View over a pine forest

Making the most of mindfulness

In these uncertain times, mindfulness has increasingly become a mainstay of mental and physical wellness for many people, but the truth is that Buddhists have practised it since the 5th century. “Wherever you are, be there totally,” proposes spiritual teacher Eckhart Tolle, but how can we make the most of this calming, focusing technique in the many and varied landscapes of today?

A view from The Blue Bridge in St James's Park

City stillness

Urban green spaces provide vital respite for city-dwellers and, to get the most out of your lunchtime park-bench sandwich, there are some ways to maximise the experience. One crucial step is putting your phone away and not turning your screen break into yet more screen time. Dr Qing Li, author of Shinrin-Yoku: The Art and Science of Forest Bathing, emphasises that humans are meant to be connected to the natural world and that “listening to the wind and tasting the air” can be a real benefit, from lowering blood pressure to boosting your immune system. So, when you’re out, prioritise any genuine interactions with urban wildlife, whether it's turning your full attention to squirrels in the trees or listening to birdsong for five minutes with your eyes closed.

Woman using a mobile phone

Social media self-care

This doesn’t have to be an oxymoron. While the perils of social media are well documented, there’s still space for it to be an enjoyable and productive experience. Limiting your usage is key. As Britt Martin of FitBrittNutrition points out, “Allocating time to use it frees up the rest of your day to bring more mindfulness and less distraction.” It’s also highly important to be tuned into your feelings while you’re scrolling, and adjusting your feeds and usage, accordingly. Unfollow accounts that aren’t generating positive reactions for you and delete app shortcuts from your home screen so they’re less tempting.

Person using a laptop

Working well

A fully productive workday doesn’t sound like a big ask, but for some of us it’s easier said than done. To shut out the myriad workplace distractions, start as you mean to go on. Ahead of your first task, close your eyes and take five minutes to observe your thoughts, emotions and breath, grounding yourself and focusing your mind for the day ahead. Dr Dan Harris, author of 10% Happier, says that neuroscience proves that taking these moments of self-reflection enhances the areas of the brain that “have to do with attention regulation”. He also advocates tackling one task at a time, deeming multitasking “a pernicious myth preventing us from getting our work done”.

Sunlight streaming through a forest

Wilderness wellness

Hiking across mountains and trekking through valleys often brings with it an innate sense of peace; the fresh air, open spaces and absence of people producing a precious tranquillity. But how can we make the most of this sensation? Claire Thompson, author of Mindfulness and the Natural World, believes that in this modern day we are disconnected from the natural environment and that the solution is to “bring our awareness back to nature”. Her advice? Engage with the natural world as actively as possible: smell the fragrances of flowers and trees, listen to the soft sounds of the undergrowth and sit or lie on the ground, focusing on the parts of you that are connecting with the earth. 

Waves crashing on a shore

How to spend your time well

Now we know experiences are better than material goods for happiness, the question becomes: what experiences should you spend your time and money on? Science has the answer