How to be mindful all year round

Mindful in May, the global meditation challenge, might not have run in 2016, but that doesn’t mean your ability to think widely, employ perspective, and focus on the effectiveness of your daily life should also go on hiatus!

Here are five ways to stay truly mindful all year round, with help from coaching psychologist Dr. Melissa Marot. 

  1. Practise “random acts of mindfulness”. There are many ways to bring mindfulness into your daily routine. “Formal practices of mindfulness are meditation or visualisations where you might sit quietly for a while and engage with a practice. Informal practices are the more practical everyday applications of mindfulness or ‘mindfulness in action’, such as mindful walking or eating,” explains Dr. Marot.

    To incorporate it into your daily life, “keep your mind focused on your selected activity by using your senses (sight, touch, smell) and anchor to the present moment - activities can be as straightforward as sorting out the stationery cupboard, walking to the printer, eating lunch or drinking your morning coffee. It’s important that they are activities away from the computer and involve physical movement. You can aim for at least five minutes of daily practice in this way!”
  2. Believe in the benefits. According to evidence-based neuroscientific research, there can be positive neurological changes in a person after a period of mindful practice, and this period can be as short as eight weeks!

    Dr. Marot explains that mindfulness can help you “unhook” from your thoughts and feelings, disengage from and let go of them, and not get carried away by them.

    “Research has shown that being more mindful is associated with a number of things, such as better decision-making, optimism, self-esteem, positive emotions and life satisfaction - which all have a clear impact on one's personal and professional life.” 
  3. Approach it with an open mind. Many people perceive the practice of mindfulness as another task to add to their long list and feel disappointed in themselves when they don’t “achieve” it. On the contrary, if approached correctly, mindfulness can be something extremely enjoyable and fulfilling, and what Dr. Marot describes as “the opposite of autopilot.”

    She says the key is to have a curious, exploratory and open-minded attitude to it. When mindful, you don't need to have an "empty mind" or push your thoughts away. Just observe your thoughts and feelings without analysis, judgement or engaging with them. You’ll be surprised at its calming effect, and the way it can instill a great sense of appreciation for the simple things in life.
  4. Take time out to meditate. Meditation is often viewed as time-out; a short period in one’s day to be present, and put the worrying and over-thinking on hold. This can be truly relieving for some. But while one person may love to take 15 minutes of their day to sit and meditate, others may prefer to practise informally. Regarding meditation, Dr. Marot says, “some people will love it, others will find it's not their cup of tea! Both are OK.”

    But if you are inclined to try out formal meditation, it can help to be guided using a smart phone app, or with a professional group that runs mindful workshops or sessions.
  5. Enlist a variety of resources. Finally, Dr. Marot offers a list of resources that can help you get on your mindful way. This list is in no way exhaustive – there are many books, articles, apps and podcasts available that speak to mindfulness and its benefits from various different angles, so go and explore!

    - Wherever you go, there you are - Jon Kabat-Zinn (Book)
    - Urban Mindfulness, Jonathan Kaplan (Book)
    - Headspace or Buddhify (Smart phone apps)
Dr. Marot explains that mindfulness can help you “unhook” from your thoughts and feelings, disengage from and let go of them, and not get carried away by them.