Over recent years there has been a growing understanding of how damaging stress can be and mindfulness has become a tool of choice in terms of stress reduction for many people and organisations. So if you are new to mindfulness, or if you’ve heard about it but don’t know where to start here a few exercises that you might like to try.
For this first exercise just sit in a chair. Closing your eyes is often helpful especially at first. The purpose is just to BE – experience the present moment. For many of us we rarely experience the present, rather we are thinking about what has just happened or planning things for the future.
So a mindfulness teacher that I know recommends FOFBOC to begin with! Simply allow yourself to be aware of your feet on the floor (FOF) and your bottom on the chair (BOC). Often it’s helpful at first to begin by concentrating for just a few moments on your breath. Take a slow breath in through your nose and be aware of the feeling as the air passes through your nose, down your throat and then makes your chest expand. Then breathe out slowly through your mouth – being aware of the sensations as the breath leaves the body. The next step is FOFBOC – start to be aware of your Feet On Floor, this can be done with shoes off or on but allow yourself to be aware of the feeling, is the floor hard or soft, can you spread your toes, are our shoes tight, are your feet warm? Try to remember we are talking awareness NOT thoughts. Then become aware of your bottom on the chair – is it comfortable, what is the sensation, are you holding yourself tensely or allowing yourself to sink into the chair. Your mind will wander, especially if this is new, but each time it does just bring it back to your feet on the floor!
When you have tried the above a couple of times then try eating in a mindful way. First think how many times you have eaten a snack and been surprised that it has gone? Particularly likely if you eat while working. So for this exercise have some food available often something like a cherry, grape or nut works well. Begin by taking a few breaths to focus then pick up the food. First regard it, notice it’s colour and shape, hold it in your hand and notice the texture, weight and how it feels in your hand. Try to use as many senses as you can – they are particularly important in eating. Then after a minute or so, either take a bite or put the item in your mouth. Try to stay in touch with your senses, what is the texture, is it juicy, or salty, how does it feel when you roll it on your tongue? Then bite it and again notice the feelings and sensations. As you chew then swallow.
By now you are no doubt beginning to see that mindfulness is all about experiencing the present. I love to walk, or run or ride my bike but I use the time usually to have some head space to think about ideas, events and plans. But for this exercise which could easily be done for part of a walk begin by taking a few breaths to focus your mind then begin to ‘be’ in the moment. Switch on your senses and notice the air on your face, is it cold or can you feel the warmth of the sun. What noises can you hear, what is the feeling of the ground under your feet, is it soft or firm? Your mind will drift but bring it back to the present each time.
Perhaps less ‘natural’ than the others but having worked with a lot of children who have been ‘troubled’ I know that simple colouring has an impact on the mood. It can calm those who feel angry and others seem much more relaxed and able to talk when they are engaged in colouring. Luckily now there are several mindfulness colouring books to choose from – but the ‘picture’ is less important than the process. The idea is to forget other things and still the mind. Concentrate on the pen on the paper, the colour and pattern that emerges.
Try a few different exercises and see which feels best for you. Let me know what you think and remember we can run a Mindfulness course for you or your organisation – just get in touch.
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