Every day mindfulness
During the early days of lockdown one of my friends set up a lovely Facebook group encouraging us to share photos from our daily permitted walk outside. She was shielding completely and was keen to see images of the glorious spring bursting out beyond the walls of her flat.
We were happy to oblige, feeling we were doing her a favour. But she’s a canny one, this friend. She knew she was the one helping us – to be mindful of the oft-overlooked nature right on our doorstep.
Here in the UK we were restricted to one period of exercise a day, which had to be from the house (no non-essential car journeys allowed). Given that I can’t walk far, my daily dog walks started to follow a regular pattern. I don’t think Ziva was impressed, but it was a real blessing to me.
Most days, to give Ziva fresh sniffs to pee on and different squirrels to chase, I drive to one of the many green spots nearby for our twice-daily constitutionals. Over the course of a week I get my fix of views of the Peak District, stunning acers in my nearby park, rabbits in the local crematorium, and streams and waterfalls along a valley walk. But I see these places in macro, rather than micro. I notice the splash of colour, the big vistas, not the increments of growth.
Lockdown flipped this completely. My daily walks round the 80’s housing estate near our home became a source of wonder to me rather than frustration.
I noticed that holly trees have flowers (of course they do, but I had never noticed!).
I watched lilac flowers open almost imperceptibly day to day from tight knots to blowsiness, their come hither scent tempting early-woken bumble bees.
I marvelled at how early the wild damsons were flowering in our heatwave spring, and how long it took the ash trees to green.
And all of these I photographed and posted for the vicarious pleasure of my shielding friend.
These mindful walks, this close attention to my surroundings, were absolutely essential in keeping me grounded during what was a very anxious time for many of us. Anchoring our brain and body in everyday activities like these is one of the first activities I teach my Mindfulness-Based Tinnitus Management students. It's a helpful way to start training our focus away from challenging thoughts and emotions.
Here's a simple exercise for you to try :
Right now I'd like you to open up a new email, text message or whatsapp message to a friend. As you move your fingers or mouse to locate the app you're going to use be very aware of the feel of your skin on the screen or mouse. Is the surface cool or warm? Is it rough or smooth? Become aware of the movement of the bones, muscles and tendons in your hand.
Now, as you type that message (you don't have to send it), slow right down and be very intentional about pressing each letter. If you're using a keyboard notice the give of the keys as you press them down. Watch as each letter appears on your screen.
Take a moment to notice your posture. Are you hunched over the phone or the keyboard? Are your shoulders tight? If so, take a moment to drop your shoulders and adopt a more relaxed posture.
Become aware of your breathing. Is it short and shallow or deep and relaxed?
Now read through what you have typed. Read slowly and deliberately, rather than scan the words as we are used to doing. If it helps, read the message out in your head.