50 days of mindfulness

Mindfulness. It’s been the health and wellbeing buzzword of recent years and hailed as a way to find calmness and clarity in our busy lives.

It’s a word I’d heard bandied around lots in recent years and, to be honest, I was an eye-rolling sceptic.

But as a mum of two lovely young children who works full time, I find my mind is often a buzzing list of to dos from paying for school dinners to keeping up to speed in a job that is fast-paced to writing out our weekly meal planner. 

And of course the worry that I’m perhaps not quite good enough at juggling it all.

Earlier this year, this to do list meant I was a regular member of the 3am club. Everyone in the house would be asleep and I’d be wide awake mulling over the things to be done. By the time I’d get back to sleep, it would be 5.30am and the children would be wide awake and the day would begin.

This meant that by late April, I was run down and poorly with a chest infection that was so bad my GP thought I had pneumonia (I didn’t, thankfully).

It was a wake up call that I needed something to change. About 18 months ago I’d tried the Headspace app. I got to two days and fell off the wagon. I didn’t have time for 10 minutes a day between washing uniforms, ironing and doing the food shop.

But after getting so run down I decided to make time. I sat down and committed to those 10 minutes. It wasn’t easy, but I prioritised it.

And something funny happened. Every weekday when I’m working I go for a walk at lunchtime to get moving after a morning at my desk. I walk the same route and have done so for well over a year. 

But on day four, I started noticing things. The trees that dotted the route. The beautiful gardens I walk past. And the roses in these gardens.

That’s the biggest shift for me – noticing. Noticing the children’s smiles, soaking up their giggles and how peaceful they look when they sleep. 

Noticing when my mind is wandering to start to do lists when I should be paying more attention to what’s happening now. And noticing the little things we can miss when caught up in our busyness. 

I’m not going to pretend that I do the 10 minutes every day. Sometimes it just doesn’t happen. But the strategies from mindfulness are there every day to remind me to pause and pay attention.

My mindful list

1. The Headspace app. I’ve found this an easy way to introduce mindfulness into my day.

2. Ruby Wax’s Frazzled book is an excellent insight into her experience of mindfulness and the science behind it. It convinced my cynical side to give mindfulness a go.

3. Mindfulness for mums by Yvette Jane. I bought this lovely book in a gorgeous independent book shop in Cowbridge one Sunday. Lots of lovely phrases to help you be a more mindful mum.

Have you tried mindfulness or are you planning to try it soon? I’d love to hear from you.

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Our top Twixmas walks

The weather was kind to us in South Wales in the last few days of 2016. This was good news as we were able to get out for fresh air and outdoor walks.

Both of our children love the outdoors from parks to beaches to the garden. And I’m a big fan of going for walks to get moving. So we enjoyed wrapping up and getting out and about between Christmas and New Year’s Eve. Here are the top walks and places to visit we enjoyed in Twixmas 2016.

Swansea Bay Beach

We spent Boxing Day morning on Swansea Bay beach. It’s a long beach with views over to the Mumbles and the children loved tearing up and down it. They also made sand angels much to my amusement. Soggy trousers all round. 

Roath Park

Roath Park has been a favourite of mine since I was a student at Cardiff University. It’s now one of our children’s most loved parks. They love the lake and the playground and it has flat sections that make it a great destination for scooter and bike rides. It was bustling with families when we visited on 27 December.

Ogmore-by-Sea

Ogmore-by-Sea in the Vale of Glamorgan is one of our most loved destination for a family walk. Its rugged landscape, views of Porthcawl and beaches make it a popular destination for walkers and surfers alike. We went there for a stroll on 28 December and the children loved exploring the beach and watching the groups of surfers catching waves. 

Where are your favourite places to walk or visit as a family? 

What went well today? One week in.

A week ago, I was lucky enough to do wellbeing workshops at work. The workshops covered lots of insightful ground, but the simplest thing that resonated with me was writing down the three things that went well for me at the end of every day.

It is a positive psychology concept by psychologist Martin Seligman and had led to some brilliant results.

Now I’m the type of person who can struggle to switch off and relax. Very often I can’t sit and do nothing as my brain is a constant monologue of the things I should be doing. The washing, the ironing, cleaning, wrapping gifts, doing the online groceries, packing the school bag and batch cooking meals. I have always been like this, but I have fallen into this trap even more since having the children as the to do list just never ends.

I downloaded the Headspace app earlier this year, which I loved, but I found it difficult to commit to 10 minutes a day when there was so much other stuff to do (a sad excuse, I know).

So I was drawn to this simple idea that could be done in very little time. I dug out a pretty new notebook and started the what went well? project that evening.

One week in, I have to say I am feeling more positive. It is great to end the day celebrating the things that went well. 

Quite of often it’s the little things such as a sunny lunchtime walk, laughing with friends, getting to that exercise class when I would much rather have collapsed in a heap on the sofa. 

So I am going to keep going with this simple exercise to see where it takes me. So far, so good.

Have you tried what went well? before? Or are you thinking of giving it a go? Let me know.