February 26th, 2021
We talk about mindfulness quite often on this blog, and on my Instagram and YouTube. So I thought it was only right to share this 31 day challenge that I've created for March. Mindful March.
There's a tiny prompt for every day, to help us be more mindful in daily life. They may seem very small, but with enough practice these small changes can change your experience of daily life. Turn around a blue mood within minutes of mindfulness. Create energy and a sense of calm, all at once. Notice how each one feels, maybe even try it again another day if you want to experiment with it a bit more.
Mid-way through the challenge and at the end, there is a mindful reflection exercise, to think about which prompts you appreciated, and why. I'd encourage you to think about this so you're fully aware of what you experienced when trying out the activities.
Take a few minutes to think about 3 things that made you smile. It can be something that happened or even a thought or a feeling you had. You may not spend your day smiling, but try and raise your awareness of the tiny moments in the day, that made you feel a little warmer inside.
Clear your mind before falling asleep to let go of any doubts, worries or lingering tasks.
As you lie down to sleep, close your eyes, breathe in and breathe out. Pay attention to your breath as you do it. If you feel your mind start to wander, say “breathe in” while you inhale and “breathe out” while you exhale (in your head). This helps your mind focus on your breathing. You can even find a little melody to synchronise your words with your breathing. Repeat this a few times until you feel yourself drifting. Do this at least three times, or continue until you fall asleep. Turning this into a habit, has really helped me find stillness at night and a sense of calm before I drift off to sleep.
Drink your morning cup of tea, coffee (or other beverage) mindfully. Pay attention to the flavour, aroma and temperature. Notice the texture of the cup in your hands. This trains us to direct our attention consciously. Learning to slow down and focus on the process of simply attending. Some things you can pay attention to: - the sound of the kettle boiling and the movement of water - the steam easing out - what you see when pouring, colours changing, the cup filling up - what it feels like to take a teabag out - the process of adding milk or sugar, what do they add? - what happens to your senses when you taste it? Swirl in your mouth, think about what you would change. Stronger? Weaker? - how does the cup feel in your hands? - what do you notice when swallowing? - be aware of thoughts that distract you (eg. Hurry up) and gently redirect your attention to your surroundings and your drink.
It can be one thing, or many things. Take the time to think through what you might face and be aware of the potential challenges.
Take a moment to step outside for air, today taking in your surroundings. Pay attention to what you see, what you can hear, what you can smell. Take a deep breath in and out. Close your eyes to tune into your other senses even more. If time permits, try and go for a mindful walk. Again taking in the surroundings and paying attention to your breathing.
Ask someone how they are in person, over the phone or in a message. Truly listen to their response without judgement or opinion. Mindfulness involves a genuinely non-judgemental stance towards things. Kind thoughts are rarer than acts of kindness and letting go of judgement, is the challenge. The perfect way to practice this in daily life is to notice when you might be making a judgement and picture yourself removing it. Like how you might remove an accessory (e.g. a pair of glasses). Let go of the judgement when it threatens to arrive. Freedom from judgement requires letting go of fear and anxiety, encourages true compassion and creates a sense of calm within us.
Try to replace limiting words with words that create possibilities. For example, I know that I create stress for myself when I say "I need to do this". Instead I try to say "I get to do this". Another one you can try is "I want to" rather than "I need to," if it fits for your situation.
"I don't like" and "should" and must" can become "I prefer" "I want" or "I choose." This change is self empowering and discourages feelings of guilt, shame or anxiety.
"I can't" or "I'm not good at this" can instead be "I'm still learning" and "I'll keep at it." This subtle change can help give you the positive energy you need to commit to your growth and overcome challenges.
Have a think about the language you use and whether some positive substitutions can help make you feel lighter.
We don't control many of the things we pursue in life, yet we become angry, sad, hurt, scared or jealous when we don't get them. Write down a list of what is in your control today. It can be things that you want to do in your free time. Choices you have today or even how you choose to feel about something. There's a helpful list of ideas here.
Take a few minutes to truly listen to a song with no distraction. Allow yourself to feel and stay present while you listen. Appreciate whatever it is that you love about the song, completely present and undistracted.
It could be thanking someone who has done something helpful or just telling someone you appreciate them. If you're not seeing them in person, drop them a message.
The Journal of Personality and Social Psychology found that people who accept their unpleasant thoughts and moods without judgement may be less affected by everyday problems than those who evade them. Which is why it's important to pause and think about the full spectrum of feelings you have today.
How are you feeling? Write down the words that come to mind without judgement or opinion. Take cues from your body, your posture, heart rate and breathing. You can start broad with words like "low" or miserable" but then try narrow it down. Is it Guilt? Jealousy? Sadness? The more specific you can be the better.
