Mindfulness practices to help you stay calm in 2021

Do you feel like life is unravelling at the moment?

With yet another lockdown to navigate, Dry January could well be out the window already, while that diet wagon is under constant threat from sheer boredom.

The latest ONS (Office for National Statistics) figures show that 75 per cent of adults in the UK are worried about the impact Covid is having on their life right now.

But all is not lost. Life Falls Apart, But You Don’t Have To by Julie Potiker might be just the book you need to get you through lockdown 3.0.

‘Mindfulness is the first step in emotional healing,’ says author Julie, a mindfulness expert.

‘It’s being able to turn toward and acknowledge our difficult thoughts and feelings – such as inadequacy, sadness, anger, or confusion – with a spirit of openness and curiosity.

‘Self-compassion involves responding to these difficult thoughts and feelings with kindness, sympathy, and understanding so that we soothe and comfort ourselves when we’re hurting. Research has shown that self-compassion greatly enhances emotional wellbeing. It boosts happiness, reduces anxiety and depression, and can even help maintain healthy lifestyle habits such as diet and exercise.

‘Being both mindful and compassionate leads to greater ease and wellbeing in our daily lives.’

In her book, Julie details mindful methods to help you stay calm – here she shares her top five tips:

Focus on the moment

‘Try to focus on every beautiful, joyful, silly, fun, or wonderful experience you have during lockdown,’ she says.

‘This could be simply having a cup of tea, a virtual chat with a friend or a walk in nature – or even a moment when the kids aren’t fighting.

‘Don’t let those moments go to waste! Marinate in the good feeling for a few moments to push the good mental state into a neural trait.

‘Once you have the good experience, really absorb the feeling because what fires together, wires together. So take a few moments to allow a happy bridge to be built in your brain.’

Label negative emotions

‘When you experience anger, frustration, sadness, or any other negative emotion, recognise it by saying, “Oh, that’s anger” (or whatever the emotion is).

‘The mere mention of the emotion calms down the brain. Then, allow it to be there for a few moments while you gently investigate why it’s there.

‘See where in your body you may be feeling the emotion. Place your hands there and send soothing thoughts.

‘Finally, nourish yourself by looking inward and asking what you need to hear and do right now to allow yourself to feel better.’

Do what gives you joy

‘Life is full of emotional chaos, but when things get a bit much, focus on something that brings you joy.

‘Take a few minutes to write down a list of everything that makes you happy — little and big things — then commit to doing one thing from that list every day.

‘Doing something that gives you joy, and feeling the happiness in your body and mind, breaks the discursive loop of ruminating and worrying.

‘When you are feeling good — let it land for a few moments — you rewire your brain for happiness and resilience, getting two bangs for your buck. If you write it down in your gratitude journal, you get three bangs for your buck.’

Ground yourself

’When you feel anxiety ramping up, focus your attention downward and feel your feet on the floor. Breathe deeply, keeping your focus on the sensation of your feet on the floor –bare, in socks or shoes, whatever.

‘This is an instant tool to break the cycle of anxiety. When you are focusing on the soles of your feet, you are not worrying or ruminating.

‘You can do this by holding a stone, too: look at the colour, feel the temperature, the texture, wonder about its origins. I call them Here and Now Stones.’

Transform suffering into love

‘When you experience suffering, whether from a personal tragedy, a global event or anything in between, I recommend using the ancient practice of Tonglen. It’s a Tibetan word that means sending and receiving.

During this meditation you will breathe in pain, suffering, and darkness and then breathe out peace, joy, and light. It’s the perfect meditation during these times of uncertainty.

It works by breathing in the specific suffering you are experiencing, connecting it to someone else who’s going through the same thing, then breathe out a cool, clear easeful breath which you can send to them as well. With the power of imagination, you are transforming suffering into peace.’

Find out more at Mindful Methods for Life.

To talk about mental health in an open, judgement-free space, join our Facebook group, Mentally Yours.

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