Here I am, writing about mindfulness and mediation during a global pandemic. Never in my life did I think I would be doing that!
We have decided to include some #stayathome content on our blog for the time being, as this is what a lot of you have said you would be interested in. We feel travel is the last thing on people’s minds at the moment, for obvious reasons, but will still be sharing travel related content too so you can start planning trips for the future!
Flights have been cancelled, holidays have been postponed and all travels worldwide have been put on hold. Yet I (Kelly) still want to help out where I can and feel I can do so with sharing what I know about mindfulness and meditation for beginners.
I know this time in our lives is stressing us all the hell out and if we don’t do something about it, it will consume us and gobble us up until we’re crying in a ball in the corner with a large wine in hand.
So, what if I told you that you had the power to remove the stress and anxiety yourself, from home? It might be a bit hard to start with and to wrap your head around it, but once you reach a certain point, you will start to realise how much it is working.
I have been practising mindfulness and meditation for a few years now – at first not majorly, just when I remembered, yet it has now naturally turned into a regular thing for me which I am forever thankful for. It has changed my outlook on day to day life and changed my life and well-being overall.
To get you started, here are the very basics and also some super simple mindfulness tasks for you to think about each day, to help you get through this crappy time. I will also teach you how to meditate for the first time. I’m of course gonna throw a few amazing quotes throughout too, to give you a little boost (click on them and save them)!
Remember when meditating:
Find a peaceful place at home with no distractions. Your bedroom or garden with no other people would be perfect! Let family members know not to distract you for a little while (good luck with that – just lock yourself in a room).
A Quick Rundown of what Mindfulness and Meditation Actually is
The quality or state of being conscious or aware of something.
The awareness of SOME-thing.
Mindfulness is often misconceived as something that is “only for hippies” or something that requires a lot of work. But the truth is, ANYONE can (and should) do this, and it’s SO easy and simple.
The aim of practising mindfulness?
To be present. Not thinking about the past, not thinking about the future. To be in this very moment we are in now, as that is all that truly matters.
To be aware of those annoying million thoughts running through your mind that emerge on a daily basis. Our mind never ever stops, literally. It’s so loud and noisy when you notice it! It can sometimes be the cause of headaches, stress and anxiety, and although you have good reason to be stressed and anxious, mindfulness and meditation is a good way to control this.
If they are bad, stressful, worried or anxious thoughts (which they usually are), the aim is to shift those thoughts to something else (or remove them altogether which is meditation).
If they are happy thoughts such as joy, relaxed, fulfilled, excited and contentment, then the idea is to notice these thoughts, what triggered these thoughts, and to appreciate that moment and feeling. Being mindful also helps us make better, concious decisions, rather than decisions based on impulse and feelings.
You can be mindful at your work desk, in the bath, whilst shopping, whilst eating, working out, talking to people, or even whilst trying to get to sleep.
Simply? Just notice your thoughts, be aware of them, let them be, but don’t let them control you. That’s it.
Think about it:
You know when you go about your day and you have a millions things running through your head, either worries or even things/stories your mind completely makes up. Things that you aren’t even aware of and are running through your head subconsciously. Day dreaming is an example, or the feeling of running on auto pilot and not remembering certain things from your day. This means we are unaware of what our mind is doing and telling us.
The hardest part of being mindful is remembering to do it in the first place, but once you have conquered this, you will find yourself being mindful all throughout the day, feeling a lot more calm on a regular basis.
Focus one’s mind for a period of time, in silence or with the aid of chanting (or music in our case), for religious or spiritual purposes or as a method of relaxation.
The awareness of NO-thing.
Meditation stems from mindfulness. Where being mindful is the process of being aware of things and noticing your thoughts, meditating is the process of clearing your thoughts altogether. Doesn’t that just sound lovely?
Now this is where it gets a little difficult for some, but with perseverance you can notice results very quickly, even after a few days of practising, or even instantly!
