When I began learning Yoga, my teacher suggested I try meditation. I would grumble about the hundred thoughts that would disturb me each time I tried to do it, but she would advice me to let the thoughts move freely and slowly divert my attention to my breath.
“Just focus on inhaling and exhaling,” she would say, gently.
I tried hard. At times, I would succeed, at others, I would give up my fight with my thoughts and accept defeat.
I realised over a period of time, though, that there are activities that help me forget the world and focus on the moment. Activities like writing, working on a sketch or reading, helped my mind focus on the moment and ignore all the useless thoughts that roamed my mind.
And, that’s when I understood that:
Indulging in an activity, when your mind takes a break from the daily grind, repairs itself, and leaves you feeling de-stressed is when you practice mindfulness.
As I began concentrating on this new-found knowledge, I realised I found it easier to actually meditate during my Yoga sessions, too. The thoughts would definitely enter (do they have wings that they fly in and out as they wish?). But, all I had to do, was stop indulging them, and concentrate on my breath, on my nostrils, as I inhaled and I exhaled. That’s just what my teacher was trying to tell me!
Giving your mind a complete break from all the thoughts and allowing it some ‘me-time‘ is so necessary. For our mind. For our sanity.
15 ACTIVITIES TO DO WHILE YOU PRACTICE MINDFULNESS:
1 Read a book
If you are an avid reader, you will know how a book can transport you to a faraway land and leave you mesmerized. Pick your favorite author or genre and spend at least half an hour reading.
Best time to read: Before bedtime. Switch off the phone/TV/computer and READ!
Have you seen how engrossed kids are when coloring or drawing in their books? Art has a therapeutic effect on our mind and is considered one of the best ways to de-stress.
Art tips: Look for coloring books for adults online and lose yourself in their pages with your color pencils and crayons when feeling low and lonely.
It can seem difficult, but knitting, sewing or embroidery are also activities that help practice mindfulness. Moreover, you need to focus on the activity to save your fingers from getting pricked!
Tips for beginners: Start with something simple. Complete the work and then frame it to put it up on a wall for all to see. it will not only get you compliments but also beautify your walls!
4 Work on a kitchen garden
If you are the one with a green thumb, then you will make for the perfect gardener! Work on a kitchen garden if you have a balcony or even a window that receives ample sunshine. You will get fresh herbs to add flavor to your cooking as well as applause from your family for your efforts!
Gardening tips: Pick small pots for herbs or veggies that don’t need too much space. Use kitchen waste to create manure for the garden. A simple way to make manure is, collecting the daily kitchen waste, grinding it in the grinder with some water and adding a spoonful of this paste to the pots.
5 Cook your favorite recipe
My MIL found cooking to be a refreshing activity. She was a fabulous cook but schizophrenia had left her bereft of any enthusiasm. So, hubby would urge her to make some or other dish. Her enthusiasm knew no bounds when in the kitchen and she would forget all her pain and worries!
Cooking tips for beginners: All you need to do is look up easy recipes on Pinterest or YouTube. Start with something that’s not only easy but requires ingredients that are a personal favorite. Cook a dish for yourself when you are home alone and watch your mind relax.
6 Write in your daily journal
Journaling has several advantages. It not only helps you vent your worries but also helps you make goals for self-improvement as your words guide you to work on certain areas.
Journaling tips: Make journal entries each night before going to bed. Write down 5 things that happened in the day that made you happy and 5 things that didn’t work out and what you learned from the experience. Make bullet lists for the week that will help you to set goals for yourself.
7 Play with your children
Now, this is something every parent will agree with, isn’t it? Playing with a dollhouse, or a board game, or even out in the park is rejuvenating. Kids help you forget your worries and freshen up with their chatter.
Tips for kiddie-time: Play some peppy songs and dance along with your kids. Just let go of any inhibitions and watch your stress evaporate!
