Oh Mamma. Life is so busy isn’t it? So many demands on your time, energy and attention. You’re trying to be the best mother, the best partner, the best employee, the best friend, the best you that you can be. Spinning so many plates you sometimes think you’re going to drop every single one. Life seems to be a constant stream of things you ought to be doing. You barely have time to breathe and think straight.
When you wake in the morning, you’re already tired and overwhelmed by the day ahead. By the time you get to bed at night you’re exhausted, tense, and feeling like there is so much you didn’t manage to get done. What ever you have achieved that day, it never feels like enough. You don’t feel like you ARE enough.
I get it, I really do. I’ve been there. And the last thing you need is for someone like me to come along and suggest another thing you could add to your day. And yet, I am going to do it anyway, because I know that this one thing, this 5 minute thing, could make a huge difference to how you feel.
Sit and breathe
Much is known these days about the benefits of allowing the mind and body to be still. The practice of sitting quietly with the breath, commonly known as meditation, is gaining in popularity in the West as the pressures of 21st Century life increase. More and more people are seeking the peace that can only be found when we go inside and be with ourselves.
Sitting quietly is a very simple practice. You just have to sit, preferably on the floor, with your eyes closed, and focus your mind on your breath. Keep your attention focused on your breath, really paying attention and being completely aware of each inhale and exhale. Deep, slow breathing is best, but you can start by simply observing the breath as it is, with no need to change it. You may find that as you connect to your breath, it starts to naturally slow down anyway.
Your mind will wander when you do this, that is it’s job. It is your job not to empty your mind, but to notice the wandering thoughts, and bring your attention back to your breath. You will have to do this many times. That is ok. Without judgement or feeling of failure, let go of the thoughts, and bring your mind back to your breath.
You can get so much benefit when you practice sitting quietly, and simply being with your breath. Many happen with your first practice, some develop over time. All have positive impact throughout the rest of your life.
I have ADHD, so focus is a real problem for me. I find that while my mind is very active when I sit quietly. Sitting teaches me to notice when my mind is wandering, to let go of the thought and direct my attention. The more you practice sitting and focusing on your breath, the more you are able to become aware of the activity of the mind, and take charge of your focus. In a distracting, noisy world, it is not only people with ADHD who struggle to focus, and we can all benefit from increasing our attention span. Children benefit loads from this as well, so if you are worried about fitting in your practice, maybe you can do it with your kids!
Calm anxiety and stress
Sitting with the breath is a great way to get ‘out of your head’ and away from anxiety thoughts. When you’re feeling anxious, you might keep coming back to the same thought repeatedly. This practice allows you to direct your attention away from this recurring thought, and calm the stress response so that you can calm yourself and reduce worry. Sitting and focusing on the breath for any length of time soothes the nervous system. It allows the mind to come out of the sympathetic ‘stress response’, and come into the parasympathetic ‘relaxation response’. The body and mind can let go of tension, and you can think clearly, seeking solutions to the problem in hand, rather than focusing on the problem itself. The space you create by sitting gives your brain a better chance to find a creative solution to the problem.
Give your mind a reboot
Your brain is not designed to operate at full speed all day long. The brain needs downtime in order to process learning, make new connections, come up with creative ideas, and much more. (https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/mental-downtime/?redirect=1). Giving your mind a few minutes to rest can, far from reducing effectiveness and productivity, actually improve your work rate throughout the day .
Let go of discomfort
Sitting quietly with your breath, and noticing your thoughts, isn’t always comfortable. Your body might start to ache. You might come face to face with thoughts you don’t want to have. You have to learn to accept and let go of these while you are experiencing them. While a regular Yoga practice can help to ready your body for the practice, the only way to ready your mind is to go through it.
We are so used to numbing our uncomfortable emotions and thoughts in so many ways that it can be a shock to experience them full on. But through regular practice, we can learn to witness, acknowledge, accept and let go of these thoughts and feelings. This is of great benefit as we are going through life, as there are often moments of great discomfort, physical and emotional, that we can’t avoid. This practice helps us to get through them with acceptance and letting go.
Noticing the nonsense
The mind is a very busy, noisy place. It is filled with memories, thoughts, ideas and dreams. A lot of the thoughts whirring through our minds are irrelevant, unhelpful, and not even ours. I often find myself with other people’s voices in my mind when I get quiet. It took me a while to work out that these are not ‘voices in my head’, or my thoughts. They might be memories of conversations I have had or overheard, dialogue in films I know too well, or brief moments of dreaming. I have memories going back to childhood pop up, usually of embarrassing or painful moments. I often find my wandering thoughts to be utterly nonsensical, random ideas and words floating.
In the stillness, I can notice all these and see them for what they are. In day to day life, they might have a deeper impact. A memory of pain from childhood might be unconscious in my mind but could affect how I feel that day. In sitting I am able to discern the thoughts I need to pay attention to from those I can ignore.
These are just 5 benefits I have found in my own life. There are many more, particularly to do with health. I will look at these in a later post.
The 5 Minute Breath
If you would like to explore how this practice can help you and your life, then the 10 day ‘5 Minute Breath’ mini course could be the perfect place to start. I will send you a short video in which I guide you into the practice. You will then get a series of daily emails to inspire and motivate you to practice daily for just 10 days. By the end of this 10 days, you will, I hope, have seen enough benefits to the practice that you will want to carry on for longer. You may even be ready to extend the time you spend sitting.
Register below to get access to your resources and start exploring the benefits of sitting quietly with your breath.
Join the 5 Minute Breath Challenge today!
If you are feeling overwhelmed by life right now, just taking 5 minutes a day to focus on your breath can be a powerful first step to clearing that overwhelm. Allow me to guide you through 5 minutes a day for 10 days, to soothe your mind and body and find a new perspective.