Derval O'Rourke: Why mindfulness could be the key to getting through lockdown

Derval O'Rourke: Why mindfulness could be the key to getting through lockdown

Some people suffer from SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) or “Winter Blues” (now more than ever during this latest lockdown). But don’t lose heart. 

Get some fresh air. Spend time in our gardens and parks. Enjoy them! 

Light a candle at night, and see the flare of the wick, hear the pop of the light, feel the warmth of the flame. Now is a good time to practise mindfulness. I’m very excited to be working with Michelle O’Driscoll from Intuition Health and Wellness. Michelle and I first spoke a year ago. We have just started sharing mindfulness content with my members on Derval.ie and I really believe it is incredibly helpful for people.

What is mindfulness?

Mindfulness is the practice of paying attention to whatever is happening in the present moment and experiencing it without judgement. It is a practice which allows us to observe our thoughts and sensations in the here and now. 

It teaches us to stay in the moment as we experience it, allowing our worrying thoughts and body sensations to move in and out of our awareness. Just like the calming effects of the waves on the seashore, the practise of mindfulness brings us back to the here and now. Mindfulness roots you in the present; it refreshes your mind. It slows your breathing.

Benefits of mindfulness

The HSE acknowledges the health value of mindfulness and on their website they point to the benefits of focusing on what's happening right at this moment. Practising mindfulness allows you to develop a new habit that helps to weaken old and unhelpful thinking habits. 

I find the idea of developing a new habit very exciting. We have all had experiences of our inner critics holding us back from making decisions and taking decisive action. It is not the right time; I am not good enough; People will think I am a fraud. 

These ways of thinking are “unhelpful”. They do not serve any purpose other than to chip away at your confidence. Though our old ways of thinking might have become entrenched in our way of handling situations or acting at that particular moment, we can change things for the better.

Becoming aware of the present moment can help you enjoy the world around you more. In these challenging Covid times we need to develop an appreciation of our wonderful world more and in a previous article I talked about taking 10 for Zen. That means if you are feeling stressed you should take a 10-minute time out to slow down your thoughts. The practice of mindfulness is Zen.

Who can practise mindfulness? Do you need to be spiritual or a yoga practitioner?

Anyone can practise mindfulness. It is easy to fit into your day. You can do it one minute at a time. Mindfulness has no boundaries and does not apply to only the yogis.

How to be mindful:

Taking notice of your thoughts, feelings, sensations and the world around you is the first step to being more mindful. Be mindful when you eat: Enjoy the texture, the taste, the nutrition as it enters your body. Feel well about yourself! Slow down and be in that moment.

Ways you can be more mindful on a daily basis

  • Notice the everyday, such as the air you breathe and the food you eat
  • Pick the same time each day during which you decide to be aware of the world around you
  • Try something new like sitting in a different seat in meetings
  • Gentle walking or yoga can help you cope if you have an over-busy mind
  • Name thoughts and feelings, for example, 'this is anxiety' (See it for what it is and don’t get stressed by it!)
  • Free yourself from the past and the worry of the future

Fitness Tip: 

Why not try some pilates or yoga? Yoga is a really good form of meditation because you are concentrating on slow movements and your breath. It’s harder than it looks!

Wellness Tip: 

Sit at a table, light a scented candle next to you and on a piece of paper write down:

  • Three things you are feeling grateful for.
  • What you are looking forward to doing post-lockdown.
  • Write down 1 challenge or task for yourself to work towards before December

Some examples might be, read 3 books, hit 10,000 steps daily or do a hobby you enjoy more often.

Recipe: Green lentil & thyme soup

Serves: 6

Prep time: 5 mins

Cook time: 1 hour

Ingredients:

  • 400g green lentils
  • 1 stick of celery, finely diced
  • 1 small carrot, finely diced
  • 1 onion, peeled and finely diced
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed
  • 4 slices of streaky bacon cut into matchstick sized strips
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1L chicken stock
  • Salt & pepper
  • 1 Bunch of thyme

Directions:

1. Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan and add the bacon and vegetables. Cook, stirring occasionally, until golden.

2. Rinse the lentils under cold water and add to the vegetables.

3. Pour on the stock, quickly bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for about 45 minutes until the lentils are tender.

4. Season to taste with the salt and pepper and sprinkle with thyme leaves.

5. If you prefer to serve the soup smooth, simply blend it briefly, saving a few spoonfuls of the lentils to garnish.

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