OK, so I don’t hate mindfulness. But I do admit to doing a tiny cringe when I hear the word. I love the concept: pay closer attention to whatever you are doing, it silences your mind so you feel less stressed and more joyful, I mean who doesn’t want that?
But I do believe it’s easy to think that mindfulness is just too worthy to bother with. It can seem like a chore, you know? The last thing any mum needs is another bloody chore.
Perhaps it depends what mindfulness means to you. Is it expensive yoga pants and perfect headstands on a sun-drenched deck, raw food, no carbs, green juices and making rainbow-coloured chia-based breakfast bowls with artfully arranged fruit – which look amazing but I’ll be buggered if I have the inclination to prepare those while a toddler hangs off my pyjama bottoms shouting ‘Ree! Ree! (raisins) at 6.37am every day. I’m not knocking those things. They make for lovely Instagram accounts. But for your average mum who’s a little bit (a lot) sleep deprived , very coffee dependent and devoid of much me-time, it all seems like a bit of a faff. And not much fun.
Get too caught up in the internet rabbit hole of wellness content and I can imagine it may even make you feel worse than before. It’s hard to match the perfection of an aspirational blog or IG feed when your yoga pants are mainly used as pyjama bottoms and they aren’t those amazing printed ones from Hip & Healthy, but some maternity joggers that you’re still wearing three years on, with someone’s crusty Weetabix down one leg. And you haven’t had a chance to meditate this morning (or the past 274 mornings) because you are too busy finding exactly the right Peppa Pig episode that your non verbal child is demanding while buttering toast, stirring porridge, microwaving cold tea, wondering whether you’ve got time to have a shower before your other half goes to work, mentally planning the day around activities or checking whether you have any therapists coming today or prescriptions to pick up…
OK, some of those are pretty specific to my special needs parenting role but we all have our busy minds and a crazy mental load that can be dangerously close to squashing us. Which is why I feel a little bit of mindfulness can really help us mothers.
Being mindful should be something to spark joy. It should be easy and achievable. It does take practice but it can also take seconds if that’s all you have. It doesn’t have to mean meditation. To me, mindfulness is full focus on whatever task is at hand. That in itself becomes like a meditation as you are fully committed and trying not to be distracted by other thoughts and demands on your brain or time.
How to be a boss at being mindful
Just do it. You can do it anywhere, any time by just putting the metaphorical blinkers on. Here are five easy mindful moments to try out in your day:
- Eating (anything)
Yes, the healthier the food, the better you’re going to feel, but you CAN mindfully eat a biscuit. In fact, you definitely should, because the more focus you give that act, the more you will enjoy the biscuit. Eat it slowly; the more satisfied you feel, the less likely you are to inhale half a packet without even noticing and then feel a bit shit about it. Lock your mind on to how that biscuit sounds when you crunch it, how it feels in your mouth, how much it needs chewing, how it tastes. New to mindfulness and finding it a bit tricky? Better have another biscuit (three is my magic number) and get that practice in…
Wherever you are striding off to, take the time to be mindful and you will see things you have never seen before. Slow your pace, look around, try to quieten your mind and focus instead on the plants in people’s gardens (I always find the colour and variety really interesting and I like to try to guess who lives in the houses based on what’s planted). Or look up at the sky and the buildings you pass to notice little-seen architectural details. You might spot birds you haven’t noticed before and as you lose yourself in your surroundings, you should find a little peace.
This is something I’ve been trying lately as I am often far too engrossed in my phone while boobing. My daughter is almost two so who knows how much longer I’ll be feeding her and I was struck recently about how easily I waste this valuable bonding time with her. I now start off looking at her, marvelling at her amazingly long eyelashes, watching her little jaw going up and down, noticing how she twirls her hair, noting the change in her breathing, her little fluttery eyes, the increasing heaviness of her head as she starts to fall asleep… It’s pretty magical and I’m sure it helps her fall asleep faster because my own breathing is so calm.
- Brushing your teeth
I don’t know about you but I am very often mentally elsewhere while doing my teeth, which I am sure means they don’t get the best going over and the times just drags. I have one of those timer electric toothbrushes, which is great for getting those two minutes done but it’s so easy to just mindlessly run it over my teeth. Being really methodical about cleaning every tooth is quite meditative – I get the satisfaction that they are properly cared for and it actually makes those two minutes fly by.
Determined to carve out some child-free time for myself, I recently joined an Iyengar yoga class locally. Our teacher is phenomenal – she makes the trickiest things look so effortless – and one piece of advice she gave us is to practice some of the basics of our poses in the supermarket queue. There is a good description of tadasana here. But if you aren’t a yogi, just try this: stand tall, with your feet firmly planted, your knees and thighs strong. The crown of your head should be parallel to the ceiling, your shoulders down and your chest coming towards your chin. Focusing on the posture and your breathing will give you a way to be chilled in even the longest queue (best tried while alone, although it could be a way of blocking out the noisy, hangry child in your trolley too….