How often are you present? By which I mean actually focusing on one thing at a time, right here, now and in the present. Probably not as often as you would like would be my guess based on conversations with other women in my tribe.
I, like many others, am juggling motherhood and self-employment; feeling like I am not doing either with any focus. It’s probably why I chose being present as the theme for April. As someone who likes to be busy, it can be easy to forget to make time to find those quiet moments and to experience life rather than rushing through it at 100 miles an hour.
Over the next few weeks, I’ll be examining the role of mindfulness for small business owners and working at home mums. I’ll be focusing on its potential impact on your wellbeing as well as looking at the benefits and offering tips to help you de-stress, maximise your time, fuel your body and clear your mind.
I don’t think I have written an article specifically on mindfulness before, though it is something I mention from time to time. So if you aren’t aware of what mindfulness is…let me fill you in. Mindfulness intentionally paying more attention to the present moment, your own thoughts and feelings and the world around you in order to improve your mental wellbeing. It’s important to note that mindfulness isn’t about completely emptying your mind or about long periods of meditation (though that might be something you want to do if you have the time/inclination).
It needn’t be time-consuming and although there is an element of practice, I think of it more as an awareness…as you notice your thoughts drifting away from the present you guide them back. You might notice quickly or you might take longer…but you will notice eventually. I promise.
Seven easy ways to be present
- Breathe – you already do that, so it should be easy right? It sounds obvious but when we are stressed out waiting for your next client to call or stuck in traffic – deep breathing can help ground us in the present. Whilst breathing you can choose to look around you, watching your surroundings and the people passing you. Focus on what you’re doing and feeling in that moment. Take the time to consider if there are any tensions or tightness in your body or mind.It doesn’t sound like a lot, I know, but using this time when you would be waiting anyway can have profound impacts on your wellbeing. Focusing on your breathing can help you to remain calm, to readjust your mindset and give you time to consider how you’re feeling in the present. You never know, you might end up looking forward to the time spent in the shop queue.
- Slow down – Everyone is busy, we train ourselves to be so as we equate busyness with productivity. This is especially true of the self-employed who are often juggling so many plates. By slowing down, we can become more aware of what we’re feeling, why we’re feeling it as well as just taking the time to enjoy life that bit more. Perhaps it’s taking smaller steps, taking a break or making an effort to go for quality over quantity.
- Reconnect – Whether it’s to the music you’re listening to, another person or yourself, sometimes the best way to experience our life is to reconnect. Our world is full of distractions. How many of us spend our breaks scrolling through Facebook or checking our emails whilst eating/watching tv? Perhaps you eat, watch tv and check your emails simultaneously? Here’s a challenge for you: The next time you have some free time, perhaps over lunch, try to focus on and experience what you’re actually doing. Instead of allowing yourself to be distracted by something else, try to focus on the emotions and thoughts you connect to the food, imagine the colours and images you’d attach to your meal. You can try the same when listening to music, reading or exercising. Bonus: this helps to build your creativity as well as keeping you present.
- Accept things as they are – When we wish for change we attach a label e.g. ‘when ‘x’ happens I will be happy’ or ‘I wish I were able to do y’ or ‘I hope this never ends’. We are all so busy striving for improvement but what if we just accepted things/situations/experiences for what they are? With no labels of ‘good’ or ‘bad’, with no judgement. I find the best way to do this is to imagine for a moment we are observing what is happening. When we look at a situation from an observer’s perspective we are able to find more clarity. Then, if we need to change something we can but what about this thought: what if you only changed those things for the benefit of learning along the journey?
- Celebrate the small stuff – Not so long ago I didn’t celebrate running 12 miles or even acknowledge it as an achievement as I was too focused on what the next thing was. I know I am not alone as when I talk to clients about their achievements they often forget the smaller things, the everyday things. By celebrating all our successes we can get present and really focus in on the experience and emotions involved at that time…which is really useful if we get low and forget all our achievements!
- Practice gratitude– now I have written about gratitude before but mindfulness is the first step for gratitude. This is because gratitude can be experienced anytime, anywhere, independent of external conditions – all we have to do is notice it. So grab yourself a journal or use an online tool and get grateful about what you have right now.
- Stay curious – Ground yourself with questions about your situation, experience and environment e.g. what am I feeling? or what do I need to do right now? Staying curious allows you to quickly get back to the present if you find yourself unfocused, anxious or lost somewhere in thought.