Stop, look and listen. Three simple words used to teach children to cross the road safely. Keeping them safe and out of danger.
More recently I’ve been using these three words to help keep my body and mind ‘safe’. To relax when I feel tension, to calm my mind when it starts racing or simply when I need to take ‘time out’.
For years, I’ve been interested in mindfulness. Having learnt the theory around the health benefits, attended workshops and practiced at home, it’s something I really enjoy and benefit from. However, it’s not always easy to dedicate every day to practise and sometimes life just takes over.
Despite not practising it every day, the skills I’ve learned have become part of my everyday life and it’s taught me greater awareness about myself, how way my body reacts to situations, as well as ways to release stress or tension. I’ve found a way to use it anytime, anywhere, any place, and wanted to share it with you. The wonderful thing about mindfulness is that there is no ‘right’ way to do it. It’s essentially just being.
This exercise can take as little as 1 minute or as long as you like. Practice at home and use it when you need that extra bit of help in the outside world.
Stop what you are doing for a moment and notice your breathing. Is it rapid and shallow or deep and slow? Take a moment to turn your attention and begin counting your breaths. Close your eyes if it helps. If you notice you are counting quickly, see if you can focus on one long inhale or exhale. Don’t worry if you can’t get past one or two, notice if your mind has strayed from counting, and allow it to focus back on your breathing. There is no right or wrong, just begin to notice your breath. Placing a hand on your stomach and feeling the rise and fall of each breath can also help.
Look all around you and acknowledge your surroundings. What can you see, your hands, your feet, the ground, a chair, a flower, or anything at all you notice. What do you notice now that you didn’t see before. Don’t force it, just observe. If it feels silly to do this, that’s ok, smile and accept that.
Listen to your body. Turn your attention to each area of your body. Are your muscles tight? Do you need to relax your face or move your neck? Can you feel your fingers and toes? What happens if you try to wiggle them? Does the sensation change as you continue to breathe in long inhalations and exhalations? Whatever sensation you are feeling, try to let it happen without resistance.
Remember to breathe and allow whatever comes up for you to just be what it is. Take in this moment for a few seconds.
And there you have it. An easy to remember mindfulness exercise you can take anywhere with you. No need for a fancy yoga mat or meditation CD. Just three simple words: Stop, Look, Listen.
If you want to find out more about mindfulness, (click here) and watch this great 10 minute clip by Andy Puddicombe. It’s a great introduction to the approach, or see if there is a local class or group you can join.
Over to you
What helps you when you feel stress or tension? Have you tried mindfulness or meditation? What have you learnt from this practise? If you’re thinking about trying it, what’s holding you back from giving it a go?
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love & laughter