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Mindful May

We have all heard about ‘mindfulness’ but what is it and what are the benefits of mindful activities for our mental wellbeing?

Mindfulness is more than taking a break from our daily routine. It can be defined as a moment-to-moment awareness of one’s experience without judgment, and tuning in to the present moment. It can be promoted by certain practices and activities for example, paying attention to colours of a sunset or through yoga.

Some of the potential benefits of regular mindfulness practice are:

  • Reduced rumination and fewer depressive symptoms
  • Stress reduction
  • Decreased anxiety
  • Boost to working memory
  • Improved ability to focus attention and suppress distracting information
  • Greater cognitive flexibility. People who practice mindfulness meditation appear to develop the skill of self-observation

You’ll find more detail on the benefits of mindfulness in this article on the American Psychological Association website.

Mindful Mondays in May

During May, Act Belong Commit is encouraging everyone to find time for a simple mindfulness activity at the start of every week, with a different activity for each ‘Mindful Monday’, from mindful colouring to spending time in nature. As with all exercise, the benefits of mindfulness come from regular practice. If you find these exercises help you, why not make mindfulness part of your daily routine?

Exercise 1: Mindful Colouring

Colouring can be an enjoyable way of practising mindfulness. Colouring is good for us because it uses the part of our brain responsible for improving concentration, motor skills, problem solving and organisational skills. Enjoy some mindfulness today by colouring in this mandala which you can download and print from our website.

Exercise 2: Nature and Mindfulness

Spending time in nature, even in a city setting, has been linked to a host of benefits, including improved attention, lower stress, better mood. When people are mindful in nature it can maximise the experience of being in nature.

Sit in nature – perhaps a park, garden or somewhere more remote. Feel the fresh air, sit and listen to the sounds of nature.

  • Watch an animal, bird or insect at work or play until it departs.
  • Sit and watch a shadow until it has crossed your path…
  • Sit until the sun completely sets…
  • Sit until the birds finish their song…
  • Or simply watch a cloud as it changes shape and disappears or passes on the horizon….

Exercise 3: Mindful breathing

Sitting comfortably, close the eyes and take a big, deep breath. In through the nose and out through the mouth. As you breathe in notice how the body expands. As you breathe out feel the body soften.
Studies show breathing exercises can improve cognitive function, encourage positive thought, and reduce symptoms of anxiety. We can do breathing exercises anywhere to help feel relaxed or more energized. Try a short guided breathing exercise by Headspace below and consider doing this on a daily basis.

Exercise 4: Mindful Yoga

Mindfulness has always been an essential aspect of the physical practice of yoga. Mindful Yoga is not just a physical activity focussed on alignment and physical posture, we can cultivate mindfulness through yoga by focussing on our breath and non-judgmentally reflecting on our yoga practice. Benefits of mindful yoga include:

  • Reducing fatigue.
  • Increasing focus and concentration
  • Boosting energy, mood, self-confidence, and compassion

Check out this Headspace yoga practice video.

Exercise 5: Body Scan

Doing a guided body scan is a type of meditation. The process involves deep breathing while scanning your body from head to toe and noticing where you might be holding tension. The body scan meditation can promote body awareness, stress awareness, and relaxation.

Choose a guided body scan meditation from a mindfulness app or website such this one from Smiling Mind.