Meditating is about clearing your thoughts and being in the moment. You should be aware of your surroundings and the sounds around you, which is why it’s best done in a quiet, peaceful place where no one can disturb you.
The idea? To focus on your breathing. Notice the thoughts you are having and any stories/scenarios your mind is making up and telling you, and remove them from your mind. When you notice a thought, let it pass and focus again on your breathing, or music, or sounds of the outdoors. The water fountain in my garden helps so much and is what I always focus on! Eventually, once you have removed lots of thoughts (this may even take 10+ goes), you will start to find it easier and notice the gaps of silence between. This means it’s working! The bigger the gaps of silence get, the more successful you are becoming at meditating and clearing your mind.
Fun story: This hasn’t happened again since, but I have once sat in the garden meditating for 10 solid minutes. All of a sudden my whole mind fell silent without me even trying. I opened my eyes and it still continued. I sat there for about 2 minutes with a completely clear mind and a huge sense of calm about me. I was blown away. It was such a weird and lifting moment!
How to Start Being Mindful on a Daily Basis
Throughout the day you have the choice to be mindful with absolutely everything. Mindfulness is a state of mind, a state of calm, and can be done at any moment. The problem is actually remembering to do it.
I will give a few examples below on daily things in which you can practice your mindfulness, but also take these tips and ideas to apply it to other scenarios personal to you.
Personally, the following few topics are top of my list when it comes to being mindful on a daily basis (I think they are for most) and can make such an impact on my whole day. It’s our choice to decide if they have a positive or negative impact.
First things first. Getting out of bed in the morning (or not getting out of bed shall I say). This can be a struggle for some, but working on our mindfulness can make us realise how much we actually DON’T want to stay in bed.
Do you ever pledge to yourself the day before…
“I will DEFINITELY get up early tomorrow because I have so much to do and really want to finish it all!”
Then the next morning, you’re so cosy you literally cannot stop snoozing your alarm. This is our brain tricking us, telling us we want to stay in bed, when in fact we KNOW that we want to get up and be productive, because we felt so strongly about it the day before and told ourselves so.
The fix for this scenario? The 5 second rule. This has changed my life and will change yours. It’s simple, when your alarm goes off, and before you even think about anything, count backwards from 5 and jump straight out of bed. Sounds stupid right? But counting back from 5 (preferably out loud) distracts your mind from thinking:
“5 more minutes won’t hurt”.
“Omg I’m so warm and cosy”
“I’m so tired”
“I really don’t want to go to work”
And solely focuses on the counting and then jumping out of bed. I personally changed it to the 3 second rule because 5 is way too long for me!
Just watch this video by Mel Robbins and implement the 5 second rule every morning!
Arguments and Unnecessary Comments
This is a big one. Learning how to be mindful in these situations can help you make a better decision as to whether or not you really want to make a particular comment, or to help you prevent an argument altogether. It can have a big impact on your whole mood.
When you find yourself in a disagreement, take a second to notice that you’re in a disagreement, and stop to think if it is really worth your time:
Will it make you feel better? No.
Is it going to make you feel angry? Yes.
Will it ruin your day? Most Likely.
Do you want to feel happy for the rest of the day? Yes.
Can you stop and walk away? Yes.
Similarly to the waking up scenario above, when you’re mindful you are realising what is true and what is false in your mind. Your mind is making you impulsively react, which is kind of your defence mechanism. But this doesn’t always have the best outcome for yourself (or the other person).
Take a quick deep breath, count back from 3, and always choose your own happiness over anger. You will walk away feeling proud and enjoy the rest of your day, and this is you being successfully mindful.
When we make decisions, they are usually made instantly and without a second thought, as decisions mostly come naturally to us. This can sometimes be a bad thing and even dangerous in some aspects.
Try to take a few seconds to think about what we REALLY want, so we can then make decisions more consciously. This comes with practice, strength and perseverance, so don’t be hard on yourself if you’re not successful straight away.
“Do I really want another alcoholic drink?”
