Happy weekend! So I’ve decided to do a monthly focus for March on mindfulness – and I’m pretty excited about it…maybe partly because ‘Mindful March’ just sounds so catchy! I’ve been interested in meditation and mindfulness practices as a way to reduce stress and anxiety for a few years. Meditation has proven to be a very helpful tool for calming my worry-prone brain! During March I’m going to look at ways to incorporate more mindfulness into my everyday life.
What is Mindfulness?
The word mindfulness has come to encompass a whole host of things. For the purposes of Mindful March, I’m looking at it as a practice in training the mind to pay attention to the present moment. It turns out, most of us spend a surprising amount of time lost in our thoughts and completely unaware of what is actually happening around us. In addition to experiencing the world more clearly, being present enough to notice your own thoughts can be profoundly helpful in breaking negative thinking patterns and reducing anxiety. Although research into mindfulness is in the early stages, there have been some promising studies linking these practices to improved mental and physical health outcomes. I have certainly seen benefits in my own life over the past few years. A few of the benefits I’ve experienced from working on the skill of mindful attention include improvements in:
- Recognizing when I am distracted – especially lost in thoughts about the future or stories from my past.
- Recognizing unhelpful negative thinking.
- Reducing worry and anxiety.
- Dealing with stress.
- Staying focused on a task.
- Staying present during conversations – actually listening to the other person without being distracted by what I’m going to say next or other random thoughts!
- Appreciating simple joys (I know it sounds corny) – things like really tasting food, enjoying nature, noticing the kindness of others, feeling more gratitude.
Sounds pretty good, right? Who wouldn’t want to reduce stress, think more clearly, experience more joy and connect more meaningfully with others? To me, the practice of mindfulness is the process of developing these skills, a kind of training for the brain.
What is Mindful March?
In order to work on cultivating all these benefits, I’ve come up with a few challenges to complete throughout the month….
Meditation is a classic technique to practice the skill of mindfulness. I have already developed a fairly consistent meditation practice, but I tend to do the same couple guided meditations, or just do my own versions of focusing on the breath, or body scan meditations. I recently discovered the Insight Timer app which offers thousands of free guided meditations. My goal for March is to try at least twelve new guided meditations, ideally in a variety of different styles.
Yoga is my go to mindful movement practice, although any kind of movement can be done mindfully! I’ve been getting in at least one yoga session a week, but I’m going to attempt to up this to at least two per week for Mindful March.
Walking meditation is another useful practice to work on developing the skill of staying present. My commute to and from work is about a 30 minute walk most days, usually while listening to a podcast or talking on the phone. To be honest, I kind of love this multitasking during my walks and don’t want to totally give it up. For Mindful March I’m going to try and stop the multitasking on my walk three times a week and focus on being present. It sounds simple, but I think it will actually be quite a challenge. This isn’t exactly a traditional formal walking meditation, but it will be a good way to incorporate more mindfulness into my existing routine.
Things we do regularly are some of the best opportunities to work on being present. Eating is one of the most obvious examples, since it can also be quite a vivid sensory experience (if you pay attention…). I am certainly guilty of mindlessly snacking or eating meals while distracted in front of a screen. In addition to missing out on the simple joys of food, this often leads to overeating. So for Mindful March I’m going to try and do at least three mindful meals a week. This means no screens, reading or distractions during meal time, and eating more slowly!
Tracking Mindfulness Practice
I love self tracking and it definitely helps me to stick with new habits, so I’m going to try and keep track of the challenges I’ve set for myself. I’ll be using my bullet journal to keep note of my mindful meals, yoga sessions, mindful walks and guided meditation sessions. I’m not really sure exactly how social media and mindfulness fit together, but I’m just going to go with it, and try to document some mindful moments on Instagram throughout the month too.
Do you incorporate any mindfulness practices into your everyday life?