So why on earth would a Physiotherapy and Sports Therapy clinic be talking about mindfulness? Jumping on the band wagon perhaps? Well the honest truth is that we’re just trying to spread extra joy into the world one person at a time. No really. Our regular readers will be familiar (and possibly bored of!) my favourite gross over simplification of pain science: more stress = more pain.
End of discussion. That’s just the way it is. If you’re new to this concept and you need more convincing please read our blog post: Do You Think Stress Causes More Pain? If you want more time to be mindful then the quick answer is yes. That’s why you find yours truly writing so many posts about lifestyle topics and how to stay relaxed and calm in this crazy, hectic world we live in.
What Can Mindfulness Do For Me?
In relation to pain don’t expect to do one day’s worth of mindfulness and be cured of all your bodily aches. Equally don’t expect to dabble with mindful practice and immediately solve all of your emotional baggage. It’s more an overall package. Put in place everything you need to lead a better life and better things start happening. (We talk more about this idea in a previous Blog about how to combat the physical aspect of anxiety).
We’ve found over the years that our more mindful clients are simply easier to help. Those continually stressed out and wired need our help in getting to the point where we can help them physically. This post is intended to be a nudge in the right direction for those struggling to destress themselves. Motivation for those starting on their journey of physical and emotional improvement.
This post is designed for our clients and non-clients alike. For our clients to find that inspiration to do the right things so we can better help with their physical ailments. For non-clients it’s a stepping stone to get you to start doing the right things. Whether you’re going to be helped by ourselves, other therapists, or just yourself.
How To Use This List
This list is not exhaustive. You won’t like all of the suggestions. I’m just hopeful it will priovude you inspiration to you’ll at least try some of ideas here. Give them a try without any preconceived prejudice. If you still don’t enjoy it after a few attempts try something else.
How Do I Find The Time To Be Mindful?
By stopping doing all the things that distract you. We all have habits which we know are bad. We all have habits which we think are ok, but are actually just distracting ourselves from really dealing what it going on in our heads. If we lose these distraction habits we free up and awful lot of time in our lives for more constructive pass times. Focusing on our wellbeing. Like mindfulness.
We talk about how to identify and kick these habits in last months Blog.
10 Mindful Activities That Are Achievable
1. Relaxation Breathing
This is number one for a reason. This is the single best, simplest way to slow our brains and consequently our nervous systems down. Just try it. All of us therapists at the clinic use it on a regular basis. What does that tell you? There’s been many a time I have done some relaxation breathing and come up from it in a completely different mood. More relaxed and better able to deal with what the world is throwing at me.
Our previous post: Does Relaxation Breathing Really Ease Pain and Improve Mood (yes is the answer in case you were wondering) covers this in great detail. It shows you how and when to do the breathing and gives you the lowdown on the latest scientific theories as to why it is so good for us.
Some of you may struggle to actually do the relaxation breathing. We can help you with that if needed. Or perhaps have a search online for some breathing classes. Yes, such things do exist! Some of you may struggle on an emotional level to keep still for long enough – if you’re one of those people just keep plugging away at it, it will get easier to slow down and switch off.
2. Notice Your Thoughts
This is more of a way of life than a particular practice. We live in a busy world. It takes a real effort to slow down. It takes a strong person to say no. Especially if you have a family with everyone’s needs to consider.
We spoke in last month’s Blog about habits we all use to drown out our thoughts. It’s almost easier to ignore what our brain and emotions are trying to tell us and just plough on.
We all need to stop these naughty habits. Spend some time listening to what our emotions are telling us. Tune in to understand what we need. When we understand what we need as people we are better at actually asking for it. And less likely to fly off the handle (or internalise rage) when we don’t get something we think we want.
This is the premise of an excellent book I recommend to all my clients. The Language Of Emotions by Karla McLaren.
3. Practice a Growth Mindset
Those of us who aren’t flexible in our thinking tend to need to prove ourselves to others to boost their own view of their competence and self worth. If you have a growth mindset you are far less fearful of failing and open up your world to continual growth. As therapists this is so important for us at the clinic. It’s so important to continue to challenge ourselves and others to get the best out of all of us.
“In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert’s there are few.” – Shunryu Suzuki
4. Read (especially inspirational content)
When was the last time you sat down with a good book and no real plan to rush off anywhere? Whatever is defined good is entirely up to you. You may wish to read something light weight and distracting that you can get lost in without too much brain power. For me this would be some kind of geeky Sci-fi. Get lost in a different world to this one.
Sometimes light reading is all you can manage but if you have a little more brain capacity then something a little more inspiring is a good idea. There’s a whole world of self-help books out there. Whilst they’re not going to solve all of your problems in one go they’re great at putting you on a more enlightened path. I’m currently working my through my life coach’s (Alexander Butler) book: 12 Words That Will Set You Free. I recommend him and his approach highly.
If something has evolved over 5000 years from a people successively thinking yeah that feels good it can’t be wrong surely! An excellent blend of meditation type qualities with a wonderfully physical focus.
I won’t go on. We all know we should. Just make time to do it. Classes. Online. Whatever works best for you. Enough said. Form a habit and stick to it.
