Is it just me or does life today seem more pressured than ever?  Endless to-do lists, masses of expectation and simply not enough hours in the day.  Does anyone else have that frequent feeling of exhaustion, where you feel like you haven’t stopped all day but, on reflection, don’t feel like you’ve achieved a single thing? Often that escalates into negative thinking and feelings of uselessness. It’s no wonder that we all, at some point, feel like we need to step away from the madness - one-way ticket to Barbados anyone?

That said, it’s easier said than done, especially when you have responsibilities and dependents. Stepping back to take time for yourself can be difficult, but grabbing just a small amount of time to rebalance can make a big difference.

As someone who struggles with her mental health and trying to maintain positivity and an overall life balance, let me tell you a bit about mindfulness. First, what exactly is it?

What is mindfulness?

Mindfulness is a mental state of calm achieved by focusing on the present moment, allowing a heightened awareness of what you are experiencing and of what surrounds you. This process allows you to welcome and recognise your thoughts, feelings and bodily sensations. 

The idea of such techniques helps to restore balance and focus, allowing you a moment to connect with yourself, clear your mind and enjoy a well deserved moment of calm.  Breathing techniques are also key when practising mindfulness.

Studies show that mindfulness is an effective way of positively contributing to your mental health and wellbeing, helping to maintain a feeling of balance, building resilience and helping you stay focused and present, thus easing the chaos slightly.

Small moments make the biggest difference

This is all very well, but when will you ever find time to be mindful I hear you ask? Mindfulness for everyone looks and feels different. In my experience, it’s all about recognising and appreciating the small moments as I travel through my day.

For me, being mindful might begin by not immediately reaching for my phone in the morning when I wake, taking the time to wake up naturally and to instead take those ten minutes to notice how my body feels. Walking to the train station, recognising the sounds and smell of summer rain and embracing the opportunity to breathe some fresh air before I reach London. At lunchtime, sitting out by the river and noticing the floods of tourists clambering up onto the river walls for a photo, but feeling a sense of relaxation as I watch from afar, focusing on the taste and texture of my lunch. When back at home, finding somewhere comfortable to use my mindfulness app, to take my mind away from the madness and to recognise how I am feeling both physically and mentally. By recognising my thoughts it helps to better manage them, helping me to make the necessary adjustments to feel more fulfilled, balanced and well. But that's me, what about you?

Six ways to incorporate mindfulness into your busy day

  • Limit the time you spend multitasking: If you can, focus your attention on just one task at a time. Consistently dividing your attention can take its toll quickly, bubbling up feelings of pressure and anxiety. Researchers are starting to uncover that multitasking can have more cons than pros and that getting things done individually is actually better for your wellbeing and is more efficient.

  • Take some time for a break and switch off distractions: You don't need any special equipment or anything fancy, just a quiet space and a bit of time. Resist the urge to check your emails, answer your latest Whatsapp or browse social media - use the time to focus on you. Drink your favourite drink, dunk your favourite biscuit, you can also try a bit of meditation. Easier said than done I know, but taking some daily time to quieten your mind can yield calming results.

  • Be present and live for the moment: The aim of mindfulness is to make you more present. When your mind gets carried away, let the thoughts roll past and focus on what's actually happening - right here, right now. What can you see, hear and smell? Being present has many benefits including decreased stress, better focus and improved patience. Take the time to truly experience the current moment and to better understand and appreciate yourself and others.

  • Spend time outdoors: The majority of us spend most of our time inside. Life dictates that, along with the great British weather! Spending even short bursts of time outside can have wonderful health benefits though, so try and find a way to incorporate some fresh air into your day. Pop outside, take a deep breath and really notice what's going on around you.

  • Focus on your breathing: Life is so busy, our minds are regularly being pulled from pillar to post. You've probably heard about the huge benefits of mindful breathing before, the best thing is that it's simple, and only takes a minute. Pay attention to how you inhale and exhale, pretty much anywhere at any time. This video is recommended by the NHS and is a lovely example of a mindful breathing exercise.

  • Make time to enjoy your hobby: What's your pleasurable pastime? Don't forget to slot it into your day or week. For me, I de-stress by baking. It's a wonderful way to be creative and the act of following a recipe is really effective at bringing focus into the present. There's a real sense of achievement too, plus the added bonus of being able to share the bake with others. I document my bakes and share tips on Instagram too.

There are common themes that run through the practice of mindfulness, but what works best for you may be totally different to what works for me. Try a few things and see what fits into your life. There are many websites and books which give other ideas and examples of how to best practice mindfulness, give it a go and embrace the calm - I promise you won’t regret it.