It’s the end of the third month of what can only just still be referred to as the ‘new’ year and while you may have stuck to Dry January and may even now still be dragging yourself off to the gym or out for a run, if you’re anything like us many of the good intentions you had about taking better care of yourself in 2017 may have fallen to the wayside. It’s not surprising: we’re all busy and changing habits is hard. The popular belief that it takes 21 days to form a new habit is actually a myth. Recent research by a team at University College, London suggests that the average time is 66 days and, in fact, the longest time taken by a participant in the study to create a new habit was 254 days. Changing behaviour is difficult and sometimes we sabotage our chances of doing so by setting unrealistic goals and then becoming discouraged when we haven’t achieved them quickly. The end benefit doesn’t always seem worth the effort.
However, one practice that it is definitely worth trying to cultivate is that of mindfulness and it is one that is relatively easy to introduce into daily life, particularly as there are a number of apps which can help turn this new behaviour into a habit. Jon Kabat-Zinn, the scientist and writer who has done much to bring mindfulness to the mainstream, defines it as ‘paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment and non-judgementally’. That is to say, rather than allowing our minds to think about the 1001 things we all have going on at any point, we focus our awareness on the here and now and experience what is going on in the moment. Thoughts and feelings may of course arise but, rather than judge them or try to suppress them, we simply acnowledge the thought and bring focus back to what we can actually experience – what we can see, feel, hear, taste & smell. Instead of being caught up in the racing thoughts which teem through our modern brains – When does that bill have to be paid? What shall I cook for that dinner party on Saturday? Why did I shout at the children this morning? When does that project have to be done by? Did I include everything I should in the proposal? – we can focus on what is real. Not being caught up in the thoughts and feelings we may have, allows us to observe them rather than being driven by them.
Mindfulness has been proven to have considerable postive impact on well-being and health. It reduces stress and anxiety, promotes better quality sleep, allows for better, clearer decision-making, improves immunity and brain function and can make us feel happier.
So how does one do it? It is actually possible to do anything mindfully: drink a cup of coffee, brush your teeth, walk to work. You simply need to focus awareness on what is going on in that moment: how does the coffee taste, what colour is the mug, what can you hear as you brush your teeth, how does the ground feel beneath your feet, what can you smell as you walk down the road? Even breathing can form the basis of a short, effective exercise in mindfulness and there’s a link here to a very simple, short mindful breathing exercise which you can easily fit into your daily routine (http://ggia.berkeley.edu/practice/mindful_breathing).
If, however, like us here at IC you prefer a little more help and structure to help you create a new habit of mindfulness we’ve listed three apps which we like, are simple to use and which will guide you towards living more mindfully:
Programmes tailored for different age groups so you can use it with children too.
Free 10 day trial period and then subscriptions from £3.74/month
Set up by Andy Puddicombe, a Buddhist monk and TED presenter, one of the first mindfulness apps and now one of the most popular.
Stop, Breathe & Think
Free with option to upgrade to monthly subscription from £4.49/month which gives you access to more activities though the free option is really good enough.
Simple to use with range of meditations and in app chart to track progress.
Post by Kirsten – IC