6. Guided Meditations
A mindful classic. Nothing new or controversial here. But how do we make time for it? This is a common issue for both myself and my clients. In my previous Blog I discuss the bad habits you can do less of to free up more time in your life. I’ve also found an article online which has some excellent tips on how make meditation, or any of ideas in the Blog, part of your routine. In short it suggests:
- Schedule your meditations
- Pick a time with few distractions
- Find small holes in your schedule
- Commit to your meditation schedule
- Break only for emergencies
- If you have problems letting go meditate anyway – you will get better. Naturally some days are trickier than others. Don’t beat yourself up about it.
Further to that list I’d like to add trying to meditate with your eyes open. Great for those of us who tend to switch off too much when meditating and fall asleep. And also great for those who’ve had a traumatic history and closing their eyes doesn’t feel safe.
As with all of these points get your meditation fix in the best way that works for you. Apps on our phones are a great way in. Ironically to help us relax from all that phone usage all day! The two meditation Apps on my phone are Headspace and Calm. Choose whatever works best for you.
For those more of a physical persuasion you may appreciate a Body Scan approach to meditation. There is a great one here from Jon Kabat-Zinn. He has integrated yoga and Buddhist ideals with more of scientific slant to make them more accessible and attractive to the wider population. Without having to wear robes and chant all day long!
7. Listening To Music
This is a really nice accessible way to be mindful. Who doesn’t like to listen to music? I have met a few but they are few and far between. Yet, in the modern world, I feel we are losing are ability to concentrate on music.
So many people rush about their lives tuned into their tunes. Hearing it yes. Distracted by it yes. But not listening to them with complete concentration. Try treating yourself to some good old fashioned listening the gramophone pre television style. Sit or lie down with nothing other to do than listen to the intended music.
No faffing around with phones. Just pick a playlist or, dare I say, listen to an album in its entirety. Then simply enjoy. You’ll be surprised how much more you take in.
8. Moving, Walking, Running
I guess you could call this exercise. But I’d rather call it movement. We are designed to move. Not be still. Movement massages our organs. It helps blood flow. It’s simply what we need. Exercising can be done to excess to force ourselves to feel good or try to prove our worth.
I like to promote the idea of appropriate exercise. Appropriate simply meaning what it needs to each individual. When we have the right motivation, movement becomes the ideal mindful exercise. I am moving simply because I am enjoying it and I am concentrating on just that.
9. Focus On Your Why
Without wanting to get too philosophical… Why are you here? What is your purpose? I’ve not met many people who know. Spend a little time thinking about it and it will come to you. If it doesn’t that’s ok. At least you’ve started the process. You purpose will materialise when it is good and ready.
Why is this important? Well, it underpins everything that we do. If we understand why we are trying to do things then we have a better focus. We are more mindful in everything that we do.
I’ll give you an example. My why came to me about an hour after I was introduced to the idea of it. I wasn’t actually thinking about it at the time. It just popped in there. As all the best ideas do. My why is to inspire people to make the best of that they have. It works for me personally, my family, my therapists and my clients. It also gives me motivation to write a Blog for the betterment of people I’m unlikely to meet on New Year Day!
Simon Sinek has a very good Ted talk on the subject here. This is presented in the context of business. But this is easily translated into personal. There will of course be huge overlap in your business and personal ‘why.’ If there isn’t. You can have two. You have my permission!
10. Whatever You Like!
The whole principle of mindfulness is to be solely focused on what it is that you are doing. Not constantly being distracted by the fear of the future, the past or bombarded by the present external factors. Reducing life down to one thing at a time. Sounds idyllic doesn’t it!
You can do it. You have the power. As such you can pick anything you like and choose to be mindful about it. Flossing your teeth – really get everything out there, focus solely on getting everything spotlessly clean and then enjoy that cleansed feeling and the satisfaction of a job well done.
Eating chocolate! Please eat chocolate responsibly. Take a small amount of chocolate. Take your time to chew it. Mash it around in your mouth. Make the most of the flavour. Swallow after you have reduced it to mush. Consider how enjoyable it was and then take the next same small amount.
You could use the same approach with a beer. In fact I will when this Blog is finished. (Please drink responsibly!) The whole point is to be in the moment and enjoying what life has to throw at us rather than consuming insatiably without really paying any attention to what is going on. If we don’t pay any attention to the pleasure that is there to be had we look for bigger a bigger hits and what was an enjoyable beer or square of chocolate becomes a distraction habit to numb out the hectic world around us.
A Mindful Conclusion
I hope this introduction to some mindful pass times has been useful whether you’re one of our regular clients or just someone who happens to find themselves on this page. As I mentioned when we began it’s not supposed to be exhaustive. It can’t be. I merely hope it’s introduced you to, or reminded you of, the principles of mindfulness and how it can help you at the start of this new decade from a more stable relaxed base.
Our goal here is help people with pain. But the principles here can be used by anyone looking beyond the physical and onwards towards mental health and well being. There’s another great resource from the guys at Mind with more a mental health perspective here to help you get the most from mindfulness.
I hope this article has inspired to at least try to some more mindful activities. Or simply do your day to day activities with a more mindful attitude. This article was originally going to be 20 mindful activities but it just got too long. It’s all type and ready to go for next month but if you want more options before then here’s a link to a more exhaustive post discussing 71 Mindful Exercises.
It is, of course, not about the quantity. It’s about the quality. Find something that works for you. Get it into a routine and keep it there. Even when things get stressful or when you get frustrated that your physical and / or emotional issues are not progressing.
This article first appeared on our Brighton site.