Posted on December 31 2017
How to practice mindfulness when you're not really into mindfulness.
If you were to pick one wellness trend that really dominated 2017, it would most likely be mindfulness. Championed by various fitness gurus and health-care professionals, mindfulness has been promoted as the answer to the stressors and ills of modern life.
With the introduction of apps and the publication of books to help us clear our heads and centre our minds in the now, for some the pressure to be mindful and zen can be overwhelming, and for those of us who struggle with anxiety, almost impossible. So, what can you do to incorporate mindfulness and meditative behaviours into your everyday life, when the thought of sitting alone with your thoughts fill you with dread?
For us, the answer is exercise. The benefits of exercise for both physical and mental health are well-documented and widely accepted, and while associations of peace and meditation are more commonly associated with yoga, the mental benefits of exercise don't end when you leave the mat. In fact, any movement - no matter how slow or intense - can be enjoyed as a mindful activity that can help calm the brain and clear your mind. Running, weightlifting, spinning: whatever you choose, here are some tips to help you get the most out of what you do.
So, how do you do it?
Warm up properly
In order to feel fully involved in what you're doing, warming up is key. Start slow, and remember a warm up is just that it's not the main event. The goal here is to get your limbs moving, and to really think through your body for where might be tight, sore or tired to set yourself up for a successful workout.
Think about each movement - what's it doing?
Whatever you're doing, focus on your body, how it's moving and what it's moving. Which muscles are being recruited, can you engage more, how is your breathing? If you feel any thoughts unrelated to your workout creep in, listen to them, but then return your focus. Notice where your mind goes, but always bring it back.
Why are you there?
What is your goal in this workout? Is it to get faster? Stronger? More flexible? Whatever it is, keeping this in mind is key, as it helps to maintain focus and a sense of achievement, rather than becoming bogged down long-term goal. Think about how your workout is making you feel.
What are you listening to?
If you're really struggling to clear your mind, or you need an extra push in your workout, then what you listen to is key. Typically, anything with an energetic beat is guaranteed to get you moving; however If anxiety levels are high, then a pumping bass may be counterproductive. Instead, try an interesting podcast, or some classical music to carry you through and keep stress low.
End well - stretch, relax
The best part of any workout? That feeling of sweet satisfaction as you stretch out at the end of it! Take this time to really connect with your body and think through what you've just achieved. Take your time and focus on your breath. After all, the better you finish a workout, the better you'll feel afterwards, and the more benefits you'll reap from the experience.