and at the same time, Raise the arms, allowing the breathe to control the speed, up above the head until the palms meet each other. No breathe out slowly, lowering the arms back down to the legs. See if you can notice the slight pause between the end and beginning of each breathe. Repeat this process for 15 breathes. Enjoy