25 Nov Six steps for a more mindful day
In recent years, there has been quite the buzz around mindfulness, but it’s so much more than the latest buzz word or trendy practice. A regular mindfulness practice is proven to have a positive impact on one’s mental and physical well-being. But what exactly is mindfulness or how does one incorporate it into their daily routine?
Mindfulness is the practice of bringing one’s attention to the internal and external experiences occurring in the present moment. Numerous studies have found that mindfulness meditation — a practice rooted in Buddhist teachings that involves focusing the mind on present experiences — has benefits for concentration, mental health and physical well-being.
With so many distractions in today’s world, it is important that we become more self-aware and attentive to being in the present. As Joseph B. Wirthlin stated, “sometimes we make the process more complicated than we need to. We will never make a journey of a thousand miles by fretting about how long it will take or how hard it will be. We make the journey by taking each day step by step and then repeating it again and again until we reach our destination.”
Several years ago, I undertook an eight-week mindfulness course after the birth of my third child. I was overwhelmed with my to-do list and I struggled to complete many of the endeavours I took on. I felt that I was always reacting as opposed to thinking. However, once I made it a priority to give myself more space and time, I realized what is most important. Often, we are a product of our lived experiences, and mine was to always work my mind and body hard to reach my goals. I strive for excellence but when you are faced with less time and more significantly, less time for yourself, things begin to falter.
Overwhelming feelings can occur during any stage of life. For example, exam time, social outings, auditions, tryouts, play-offs, deals, solos, and presentations all can lead to a number of different thoughts and feelings. Most sport psychology tools will layout exercises for distraction control or setting smaller process goals for the bigger picture – these are all essential steps. However, becoming more mindful is one of the most important tools or ‘way of life’ that will help you as a performer, parent, or professional.
Consider recent women’s tennis US Open Champion, Bianca Andreescu; credits meditation with helping her stay focused. By harnessing positive thoughts, visualization and mindfulness, Andreescu has risen to the elite ranks of tennis. Andresscu is quoted in a recent CBC article as saying, “The thing that separates the best from the rest is just the mindset”.
Through my work as a Mental Performance Coach, I’ve realized one truth – the only thing I can control are my thoughts and the need to let go. Parents, youth, and performers are under so much pressure to perform these days and I believe we are creating a generation of parents and children full of anxiety and feelings of ‘I am not good enough’. Do I believe in excellence – absolutely; but you must know yourself, and create or be in an environment that is supportive, challenging and kind. Mindfulness is an important tool that can help in creating such an environment.
To incorporate mindfulness into your daily routine, here are six easy steps to get started.
- Each morning take 20 minutes to stretch, breath and write three things that you are grateful for and two things you want to accomplish that day.
- If you are interested in stillness, start out with 3-5 mins of breathing while bring your mind back to your breathe when you get distracted. Or you can try a guided body scan which helps you stay on track.
- If you are performing in any way, after each practice/training session stop and take five minutes to reflect on 1) What went well; 2) What needs work; and 3) What are the next steps?
- Treat your mind and body with kindness – after all they are yours for this journey. If you fall into negativity, acknowledge it and then change the channel to the present.
- Go for a walk in nature; enjoy a cup of tea or just be completely present in a conversation with a friend.
- If you need help, try a course or download an app to help keep you on track (I recommend Calm; Headspace; Mindshift).
By establishing a daily mindfulness practice it will help you own the journey while riding the wave. Remember, like physical training, it too can be improved upon…it just takes commitment.
Dr. Beth McCharles is a leading Performance Coach in Canada. A former elite soccer player and coach, Dr. McCharles is passionate about helping performers find their inner drive and confidence. To find out how Dr. McCharles can help you reach your optimal performance potential, contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.