Wednesday, 8 June 2016

Only Men Allowed: your mindfulness matters

Do you ever feel like you’re living life on a treadmill or in a hamster wheel? You’re doing what you need to keep going, but things are happening around you – you’re just not really ‘present’ to enjoy them?

There’s no escaping the fact that we live in a busy society. Life is simply not as slow as it once was and we’re juggling more plates than perhaps we ever have before.

For men especially, it can be tricky to step back from daily responsibilities and take stock of where we are – and where we’re heading.

Mindfulness is a short, sharp intervention that brings you back to the present. It makes you aware of your surroundings by requiring you to pay attention to things you wouldn’t otherwise give a second thought to.

It can help to relieve stress; improve blood pressure; and stimulate rational judgement so that you can make better decisions. It can be done anytime, anywhere – and the only person who needs to know is you!

It works too... Mindfulness practices that have been tailored for use in male dominated settings, have been used successfully in a number of environments including the US marine corps. It has been found to help officers and service personnel better deal with anxiety, stress, depression and insomnia. Mindfulness programs have also been used in prisons with great success, to encourage compassion and reflection among the male inmates.

The good news is it’s really easy to incorporate mindfulness exercises into your everyday routine.

A mindful minute

Set an alarm clock or timer for one minute. All you are to do for the entire 60 seconds is focus on your breathing - nothing else. You can keep your eyes open, or closed. You can keep your hands by your side or lay them flat across your belly. If your mind starts to wander, bring yourself back to your breathing, then simply stop when the timer tells you the minute is up. What could be simpler?

A mindful break

Take a break. No, we don’t mean take your work papers to the canteen and read them over a rushed sandwich; we’re talking about a proper five minute break. Doing nothing. Take a seat and just be. Take in your surroundings, look out of the window, or watch your colleagues as they go about their business. Again, if your mind wanders, bring yourself back to the room. Go about your business again, when your five minutes is up.

A mindful drive

  • Step 1: turn off the radio and drive in silence. 
  • Step 2: take notice of how your body feels while you are driving – do you grip the steering wheel? Is your stomach clenched? Is your jaw tight? By noticing how you hold yourself in the car, you can consciously relax your body. TIP: It is advisable to focus on these things before you start driving, then you can revisit them fleetingly while you drive without losing focus on the road and your safety.
  • Step 3: drive below the speed limit. It is a maximum after all. By shaving a couple of miles an hour off your speed, you start to ‘drive’, rather than race. This takes all the tension out of your journey.

It's so easy to stop noticing the world we live in – to lose touch with the sights, smells, sounds that surround us and get wrapped up only with the thoughts and emotions in our heads. By coming back to the present – if only for a few minutes each day – we can not only benefit the ‘now’, but also the future.

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