16 Mar 6 ways mindfulness can be part of your self-care
We hear often how important self-care is. The counter-intuitive analogy often used is that of a parent in a plane being told to put their own oxygen mask on before their child. Looking after ourselves, or self-care, means that we are fit, able and healthy and able to support others and play our part properly in life, work and our relationships.
Mindfulness is an important part of self-care as it teaches us to focus and be fully present in the here and now and pay attention to ourselves. To listen to what our bodies are telling us about stress, hunger and tiredness and act accordingly.
But what sort of mindfulness applications can we use as part of a healthy self-care regime?
#1 Moving with mindfulness
We all know how important it is to move and stay active. Regular exercise is shown to improve your cognitive abilities, reduce stress and even reduces depression. Finding time to stay active and exercise can be hard, but that’s what makes it an essential part of self-care.
Moving mindfully as part of an exercise regime doesn’t have to take up a lot of time, or be very strenuous. It could be a gentle yoga session, an absorbing swim or a mindful walk. But it’s important to take the time while we’re active to focus on what’s really happening with our bodies and our breath and be in the present moment.
#2 Mindful sleep habits
For some reason, modern society sees sleep as somewhat of a luxury, rather than a necessity, despite us all knowing that we need sleep for basic physical functions – sleep is needed to repair damaged tissue and organs, as well as metabolise hormones that our body no longer needs. There is also overwhelming evidence that we need sleep for our minds to function productively and effectively.
Being mindful about your habits around sleep (particularly banning digital devices from the bedroom) is one form of self-care that we are passionate about, as it ensures that we are rested and ready to tackle whatever life throws at us.
#3 Mindful breathing
Mindful breathing is one activity that is one of the most effective. It teaches us to be properly aware of our own breathing and, in that, release everything else. This is a great technique for reducing stress, as one social worker found out.
Noticing how my breathing became quicker in times of stress really helped me to learn to slow it down and steady myself. I often use this technique at the end of the day in my car, before going into the house and becoming mum again. I used to carry that stress back into the home, whereas now I can separate my home life from what’s going on at work.
Reducing stress is important for self-care, as too many of us carry stress around with us all of the time, unable to separate work and home. Simple breathing, such as this, allows the brain to change its activity and release calming neurotransmitters.
#4 Flow activities
Flow activities are any activity that changes your mental state and is commonly referred to as being ‘in the zone’. It’s any activity where you are so engrossed in it, you seem to forget anything around you and you become fully involved.
Flow activities are a great way to be mindful, as they keep your focus purely on the task at hand – giving you a sense of fulfilment and focus. These feelings are amplified if you repeatedly engage in a task that is challenging, but easy enough that you can still achieve it.
Activities like yoga and surfing are classed as flow activities, allowing you to carve out some much-needed me-time during your week as you focus on your own well-being.
#5 Connecting with nature
Spending time outside in nature can be extremely restorative and has been shown to have many beneficial effects, such as improving your focus, lowering your blood pressure and even improving the function of your immune system.
All of these effects should be enough to make you want to include being outside in nature as part of your self-care regime, but if you find time outside healing and pleasurable, shouldn’t you make time for it as often as possible?
#6 Mindful eating
We often neglect our own dietary needs, rushing and eating unhealthy food at speed rather than savouring it and enjoying it. We know that the correct nutrition can help improve cognitive performance and our ability to learn, as well as keeping us healthy, so why do we forego taking time over it in favour of other things?
Taking the time to really focus on our food can be an excellent application of mindfulness, and what better place to really focus on what you’re doing than the kitchen? Cooking itself is a flow activity, and eating slowly and mindfully and really enjoying each morsel of food has been shown to improve digestion as well as naturally help with weight loss.
Six ways to introduce mindfulness into a healthy self-care regime. Give one of them a go today!