Last time I introduced you to a powerful, yet very brief, mindfulness technique. This time I’d like to tell you a bit more about mindfulness and why it works, and introduce you to a slightly longer exercise that can reap dividends in terms of coping with stress and helping you focus. It can even help you sleep better.
Mindfulness works because life happens in the present. Right now you are reading this article. However, so much of the time we are focused on the past or the future, which means that we cannot give our full concentration to what we’re doing. We analyse past experiences and wish we’d dome something different or better. We think ahead to a situation and worry what might happen. We live ‘in our heads’, thinking things through, ignoring the fact that life is to be lived and felt. Bringing your focus back to the here and now allows you to stop all that ‘noise’, to raise your awareness of your senses and just be. Which then allows clear-thinking and much greater calm, happiness and effectiveness.
If you’d like to train your body and mind to be and feel in the present more often without churning over the past or worrying about the future, have a go at this 10-minute body scan:
10-minute body scan mindfulness exercise
The trick is not to be judgemental in any way of your thoughts or feelings, simply notice them, be interested in what’s going on for you, and if your mind wanders at any point, just note that and gently bring your attention back.
- Start by lying down on your back, putting a cushion under your knees and a blanket over you if that’s comfortable. Ideally close your eyes.
- Notice the sensation of your breath as it enters and leaves your body and be aware of your tummy rising and falling with each breath.
- When your breathing feels calm, move your attention to your toes. Notice any sensation there, perhaps any warmth or cold, the feel of the blanket or your toes next to each other, any tingling, any tension or numbness. If you are aware of any tension, imagine breathing into that area and then breathing out through that area and notice any change.
- Then move your focus to the soles of your feet. Again notice any sensation. Take a few moments at each part of your body, just to notice. Then the tops of your feet. Then your heels. Slowly!
- Next move your attention in turn to your ankles, then your calves, your shins, your knees, your thighs. Again take note of any sensations as you focus on each part in turn.
- Then focus on your pelvic and hip area. Then your lower back, your stomach, your upper back and then your chest.
- Next shift your focus gently to your fingers and thumbs. Then your palms the back of your hands and then your wrists.
- Then notice your lower arms, your elbows, your upper arms, your shoulders and then your neck.
- Next notice your jaws, your mouth, your cheeks, your eye area, your forehead your ears, the back of your head and finally the top of your head.
- Then take time to be aware of our whole body. Just breathe and accept any sensation you become aware of.
You may find you fall asleep during or after this body scan. That’s fine, especially if it’s 2am! If you are concerned this might happen, set yourself a gentle alarm before you begin.
Practising this mindfulness exercise a couple of times each week, or whenever you feel the need to relax and refocus, will bring greater calm, raised awareness and concentration, and lead to better sleep.
Enjoy! And do leave a comment below to let me know how you get on.