Georgia-May Collings spends seven days being mindful.
To be mindful is the act of consciously pausing and paying attention to your present situation, thoughts and feelings. As modern lives get busier, we find ourselves wondering how there are only 24 hours in a day. How many of us have watched a gig, sports event or special occasion through the camera on our phone? Guilty! You can see we seem to have an issue with letting the here and now pass us by. However, mindfulness, teaches us to appreciate our current situation.
Rather than to be dismissed as yet another wellness fad, mindfulness is recommended by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence as a way to prevent depression. Plus, the NHS endorse mindfulness as a way to ‘help us enjoy life more and understand ourselves better”’. There is a variety of mindful apps available to guide us through the process of feeling calmer. In the first quarter of 2018, self-care apps in America earned $15 million according to Sensor Tower – it’s easier than ever to get started.
Taking mindfulness abroad
As someone who finds themselves always busy, I was excited to get started with a more conscious way of being. In fact, I thought a great place to begin my seven days of mindfulness would be at the airport before I went on holiday. After all, the potential for delayed flights, lost baggage and excessive queues, could make even the calmest of people struggle to enjoy the moment of airport chaos. Yet, having seemingly underestimated Stansted airport, I breezed through departures and enjoyed my flight without any hiccups. So far, so good.
While on holiday, I will admit that I grabbed any photo opportunity with both hands. Did I get some cool shots? Yes. Was this particularly mindful of me? Probably not. Realising I was spending much of my holiday looking through a lens, I vowed to look at my surroundings and kept the screen gazing to a minimum. With my phone now firmly gone from the grasp of my palm, I soaked up the views at on offer at Royal Palace of Madrid. It soon struck me however that being mindful sure isn’t hard when you have a glass of rosé in hand while the sun beats down on you as you take in Spanish architecture. Maybe being mindful would only start to be tricky once I was faced with the pressures of daily life. I decided to revisit this challenge while back at work.
Mindfulness at home
I can struggle to get to sleep on a Sunday night and, as predicted, I was wide awake at midnight still. Fed up of tossing and turning, I thought it was time to turn to one of those infamous apps. I opted to download Calm (calm.com) as it’s rated as the go-to app for better sleep with four million downloads. However, my reassurance soon washed away however when my phone memory declared itself too full for another app. Feeling somewhat exasperated, I instead visited YouTube to find a guided sleep meditation video. After 20 minutes, I turned away from my screen feeling much more zen and ready for bed. Although I did eventually get to sleep, I had a feeling of guilt for relying on technology. I wondered if there was more of a traditional way to reap the benefits.
Trying a complementary therapy
After doing a little research, I decided to book a reflexology appointment for the weekend. More than just a glorified foot rub, reflexology is a complementary health therapy. It’s based on the theory that different parts of your feet correspond with other areas of the body. The benefits boast reducing stress, pain and anxiety and encouraging the body to restore a natural balance. Friends who’ve had sessions before told me that reflexology put them in a ‘meditative state’, almost in the in-between stage of consciousness between sleeping and being awake – I knew I had to try it for myself. The session took place in a small room lit by fairy lights and with lavender candles burning, certainly set the tone for a relaxing hour. With my shoes and socks off, I laid on a massage bed, while my therapist encouraged me to clear my mind and breathe deeply.
Each time a thought was to pop into my head, I had to bring myself back to the room and concentrate on my breathing. As a self-confessed over-thinker, this was a struggle. In fact, forcing myself to just concentrate on my current feelings for an hour long session was difficult. I found my mind wandering to the plans I had for that evening. I had to remind myself that if I wanted to think, now was not the time. While I may have found it a struggle to completely switch off, I did feel more relaxed. Intrigued and wanting to perfect the skill of turning off my mind, I booked in for another session.
Although I wouldn’t say I have been transformed into monk levels of serenity and calm, I finished the week feeling hopeful that I could at least improve the way I think and act. Racing through life at 100 miles per hour is exhausting us and when I came to the realisation that even my own mind jumps from thought to thought, it’s fair to say we owe it to ourselves to slow down. After all, once the moment has gone, it’s gone.