Welcome to the Curiosity Academy, Stylist’s new home dedicated to learning and developing skills in work and life. With an increasing appetite for mindfulness practice, we’ve called upon a leading meditation expert from the popular Headspace app to share the tools and tactics for beginners to get started.
The skill of calming and centring your mind is a much-coveted one. Over the past year, particularly as the world has rippled through various upheavals, we’ve seen an increasing number of people craving the ability to combat feelings of overwhelm by seeking refuge in their own consciousness, but it’s not always as easy to do as many might expect.
So how do we go about learning and honing this skill properly? Eve Lewis Prieto, director of meditation at mindfulness app Headspace, says it’s important to know what you’re aiming for first, by defining what mindfulness is clearly.
“Mindfulness is the ability to be present, undistracted with an open curious mind and a kind heart,” she says. “And meditation is an exercise where we learn to be more mindful, but away from everyday life. It’s a little bit like going to the gym and going on the treadmill so we can be fit and active and functional in everyday life.”
Here are Eve’s top five ways to cultivate a mindful day-to-day routine.
1. Carve out the time
While you could use a meditation app like Headspace (Calm, Aura and Sattva are other great examples), Eve also recommends applying a mindful state of mind to other activities as well, to ensure the benefits permeate all areas of your daily life.
“Remember mindfulness is paying attention on purpose to whatever you are doing, so whether that is doing some exercise and being present with the movement of your body, or taking a walk and really noticing your surroundings, or even being fully present whilst having a bubble bath and really enjoying those bubbles and the warm water – these are great ways to remind ourselves to be present.
“Dedicating a small fraction of each day to self-care for the mind, even if that’s just 10 minutes, can have a huge impact on our mental and physical wellbeing, our relationships, our sleep, and even our focus on work.”
Practically, it’s a good idea to make a physical and conscious commitment to meditation, Eve recommends. “I put block-breaks on my calendar — essentially fake meetings — so people can’t book over them,” she says. “If we can find ways to trick the system to manage our day-to-day, we can be happier and more present when we are available.”
2. Set a clear intention
“We all have our own individual struggles so there is no right or wrong answer with this,” she adds. “It really could be as simple as ‘I just want to feel less stressed.’ Intentions can change over time but having an intention really helps to remind ourselves why we need to take time out.”
You can also consider the people in your life who will benefit from your mindfulness, as a way of motivating yourself to keep up with your intentions – also, it feels really good to know you’re doing something to help out those that you love.
3. Create a dedicated physical space
Your meditation space is an important element of your mindfulness routine – Eve recommends dedicating a certain area to your practice, making it comfortable and clear of distractions.
“Our homes are designed for dedicated space, where we cook, eat, work and relax,” she says. “So if you are planning to add mindfulness to your daily routine, curating a space for meditation is just as important.
“I have a specific spot in my living room where I meditate, so I don’t have to think about where to go,” Eve adds.
Think about what views you’ll be able to focus on from your space, as part of your mindfulness routine requires you to be present in your physical location. “From my space, I can see outside and settle into that calming, quiet feeling,” she says.
“Whether it’s warm, cool, dark or light it all down to personal preference, but it is important to keep this space clear of clutter and distractions,” Eve says. “Start to regularly practice in this area, forming a connection between this space and a sense of calm.”
4. Set boundaries with your phone
They may be our portals to the outside world, helping us stay connected, but our phones also stand in the way of us maintaining a mindful mental state.
“Imagine waking up and having ten people around your bed saying things to you — that’s essentially what we’re doing when we open our phones,” she says.
She recommends setting a boundary between yourself and your phone in the early hours of your day.“I have a rule that I don’t look at any social media or emails until I’m sitting down to start my work day,” she adds.
This distance should help us to connect more deeply with ourselves. “I also turn off notifications — that constant buzzing takes us away from what we’re doing in the moment.”
5. Be kind to yourself
The chances are that your first attempts at meditating aren’t going to be easy. Your mind might feel busier than ever when you are first attempting to be mindful, according to Eve. So it will be easy to think you’re not doing it right, but that’s not the case at all.
“We are so used to being caught up in our thoughts, feelings and emotions that when we give the mind some space to settle,” she says. “It can take a little bit of time but you are not doing anything wrong if your mind keeps wandering, it’s a very normal human experience!
“Try as much as possible to bring kindness into the process. When we sit to meditate we often want to experience a calm clear mind straight away and that can create some resistance in the mind as we are trying to create a [mindful] state of mind. In meditation we are learning to sit with the mind however it is, it is not about stopping all thoughts… Some days the mind will feel really busy, but it is not the meditation causing it, that is just how your mind is on that particular day.”
So above all, don’t beat yourself up if it takes a while for the meditation process to take. After all, as Eve says, meditation isn’t about being hard on yourself, and the more you practice the easier it will become.
Your 5-step method to being more mindful every day
Be strict with your time. Start by dedicating 10 minutes a day to mindful practice, whether that’s meditation, stretching or going for a walk.
Find a space that you can dedicate to this routine – keep returning to it every day to create a routine.
Be clear in your mind of what you want to achieve and why: do you want to feel less stressed? Do you want to feel better prepared for a conversation? Do you want to be in a better emotional state to help a loved one? There’s no right or wrong answer, but intention will help with the process.
Be disciplined with your phone. We’ve heard it all before, but deciding when you want to interact with the flood of messages you receive and setting a time limit for how long you spend with it will help you focus on your own mind.
Don’t be too hard on yourself if mindful practise doesn’t come easily. The very act of trying is a big step in the right direction and being kind to yourself in the process is key.
Eve Lewis Prieto, director of meditation at Headspace Inc
Eve is the female voice behind the Headspace-guided meditations, and oversees the platform’s meditation curriculum, leading many of the meditations in the app, alongside hosting regular live meditation sessions and Q&As.
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