No, because I told myself I would only have one.
“I’m going to message that person back and tell them they’re wrong!”
Stop. Why bother? How does this benefit you and your mood? It doesn’t.
“I will just write my new blog post tomorrow, it’ll be fine”
No it won’t. Why throw a whole days work away? Just push yourself and get it out of the way today. You’ll thank yourself.
This bring me onto my next tip. Well, it’s more of a quote that I heard about a year ago and has stuck with me since, and actually has made quite an impact on my decision making when it comes to working from home:
If you had 7 roses and only 1 died, would you throw the other 6 away? No you wouldn’t. So if you have 1 bad day in the week, don’t throw the other 6 away.
This is what I live by and is also great when it comes to the hours in the day. Just because you have a few bad hours, don’t throw the others away! Make the most of each hour and each day and you will feel better by it, knowing you have done what you set out to do.
You know when you lay in bed trying to get to sleep and absolutely EVERYTHING crosses your mind… like yeah, thanks brain, cause this is the perfect time to do that.
No matter how hard you try, these thoughts, stories and scenarios keep flooding back and with a vengeance.
You get lost in these thoughts and stories and they’re almost like a dream, but still you’re awake. Do you know what I mean? They almost seem real or like they will happen as well – you project into the future and play it all out in your head like a movie.
Or some of these thoughts may even be real, something from the past or something that happened to you that day.
This is where you need to remind yourself – the past has gone, the future is not yet a “thing”, and the present moment is all that matters.
Think about it:
You’re lying in bed, you’re safe, everything can be put on pause while you sleep. Nothing else matters in that very moment other than you getting to sleep and having enough sleep to wake up refreshed the next day.
The past does not have a direct affect on tomorrow, only your mind does. The future does not have a direct affect on tomorrow, it hasn’t happened yet. If you’re worried about something tomorrow, such as an interview, this is also something you cannot predict. You could act out scenarios in your head all night long, but none of these will be a true picture of what will happen tomorrow. Worried about messing up? This may never happen. Worried of saying the wrong thing? This may never happen.
Do not worry about something that may never come true.
How to be Mindful in Stressful Situations
Let’s go straight in and talk about the Coronavirus here, as that’s the reason we’ve written this post and is probably the reason you are here reading this.
This is literally the scariest time of our lives and we are living in the unknown. Our emotions are all over the place and it all feels so surreal – we are scared, lonely, worried, bored, upset and isolated.
Yes, you’re bound to have your bad days and have a little cry, and that’s okay. But where possible, it’s a good idea to try and be mindful of your thoughts and any scary stories your mind is creating.
Do any of these sound familiar?
“What if I catch the virus?”
“What if I contract it when I go to the shop to buy food?”
“I don’t want to die!”
“What if a family member dies from it?”
“What if a family member ends up in hospital with it and we can’t see them?”
“What if they can’t find a cure?”
“Omg we’re all going to get it I’m so scared”
These are all thoughts running through your mind, but did you notice that most of them are what ifs? “What if” means you are projecting into the future, worrying about something that may never happen. It means you’re not in the present moment, and if you think about it, all that actually matters is the moment you’re in right now.
Worrying over something we cannot control (Coronavirus) is also a big no no. If there is nothing we can do about a certain situation (or person), then there is no use wasting our energy worrying about it. However, if there is something you can control, then this is where you need to leap into action and do something about it.
In this instance, the only thing we can control is social-distancing and washing our hands. Once we are happy we are doing these 2 things, the rest is completely out of our control and is something we shouldn’t worry about. What will happen, will happen, without you losing your mind in the process.
Yes, this whole thing is scary, and yes, people are suffering and there is loss. But we have to try and not let this consume us and affect our mental well-being, because it will do exactly that, and viciously.
Imagine spending hours, days and weeks projecting into the future, worrying about something and it NEVER happens. What a waste of energy and happiness that would be!
