On Friday, the annual literary festival Words by the Water kicked off at Theatre by the Lake in Keswick. I look forward to this every year. The range of topics being discussed is ridiculous from fiction novels to women in politics to race to historical talks; there really is something for everyone.
One woman who has been coming for a few years now is Linda Blair. Linda is a psychologist who has written a book all about mindfulness and being calm.
At this years festival, as well as doing a talk on how dogs improve our mental health, Linda did a workshop on mindfulness. It was based on her book, Key to Calm, but offered so much insight into how your mind works as well as breathing techniques.
6 things I learnt at a mindfulness workshop
Learning to breathe mindfully
I think anyone with anxiety, or anyone who has tried mindfulness has been told to breathe. Take deep breathes. But what does that actually mean?
Linda taught us to breathe mindfully. The main element is breathe in for 4, hold for four, breathe out for 4.
You should do this twenty times (about three minutes) and it is amazing how much this works. The idea is that you breathe in good air and the air you exhale is extra air you have been holding, especially if you’re anxious.
I actually felt a bit tingly after we did this but apparently it’s normal. You feel like that if you have been holding that extra oxygen but you don’t realise you’ve been doing it!
Setting your mindfulness thermostat
I absolutely LOVED this analogy. How can you achieve mindfulness in the day if your mind doesn’t know what that level of calm is?
We were advised to take three minutes every morning, before we jump out of bed, to do our mindful breathing.
By starting your day with that three minutes of calm, you will become more intune to that feeling and be able to go back easier than if you started the day stressed or in a panic.
Observe, don’t judge
Let’s be honest, we’re all guilty of judging ourselves, others, and comparing all the time.
When we did our mindful breathing exercise, we were all given a twig and we had to focus on it for the three minutes.
The idea was you just had to notice it and different parts of it but you shouldn’t judge it or criticise or compare to someone else’s twig.
What was great about this exercise was it stopped your mind from wandering and made you focus more.
Play on your strengths and don’t force change
Did you know that there are two parts of your personality that you can’t change? You are naturally either introverted or extraverted and impulsive or reflective.
Once you know, you can play up to those strengths. There’s no point in trying to change, or beating yourself up for being that way. Embrace who you are and use it to your advantage!
(I’m 100% introverted but not quite sure yet if I’m impulsive or reflective – I’m a bit in between!)
Find your flow
What do you love to do? What are your passions? Apparently, we are the most true to ourselves when we’re about 10 years old.
We were given a task to think back to then and remember what we loved to do. For me, it was writing, building and creating – that’s what I loved to spend my time doing.
If you’re wanting to achieve more happiness in your life, try incorporate things you absolutely love to do and help find your purpose.
How to BE mindful
A lot of the articles and books I’ve read about mindfulness often suggest taking half an hour out, lie down and be mindful.
If you’re stressed or super busy, it’s not really practical is it. Instead, you should try and corporate mindful breathing where you can. Are you in a meeting? Feeling anxious on the bus? There are so many times in the day when you can just take a moment to do those mindful breaths to get you back to calm, especially if you’ve started your day with your three minutes breathing!
At the end of the day, mindfulness isn’t going to fix everything. However, it can help you think more rationally, bring your stress levels down and clears your head!
- Linda has a great book called The Key to Calm which I recommend SO MUCH
- Words by the Water is on at Theatre by the Lake until 17th March. Find out more here
Press tickets were given in exchange for article