“Put simply, mindfulness is about being present. It asks us to live in the moment rather than spending a lot of time worrying about the past or the future.”
Covid-19 has had a massive impact on us all, both physically and psychologically. Covid-19 and its associated measures have led to us living in a perpetual state of uncertainty, battling threats to our physical health, distance from our loved ones, increased social isolation, financial hardship…the list goes on. This has meant that people who have never struggled with mental illness before have begun to show symptoms and those who have had them previously are experiencing an escalation in theirs.
Anxiety and fear are useful emotions and our brains way of making us extra-vigilant so that we remain safe. However, prolonged experience of these can cause several challenging symptoms, such as poor sleep, low motivation, and increased irritability. Mindfulness can help us to manage both our psychological and our physical health during this time.
Put simply, mindfulness is about being present. It asks us to live in the moment rather than spending a lot of time worrying about the past or the future. Practicing mindfulness helps us to identify those slight changes in mood or behaviour, such as being snappier at our kids or drinking that extra couple of glasses of wine every night. It also has physical benefits with research suggesting that it can help to improve physical ailments such as high blood pressure, migraines, and sleep difficulties.
Mindfulness takes practice and is not something that we can just implement when times get tough. Mindfulness practice can be formal, in the form of guided meditations. It can also be informal. This can mean taking a few minutes out of our day to check in with ourselves, asking ourselves how we are feeling. It can also mean mindfully engaging with simple tasks that we do every day such as brushing our teeth, for example, taking time to focus on how the brush feels against our teeth and our gums.
Here’s her 5 tips to be more mindful:
1. Focus on one thing at a time – Most of the time we are trying to juggle a million things at once. This can make us feel pretty stretched and worn out. An easy way to practice this focus is by being present when you’re watching a film instead of being on your phone at the same time.
2. Don’t judge yourself for having negative thoughts and emotions – these are normal! We can’t choose which thoughts and emotions show up so why punish ourselves for them
3. Set an intention for the day – how do you want to show up for the day? A good place to start is thinking about being kinder to yourself for the day, perhaps promising yourself to slow down today.
4. Give yourself five minutes of quiet – this isn’t easy for all of us, but perhaps just finding five minutes in the shower where you can check in with yourself or just taking a few minutes to lie down on your bed. No phone, no one else, just you. It’s helpful during this time to focus on your breath and notice what is going on in your body. Are you feeling particularly tense? Are you noticing that your heart is racing? How can you slow your heart rate down and reset before getting back in to life.
5. Dedicate time to practice – I know you didn’t want me to say this one but it’s true. Practice makes perfect. Set aside some time in your day to practice some formal mindfulness. You’ll thank yourself later.
There’s a huge number of resources for mindfulness available online and through apps. Take some time in this new year to have a look into it, and see if you can begin to implement it into your daily life.
Dr Victoria Thompson is a Clinical Psychologist based in Auckland. She works with adults and adolescents suffering with a number of difficulties, including stress, anxiety and eating disorders. She helps clients to develop skills and to gain a deeper understanding of themselves, supporting them to create a life that is more fulfilling.