Self-help Train perception
You can teach yourself to be mindful in everyday life so you gain a healthier awareness and take your mind off distressing thoughts. You can do this by concentrating your senses and your attention on what you are doing at that very moment. Pay attention to what is happening right now. For example, if you’re walking, concentrate just on your footsteps and the path ahead of you: right foot, left foot, right foot, left foot. Be patient when learning to do this. It’s very easy for your thoughts to drift away. Instead of concentrating just on the steps: right foot, left foot, right foot, left foot, … you suddenly start remembering things about your journey as you fled from your country. All of a sudden you feel agitated or anxious. Then allow your thoughts to drift away again and return to concentrating on your footsteps: right foot, left foot, right foot, left foot, … Similarly, you may suddenly start thinking about someone else. If you notice this happening, just allow these thoughts and then let them go again. Allow your thoughts to drift by like clouds in the sky. Let your thoughts and awareness return to your footsteps: right foot, left foot, right foot, left foot, … Practise this every day for a few minutes.
It is well worth practising your own awareness. It may help you to become more relaxed in yourself and when you’re around other people. Here are some more ideas for practising mindfulness on an everyday basis:
- When cleaning your teeth: pay attention to how the bristles feel on your gums and of the smell and taste of the toothpaste.
- Going up the stairs: be aware of how you place one foot down after another. Sense the muscles in your legs.
- Eating: be conscious of how you chew each bite of food and of the taste, smell and consistency.
- Greeting people: be aware of hugging, shaking hands or other ways of greeting people.
- Sitting in a waiting room: concentrate on your senses. What do you hear? What can you smell? What do you see?
You can use this mindfulness exercise to help with all the problems we have mentioned. But if you find it’s too much for you, then it’s better to stop and try a different exercise that’s more suitable for you.