a for autopilot – how often do you realise that you have gotten to another room without even thinking? how often have you done a task and not even been able to recall doing it? we do so much automatically that we aren’t living in the present.
b for breath – if you are someone who panic’s like me, there is something we always have with us to help us keep calm – our breath! Breathing techniques can be used mindfully to bring yourself to the present moment.
c for compassion. Within mindfulness compassion towards others and oneself is a key component.
d for daily – if you practice for two minutes daily – say every time you brush your teeth, you will gradually find it easier to bring mindfulness into other parts of your life.
e for empty – mindfulness is not about stopping having feelings, emotions or thoughts. It is about noticing the ones you have, and leaving them alone, accepting that they are there without prejudice.
f for forgiveness – one of the most important things when you learn mindfulness is to be forgiving especially to yourself! Nobody learns it overnight. It will take a lot of practice. If you sit there and try focusing on your breathing, don’t get annoyed with yourself for getting distracted. Once you notice you have been distracted just bring yourself back to the present.
g for gratitude – make sure you take time every day to be grateful and thankful for the people you have in your life and your opportunities.
h for holistic – mindfulness is a holistic approach as it encompasses mental and physical health, both are so entwined that improving one helps to improve the other.
i for identify – mindfulness can help you to identify your thoughts and feelings.
j for judgement – what being mindful has done for me has made me take a step back before judging others, I look at the situation mindfully and put myself in their shoes.
k for kindness – learning to be kind not only to yourself but to others, sharing your compassion and being mindful of other peoples feelings.
l for listen – go and sit by a river, by the sea or on a bench, shut your eyes and listen. Focus entirely on listening. What can you hear? if you feel yourself getting distracted don’t be frustrated, just bring yourself back to listening.
m for monkey mind – this is a term used in Buddhism for being restless, indecisive and unsettled. Use mindfulness to tame your monkey mind.
n for numbers – you can use numbers to help you to be mindful of your breath. The 7/11 exercise involves counting up to seven on an in-breath and then counting to eleven on the out-breath.
o for object – choose any object. You can use anything to practice your mindfulness. Pick up a pencil, hold it in your hand. What colour is it? how does it feel? is it heavy? is it sharp? what does it smell like? try colouring with it. You are right there in the moment, you are not distracted you are focusing on the present moment.
p for present. As Kung Fu Panda wisely says, “yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery & today is a gift – that’s why they call it the present”.
q for quit – quit beating yourself up for something you did in the past. Everyone makes mistakes. Use mindfulness to stay in the present.
r for repeat – the best way to make mindfulness a part of your life is to bring it in and repeat it daily at specific times, that way it becomes a habit.
s for scan – take the time to do a body scan. You will notice so much about your body and you will be more in tune with yourself.
t for thoughts – your thoughts do not define you. We all have so many thoughts every day, thousands upon thousands, thoughts are like busses, you can choose whether you want to get on.
u for useful – mindfulness can come in useful every day, whether it be to enjoy an exciting moment and to truly be there, whether it be keeping calm at an anxious time or keeping the focus on the present rather than the sadness of the past.
v for valuable – your time is so valuable – make the most of every second.
w for why? – why practice mindfulness? well, it has been shown to offer health benefits to those with anxiety, depression and chronic pain. Mindfulness isn’t suitable for everyone but the main draw for me was that my anxiety is the future and depression is the past, therefor when I practice mindfulness I am in the here and now and do not have to worry, I take everything by the second. In terms of chronic pain, mindfulness teaches that we notice everything and leave it as it is, we accept how we feel with no prejudice. You know the pain is there and you accept it. When you stop trying to change it you enable yourself to focus on other things.
x for xylophone – this is a cool technique you can use, especially with children to make you realise how often thoughts and feelings come into your mind. Label different notes on the xylophone with “feelings” and “thoughts”. Whenever one comes into your head hit the note. You will then be mindful of how much is going on in your head.
y for yoga – yoga really helps me to stay in the moment and focus on my breathing. If you stay in the moment whilst practising yoga and notice the way your body feels during the movements and focus on your breathing it can really help you practice mindfulness.
z for zone – when you first start practising meditation it can help to go to a distraction free zone. Just at the beginning when practising meditation it can help to be in a quiet place. You can then build on this and practice elsewhere.