Have you ever been in one of those moods where no matter what you do….you still feel shitty all day and can’t seem to shift that “ugh” feeling and feeling low and unhappy?! We’ve all been there, I’m sure, whether you’ve experienced depression or not, we all go through periods in our life where we feel crap and can’t seem to lift that feeling no matter what we do! But I have a solution! (I can see your ears pricking up…LOL!) Nobody likes to feel like that and it’s even harder when you KNOW you are feeling low but don’t know why. And that solution is called….mindfulness!
Yep….that one innocuous word will solve your low mood….I guarantee it! Let me give you a bit of a background story on how I came to discover mindfulness for lifting my low moods.
Back in 2011 I was depressed. This wasn’t the first time I’d experienced depression. I’d experienced it back in 2005 after coming back from my year long Round the World trip and just kind of came back home with a huge bump…and became depressed. The depression had crept back up on me again in 2010 at work…I wasn’t enjoying my job, felt totally bored (honestly…I used to joke that I could sit there and do nothing all day and NOBODY would notice!) and just uninspired. I’m someone who loves to challenge myself and get my brain working and this job wasn’t ticking those boxes.
Anyway, I’d opted into some CBT sessions (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) via my GP to help me work on the depression and was seeing a CBT therapist in April 2011 (I remember the time well as it was when Prince William and Kate Middleton got married). I remember the day well…..I was off work sick at the time with stress and depression and was walking to my CBT appointment. I felt really pissed off and low….for no reason. I’d woken up like that and the feeling had stayed with me all morning. My appointment didn’t go well…I found my CBT therapist uninspiring and ineffective (I’m a huge advocate for CBT and had later sessions with a much better therapist….but this first one wasn’t doing much for me!). I remember leaving her appointment still feeling low and pissed off.
Thankfully, I live in York which is a beautiful city! And it happened to be a beautiful day that day. Without even realising what I was doing, I started practising mindfulness and that day has stayed with me since!
So what happened?!
As I left my CBT appointment that day I really noticed my low mood. I noticed how it was making me feel, I noticed the negative chatter in my head, I noticed everything about that low mood. And without knowing, I shifted my consciousness to being more mindful.
It was a beautiful day….I noticed how blue the sky was. It was early Spring…I noticed how both the air and the sun felt on my skin. As I crossed the river on my walk into the city centre, I noticed the sun glistening off the surface of the river and I noticed the ducks on the river. I took interest in the trees around me…how they rustled in the Spring breeze and I smelt the Spring air.
I kid you not, within 20 minutes of walking into the city centre, I felt re-energised, upbeat and happy! It really struck me how much my mood had changed from a simple walk.
And that, my friends, is mindfulness! It’s not complicated at all, it’s just making a conscious effort to be aware of your surroundings, to be fully present in the moment, to notice every little detail and really appreciate how beautiful Earth is!
My top 5 tips to incorporate mindfulness into your life today!
1. Become aware
In order to utilise mindfulness effectively, you have to become fully aware of how you are feeling in that moment. We all live on autopilot, going thorough the motions day to day, without fully living in the moment. That is the key to mindfulness – being present in that moment. Not dwelling on the past. Not overthinking about the future. But being fully aware of the NOW. You don’t have to go for a walk to do this – what about next time you have a glass of water, take the time to notice how the glass feels on your lips. How the water feels when it first touches your mouth. It’s temperature, it’s consistency etc. How it feels as you drink the water. What sensations you feel in your body. It’s really quite a fascinating exercise!
2. Stop overthinking things
We all do it. Overthinking everything, from when we need to pay our bills or how long it’ll take to drive to a new location etc. But the whole point of mindfulness is just appreciating the NOW. Being present. Stop living in the past, allowing past experiences and thoughts to rule your life. And stop overthinking the future and what COULD happen. Just be present. Be present in the now, appreciate life as it is right NOW. As the saying goes, “Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, today is a gift, which is why we call it the present”. I love that saying! It reminds us to stop ruminating about the past or worrying about the future, but being present in the now, and going with the flow of things.
3. Write it down
I love to write, but I know not everybody does! I’ve started journaling recently (writing down my thoughts, what’s bothering me, getting creative etc) and it’s been a massive help! It really helps to clear the mind so that you can let more in and experience life better! I now find writing things down to be a great way to work through things that are bothering me, or to help me come up with my own solutions, and this ties in with mindfulness as we are writing down our thoughts and feelings in that present moment, we are connecting to everything in that moment and it helps us when we look back on it to take notice of those thoughts and feelings. If you are like me and have moods that fluctuate a lot, journaling can be a great tool to use to become more aware of when those negative thoughts and feelings creep up on us. We can note the time of day, if anything external has affected us (a work or home situation for example or someone saying something) and it can really help us to tune into the emotions and thoughts at that time – to acknowledge them, then let them go.
4. Let it go
As the famous song from Disney’s Frozen goes (I’ve watched it so many times with my 2 year old, I know ALL the words!), “Let It Go!”. Really, as easy as that, just let it go. Let go of whatever you are thinking and feeling in that moment. Notice how those thoughts and feelings are appearing to you….do you feel anxious, worried, unsure? Are you getting that annoying negative voice in your head telling you negative crap?! Just let it go. That’s what mindfulness is about. Acknowledge what you are thinking and/or feeling, acknowledge it for what it is….a negative thought or feeling…then say to yourself something like “Thank you for giving me that (insert feeling/thought), I acknowledge it but choose not to accept it. I choose only to accept positive thoughts/feelings”. You might feel a little weird at first, but honestly, it really does work! And the more you do this type of exercise, the easier it becomes!
Meditate. Yep….sit in stillness for a couple of minutes with zero distractions….turn your phone onto silent, do it when your little one is napping or in bed, go sit on the toilet at work for a few minutes (LOL!)….whatever you need to do to switch off external stimulation and distractions. Just sit in silence. I’m not suggesting you start chanting (especially if you are sat on the toilet at work haha!) but just sit in silence with your eyes closed and meditate. Meditation can be really simple….just sitting with your eyes closed with zero distractions is perfect for mindfulness!
Noticing your breathe as you inhale and exhale – how does your breathe feel, is the air warm or cold?
Noticing how your body feels – do you have any aches or pains? Any tension anywhere?
Noticing your thoughts – what is coming into your mind? Is it positive? Or negative?
Noticing any noises around you – are they loud? Or quiet? How do they make you feel?
Just sit for a few minutes and notice all the above. Let any tension go. Let any negative thoughts go (I like to visualise them floating off on a bright balloon!).
You’ll be surprised at just how energised and reinvigorated you’ll feel after just a few minutes of doing this!
Mindfulness is such an amazing tool to use to help anyone get rid of negative thoughts or emotions, de-stress, prepare for an important meeting or interview etc!
Focus on being in the NOW!