8 Spend time with your pets
Pets make for the best therapists! I had a dog, and now three parrots, who are my lifelines. And spending time with them helps me practice mindfulness!
Animal therapy: If you don’t have pets, or are not comfy around animals, spend time watching fish in a tank or birds flying back home in the evenings. It’s just so relaxing looking at them as they go back to their babies.
9 De-clutter your wardrobe
Actually, de-cluttering in itself is a calming activity and helps you ignore all thoughts and focus on the moment. Moreover, physical de-cluttering also helps in mental de-cluttering. As you sort and purge useless stuff from a particular area in your home, you unknowingly sort and purge the thoughts in your mind, too. And, considering there are about 70,000 thoughts going on in our mind in the span of a day, de-cluttering is so necessary, isn’t it?
Tips to de-clutter: Select just one area a day (a drawer, a shelf or a corner) and sort through the things really useful and throw away those you haven’t used in a year. Clean up the area, place the useful articles in boxes, label them so they are easy to locate.
Walking is one of the best cardio exercises and all you need for this activity is a pair of walking shoes and comfy clothes. Walk in your neighborhood park or your apartment complex. It will help not just your physical health but also your mental health.
Walking tips: Begin with a 10 min warm-up walk at a slow pace. Increase the speed slowly and steadily. Walk for about 20 minutes and then bring down the speed for a 10 min wind-up walk. Focus on your breath and DO NOT use an app that counts your steps or the calories burnt. These apps only take away from the happiness you would otherwise experience.
11 Practice Yoga
Yoga is one of the best exercises to not only tone up the body, but also strengthen the muscles, the joints, and the mind, too.
Tips for beginners: Yoga is best learned from a teacher. Copying yoga asanas on YouTube could actually harm your body because Yoga requires flexibility and practice.
12 Doodle or make a Mandala
Pick up a pen and doodle away your blues! You don’t need to follow any set rules for doodling. All you need to do is let your mind guide your hand. Mandala designs can be found on Pinterest and Google. Pick one that seems easy, if you are a beginner.
Tips for doodling/Mandala: Doodling really needs no practice or tips. A mandala can feel intimidating for beginners. So, begin with a circle and then fill it up with patterns like leaves, flowers, diamonds, curvy lines and shapes. You will need a compass to make the circles.
13 Fold the laundry
This one does seem weird, but folding laundry does indeed help practice mindfulness, as does doing the dishes!
Tips to focus on this activity: Because these activities need no tips, just focus on every garment you fold or every utensil you wash. These do seem really boring and agonizing at times, but sometimes, our mind needs such tasks that give it the much-needed rest.
14 Sing or dance
Just play your favorite music (not the sad, gloomy kind, though) and sing along, at the top of your voice, even if you aren’t blessed with impressive vocal cords. Or dance away like no one’s watching!
Tips to remember: Peppy numbers are the best to sing along or dance along with. Lose your inhibitions and allow yourself to go crazy along with the music. You will love it and forget all your worries!
Oh yes! Sleep like a baby if your mind feels bogged down with endless thoughts or worries. Give it some much-needed rest. A good nap will recharge your batteries–physically as well as mentally.
Tips for good sleep: If it’s an afternoon nap, do not sleep for more than 20 to 30 minutes. Switch off the phone wifi before you go to sleep–be it in the noon or at night. And sleep at the same time, especially at night. You will get the required rest and wake up refreshed.
Any activity you do gives you a chance to practice mindfulness. All it needs is to be in that moment. That’s meditation! That’s how you give your mind the break it deserves. So, the next time you feel like ‘meditating’, just get down to doing your favorite activity, whatever it may be. But remember to focus only on the activity. It will be tough, initially, but, slowly and steadily, you will get used to it.
Do take it easy on days you aren’t able to hold it together. We are humans, after all. And, it’s okay to fail. But, shake away those thoughts after a while. And, get your breath in focus. it is what keeps you alive, isn’t it?
So, give your mind a break. Mind your mind.
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