In this period of uncertainty, where no one knows what the future holds, it’s very easy to be distracted – to think about all the possibilities that haven’t occurred yet. You may find that it’s much harder to stay focused on what’s in front of you. Or that you’ve had to give up on some of those New Year’s resolutions. You may have even lost your current path in life. It’s important, however, that we keep moving forward, even when life throws us curveballs.
To do so, it’s important to stay centred in the present. Tackling your immediate problems one at a time becomes easier; you’ll be more resilient and likely to bounce back faster in the future. The key to this is being mindful of how you’ve been thrown off balance.
Here’s a couple of ideas to get you started, and some of these practices may be fruitful for you even after the crisis ends!
1. Practise gratitude every morning.
Although you may be stuck in isolation, driven crazy by the walls of your own home, there are always things to be grateful for. We recommend that every morning you take a mental note of three things that you’re grateful for. It could be social; the friends that you’re grateful for that are still in touch. Or it could be something quite menial – for example, that the local supermarket hasn’t run out of toilet paper yet.
People generally have an inherent focus on the negative aspects of life around them (this is known as negativity bias). Practising gratitude helps rebalance this characteristic, as we can then learn to rewire our brains to look at the positive aspects of the situation.
Have fun with these – there’s always something to be grateful for!
2. Go for a walk outside, preferably surrounded by nature.
Now that everyone is (or should be) mostly inside, surrounded by technology and their devices, there’s barely any time for anyone to take proper respite from life. It’s important as humans that we go out there and engage our senses, and this can be as simple as taking a walk outside!
Intentionally, be aware of each and every sense – the feeling of your feet hitting the footpath, the smell of the trees, and the (lack of) noise that may surround you. This will help with reconnecting yourself with the environment, and allows you to practise staying in the moment. It’ll also help you to get some regular exercise back into your routine!
Depending on your current situation and location, this may not be a possibility for you.
However, here are some ways to adapt this mindfulness practice:
- Take a walk through your garden.
- Engage your senses by opening a window or walking onto your balcony.
3. Morning Pages.
Morning pages are a journaling technique, originally found in the book The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron.
The technique goes like this: every morning, write down three pages of long-hand, stream-of-consciousness writing. Anything that comes to mind, write it down. Your worries, your hopes, the things that you have to do; it doesn’t matter. Download your brain onto paper – it doesn’t have to be perfect!
The reason this technique works is that you can see all your thoughts, messy or otherwise, sprawled in front of you. It feels akin to cleaning your house, as your brain can start fresh again with new thoughts. This may help you to cleanse any negative or anxious thoughts, or even allow you to come up with fresh new ideas.
Fancy yourself a writer? This exercise doesn’t only help you with staying present, it may even help you overcome any creative blocks that you may have.
4. Identify your three goals for the day.
As we stay in the same environment day after day, we may find it hard to look back and distinguish between what actually happened each day. To stay present, it’s important to take control of what needs to be done each day – rather than going with the flow and letting it dictate your actions.
We recommend setting up three daily goals or priorities that need to be actioned every day. These can be thought about at the end of each day, or even at the beginning of the day before we go about our daily tasks. When going about reviewing the day, completing each of these three tasks will give a renewed sense of motivation to tackle each day, one at a time.
Identifying three goals is also important for productivity. As Abraham Lincoln has famously said: “Give me six hours to chop down a tree, and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.” If you plan out your day, it will be so much easier to achieve your goals.
5. Just breathe.
Interestingly, in moments of anxiety and stress, our bodies tend to also feel that toll accordingly. You may find yourself holding your breath unconsciously – and that if you are mindful in the way your body is feeling, there may be a tightness in the chest.
Try it now – take a deep breath and just count to three.
Take another deep breath and take note of how your body is feeling right now!
It should feel a lot better. This is a very simple exercise broadly related to meditation, but simply taking a deep breath will do wonders to your body and mind. Don’t forget to breathe!
We’d also recommend you check out the Smiling Mind app if you haven’t already – this is a great app for all your mindfulness needs.
Stay safe, healthy and positive, and we’ll see each other on the other side of this crisis.