Professor Mark Williams, former director of the Oxford Mindfulness Centre
It's easy to stop noticing the world around us. It's also easy to lose touch with the way our bodies are feeling and to end up living 'in our heads'.
Life is busy, that's a known fact. Our days turn into weeks, and weeks to months. Time just simply seems to fly by, and often we forget to sit back and dedicate some time to a very important factor of life: ourselves! Many of us try to optimise our health by eating well, exercising regularly or seeing friends, yet often we neglect the fundamentals of self-care and mindfulness.
Mindfulness is all about focussing on the present; allowing thoughts, feelings and sensations to come and go without judgement or the need to do anything with them. Sometimes it’s easy to feel like you’re caught in a current of water and are unable to reach solid ground, yet there’s simple and effective ways to ‘ground’ yourself and feel more centred on those slightly busier and stressful days.
One mindfulness task is known as The Five Senses Exercise. The whole idea is to calm your mind by focussing on your environment rather than your thoughts. This can be done at anytime, anywhere, so no excuses! Just take some time to tune into your body and pay attention to what’s around you.
Look around and take note of 5 things you see. Notice the colours, textures, movements and emotions that surround you. Look for things you haven’t noticed before: the colours in a painting, the leaves on a tree, the sunlight reflecting through the window.
Take notice of 4 things you can feel. Notice where your hands are placed and what they can feel whilst in that position. Concentrate on the textures of your clothing, or the smooth surface of your table. Pet your dog / cat, walk barefoot on grass, hug someone- really hone in on what things feel like, and how they make you feel as a result.
Close your eyes and concentrate on 3 things that you can hear. Listen for background noise you wouldn’t normally notice. Birds tweeting, taps dripping, leaves rustling. Let them go in one ear and out the other.
Pay attention to 2 things you can smell (hopefully they’re pleasant smells). Catch a whiff of the flowers in the vase, the freshly washed laundry, dinner in the oven. Breathe in the scents and let it ground you to your environment.
Finally, notice 1 thing you can taste. Move your tongue around your mouth and notice how your taste buds respond. Perhaps take a sip of water, or taste your favourite food. Pay attention to how different tastes can make you feel.
Once reflecting on all these senses, try to acknowledge your body and the incredible things it’s able to do. Reflect on the different sensations you experience throughout the day. Be grateful for the opportunity you’ve had to ground yourself and allocate some time in your day for self-care- it’s something you should more often than you realise.