Try your hardest to notice when these scary, awful thoughts are created by your mind, and remind yourself that these stories are just projections into the future and nothing we know for certain. Only worry about it IF it happens. Quickly try to think of something happy, or do something that will distract you, such as put the TV on, look through old photos on your phone or read a book – don’t let your mind win.
Call me crazy, but it even works if you start talking to yourself (okay now I really sound crazy LOL!) – tell yourself out loud that this isn’t true and it hasn’t happened yet, and that everything is okay in this moment. This is a similar approach to the 5 second rule as is distracts your mind from making stories up and worrying.
Our advice ♡
- Have an hour completely phone-free when you first wake up in the morning. Take the time for yourself to stretch, eat, be mindful, write down what you’re grateful for, or to meditate (or all of the above!)
- Whatever you do, do not sit and watch the news all day. Ban the news from the house other than for important announcements/6 o’clock news for 15-30 minutes. Anything important, you will then know about.
- Ban the talk of COVID-19 completely for the whole morning. Start the day with a different topic.
- Ban any serious talk of COVID-19 for the whole day unless it’s something funny, such as the abundance of toilet roll memes and tik-tok’s (gotta love em).
We have started doing all of the above and it has worked wonders. Believe it or not, there are times where we feel happy and even forget about whats going on for a moment. We aren’t saying to ignore everything going on around you and to be heartless. Just to feed yourself only the necessary information and to focus on your happiness at the same time.
Simple Mindfulness Activities
1. Mindful Breathing
Mindful breathing is the basis of any mindfulness exercise and can be done at any time in any place – try this on a regular basis:
- For a few breaths, use the muscles of your abdomen and chest to empty all the air out of your lungs, then allow them to fill naturally. As you do this, notice what it feels like to breathe in this way.
2. After these few breaths, allow your breathing to find its own rhythm. Let your breathing be as shallow or deep as it is while noticing;
- the rise and fall of your chest and shoulders
- the expansions and contraction of your stomach
- the sensation of the air entering and exiting through your nose or mouth
3. Continue to notice how it feels to breathe. Also, pay attention to the pauses between in and out breaths. Notice the silence created by the gap between breaths.
4. Do this for as long as you wish.
- Sit in a comfortable position with your spine straight throughout the exercise.
- Be aware of your breath without getting lost in the mind’s judgements. As much as possible, allow thoughts to come and go without getting lost in them.
2. List the things you are grateful for
When you wake up in the morning, leave your phone on the side, brush your teeth, splash your face and make your bed. Then take a moment (before, during or after breakfast) to sit down with a pen and paper, to write down the things you are grateful for that day. Getting these thoughts onto paper helps you appreciate the little things and gives you a little boost for the day.
Try doing this in your mind throughout the day too. If you’re able to pause your thoughts at any moment to appreciate the beauty of something, this is a great way to be mindful on a daily basis.
You may find yourself writing/saying things along the lines of;
“I’m grateful for a new day”
“I’m grateful for my family who love me”
“I’m grateful to have air in my lungs”
“I’m grateful for the colour of these flowers”
“I’m grateful for this yummy breakfast”
“I’m grateful for the warm sunshine on my face”
“I’m grateful to have a roof over my head”
“I’m grateful to have a job that pays me to be able to live how I do”
3. Mindful Observation
This is a great little activity as it’s really powerful in terms of making you appreciate something that you would maybe usually overlook. I personally like to do this activity with flowers, something you see most days and something you know looks pretty. But have you really ever looked at them properly and appreciated how they look and how they work?
- Choose a natural object from within your immediate environment and focus on watching it for a minute or two. This could be a flower, an insect or even the clouds or the moon.
- Don’t do anything except notice the thing you are looking at. Simply relax into watching for as long as your concentration allows.
- Look at this object as if you are seeing it for the first time.
- Visually explore every aspect of its formation, and allow yourself to be consumed by its presence.
- Allow yourself to connect with its energy and its purpose within the natural world.