Notifications are a constant disruption throughout the day and can lead to context switching and multi-tasking - the enemy of mindfulness.
Turning off notifications has the power to bring you peace and raise your awareness and attention.
Go to Settings and turn off your notifications for a day. Observe any differences to your mind, your energy and your feelings throughout the day.
While you're sitting down, pay attention to your posture. Readjust to gently straighten out your back. Let your shoulders ease outwards, gently bringing your shoulder blades closer together. Expand your chest and breathe.
Write down which activities from this challenge, that you've appreciated so far. What did you notice when doing these activities? Do you want to try any of them again?
It can be people, activities or concepts (e.g. freedom or justice). Write them all down for your awareness, these are the things that you truly value. Take some time to think deeply about what areas of life give you a sense of fulfilment or purpose. Think about ways of living and personal qualities that really resonate with you. Include them all on the list. Our values are our compass in life, and awareness of them can deepen our sense of purpose and meaning.
Pay attention to your breath while doing a chore. Breathe in and out while washing the dishes to bring your thoughts back to your task. Keep hold of your attention as you wash a dish or load it into the dishwasher. Slow down and take the time to complete the task, without letting your mind wander.
If a harmful or unhelpful thought appears, take a deep breath and picture it floating on past you. “We do not need to fight with thoughts or struggle against them or judge them. Rather, we can simply choose not to follow the thoughts once we are aware that they have arisen,” said Segal et al.
It may help to think of your thoughts resting on a cloud floating by. Don't judge them or label them; simply observe them as they float past. Don't grab them or get caught up in thinking about them - just notice them (from The Dialectical Behavior Therapy Skills Workbook by Sheri Van Dijk).
Brainstorm ideas on how you can remind yourself to be present. Maybe you could the sound of a notification on your phone as a reminder to take a breath and return? Maybe you can take ideas from this challenge? Perhaps you feel present and still while reading or having a peaceful bath. If you're stuck, do any of these work for you?
Taste the flavours and pay attention to the textures you experience while eating a meal.
Listen to your breath and gently encourage thoughts to float on past you if they appear.
Pick a quote and write it up in your journals. Take a moment to think about what it really means. What do you think the write of the quote was thinking about? What does the quote mean to you?
Set a timer for 10 minutes and write about anything and everything that comes to mind that morning. Morning pages are usually 3 pages of longhand stream of consciousness writing, done first thing in the morning. Morning pages aim to provoke, clarify, comfort, cajole, prioritise and synchronise the day at hand. Don't overthink, just write anything and everything that comes to mind, freely without judgement.
Take a slow shower, noticing how the water feels, the temperature, the pressure. Allow the warmth to calm your mind and take a moment to appreciate it.
For today, see it as a way of connecting with your body instead of a means to an end. It can be anything you like, a run, stretches, a bike ride, a walk, star jumps. Find a way to use your body mindfully.
Think of all of the things that leave you feeling rejuvenated. It could be calming activities or energising activities. Take the time to think about what works for you.
It might feel strange but notice a shift in how you feel when you start your day with a conscious smile. It might be a bit of a challenge not freaking yourself out, because it's not really something we're used to doing! This isn't one I've tested yet, so i'm looking forward to trying it.
Your desk, a drawer, a corner of a room. Embrace the positive energy that comes from reclaiming control over your space. Keep it as simple as you need it to be.
Resist the temptation to check notifications or send messages when the thought arrives.
Repeat this over the course of the day: I live in the present moment. You can also write it down to help.
The power of affirmations lies in repeating them to yourself regularly. You also need to repeat your affirmations as soon as you engage in a thought or behaviour that you want to overcome. So try repeating the affirmation when you feel your attention slipping away from the present moment. When thoughts try to disrupt, or you feel judgement towards yourself or others arise.
Take 3 deep breaths during transition points in the day. E.g. sleep to wake, home to outside, returning home from work, moving from the living room to the study to work. Quiet your thoughts and allow a mindful moment before switching gears, so you can approach the next phase in a calm and centred way.
Write down which activities from this challenge that you appreciated. What did you notice when doing these activities? Do you want to try any of them again?
Below is a summary of the prompts.
Here is a PDF version if you would like to save or print it.
When you're having some screen-time, please feel free to share your progress on instagram using #mindfulmarch and tag @reflectwithraksha.
I'd love to see and share your lists and experiences with the community, to share ideas and inspire mindful living.
I truly hope you enjoy Mindful March!
You might also enjoy my video: 5 Ways to Use Mindfulness for Productivity