Stand up and breathe deeply. Feel your connection to the ground.
Tune in to your body. Close your eyes. Scan your body and notice physical sensations or emotions. Discharge any unpleasant sensations, emotions or feelings on the out breath. Notice any pleasant ones and let them fill you up on the in breath.
Observe. Lift your eyes and take in your surroundings. Observe something in your environment that is pleasant and be grateful for it and its beauty (something as simple as flowers, or how blue the sky is).
Perfect. The moment you are in is perfect. It is all you need. You are alive, you are breathing and you have the ability to stop and absorb the moment. Nothing else matters and you are surrounded by so many beautiful things.
If you find yourself being reactive, try the following steps:
- Pause and take one to three big breaths.
- Say “step back.” (You don’t have to physically step back, you can just do it in your mind.)
- Say “clear head.”
- Say “calm body.”
- Breathe again. Say “relax”.
Meditating for the First Time
I’m sure you have quite a few questions to start off with, so let me try and answer a few for you quickly before we get stuck in with the practice.
Q. What’s the difference between Mindfulness and Meditation?
A. Mindfulness is being aware of SOME-thing. Meditation is the awareness of NO-thing. Meditation is completely clearing your mind of all thoughts.
Q. How do you know if you’re meditating properly?
A. There is no wrong during this process and you have to be kind and patient with yourself. With that being said, successful meditation is when you can clear the thoughts (little voices) in your head and hear the silent gaps in your mind. These gaps may start tiny, but the silence will grow longer with perseverance.
Q. How are you supposed to get rid of your thoughts?
A. We will cover this in the exercise below, but the main process is concentrating on your breathing and the sound of your breathing, and shifting your focus to that and nothing else.
Q. How long are you supposed to do it for?
A. Just as long as you wish. This could be for 2 minutes, or it could be for 15 minutes. It is for as long as your concentration allows.
Q. What happens if I cant do it or cant concentrate?
A. Meditating doesn’t come easy to some and if you find yourself struggling, maybe try at a different time of day or a different place. You will also notice more of an improvement the more often you try, so don’t give up.
Time to meditate.
Step 1: Put a calming meditation playlist on Spotify, or if you’re outdoors then sit silently listening to the wind, birds, trees or rain.
Step 2: If you have a busy schedule for that day, set an alarm for when you would like to finish. This way, you won’t be worried about the time whilst you’re meditating.
Step 3: Sit in a comfy position (legs crossed or laying on your back) with your back straight and eyes closed. Palms facing up if you want to feel lifted, or palms facing down (or holding your knees) if you want to feel grounded.
Step 4: Ignore every single thing that is going on in your life, and concentrate only on that very moment. You are safe, alone and nothing else matters right now.
Step 5: Take one deep breath to catch your breath after fidgeting around, then just breathe naturally. Make no effort to control your breathing.
Step 6: Focus on the sound of your breathing. Focus on the air filling up in your lungs, and then leaving your mouth. Focus on your body moving when inhaling and exhaling – your chest, your throat, your tummy.
Step 7: Simply focus your attention on your breath without controlling its pace or intensity. If your mind wanders, return your focus back to your breath.
Step 8: When inhaling and exhaling, notice the gaps of silence between each breath. These are what you want.
Step 9: If thoughts or stories come into your head, notice them, then remove them. Come back to the sound of your breathing, the music, the sounds and feelings.
Step 10: Continue to notice any gaps of silence and hold on to them for as long as possible.
Continue to do this for as long as you can and that’s it, you’re meditating! You will find in time this will become easier, and the gaps of silence in your mind will grow longer.
Beginners Mindfulness Books I Love!
To get you started on your mindfulness journey, here are some great books that I really recommend. The first ever book I read on this topic a few years ago is the first one listed here by Oli Doyle, and is the one that changed everything for me.
I do not recommend ordering anything online at the moment due to the current situation, and kindly ask you not to, however I have linked these books for easy access at a later date when this all blows over.