I was recently interviewed for behappytips.com about the mindfulness quest I ran on this blog. When I was doing the interview and thinking about how valuable doing a month of mindfulness was I decided to set up another 31 day mindfulness challenge.
In May I am running another month of mindfulness challenge where, starting at some point in May, you focus on being more mindful for 31 days (#MOM31). The idea is to concentrate on living more mindfully for a month (at least :-)). I run this in May as for students and their families it is a perfect time to practice mindfulness as the exams approach. However, mindfulness has benefits for everyone and anyone is welcome to join in. Don’t worry if you can’t start this month because you can start a month of mindfulness at any time. Just read this post, prepare and sign up to receive the emails every day for 31 days.
Why do a month of mindfulness.
There are many benefits of mindfulness which I wrote about in this article and added to it here. The reason I recommend it to students, particularly in the run up to exams, is because it helps you to stay calm, stay focused and sustain your concentration (among other benefits).
What is mindfulness practice?
Mindfulness is paying attention to what is happening in the moment without judging it. Generally we spend much of our time mulling over things that have happened or that will happen and pay little attention to what is happening.
When we mindfully focus our minds on the present moment, we are aware and accepting of our thoughts, feelings and actions.
Although it’s called practice it is not something you are aiming to get better at or to perfect. If anything you may find that the more you practise mindfulness the more you notice the mind wandering. This is because you are aiming to notice that your mind is wandering so that you can bring it back to the moment.
You can probably remember a time when you were going to school or work and you suddenly realised with a start that you can’t remember a large chunk of the journey because you went into autopilot. This is an example of your mind wandering and being brought back to the present. The wandering, distracted mind is sometimes called monkey mind as your thoughts are like a monkey roaming around your brain.
Developing mindful awareness is a bit like developing physical fitness. Physical fitness is strength, stamina and flexibility. To develop these things we can use practices such as walking, cycling or swimming. Mindfulness is being aware of your present experience and accepting it and this is also developed by practices.
If you want to get fit but are really busy or don’t have many resources you might start by incorporating simple adjustments to your everyday routine such as taking the stairs instead of the lift or walking to the station instead of getting the bus.
To improve further you would need to dedicate more time to regular activities such as walking, going to the gym or going to fitness classes.
If you wanted to take things even further you might dedicate more time to an intensive training regimen such as training for a marathon or doing a hiking holiday.
The three type of mindfulness practice are like developing fitness.
- Informal practice is about making small changes to your everyday routines.
- Formal practice is about setting aside small regular times to practice
- A retreat is about spending an intensive period focusing on mindfulness.
Going on a retreat is outside of the scope of my Month of Mindfulness and you are unlikely to consider it until after exams!
How to do formal practice
Formal practice is taking a specific amount of time out of your day for a mindfulness meditation.
Although it is called meditation it does not have to be religious nor do you have to sit in lotus position (see my article on myths about mindfulness).
Most research on the benefits of mindfulness have examined people who practice formally. To get the most out of your month of mindfulness it would be ideal to have a formal practice of 20 minutes a day but if this is a new thing for you just 5 or 10 minutes would be fine.
I wrote an article about the best way to establish a habit such as mindfulness here.
Ideally you want to find a comfortable, quiet place with no distractions to do this. Most people try to sit in an upright position but you can stand or lie down (although you might fall asleep!).
When they start most people find it easiest to close their eyes and to use a guided meditation to listen to. There are many available for free on the internet and as apps. I have a post on some of the resources here but there are many more. The apps I recommend to students are buddhify, smiling mind and stop breathe and think.
Mindfulness of breath is the usual starting place as all you do is focus on the sensations associated with breathing or count breaths. Try a mindfulness of breath meditation of the length you want and if you are happy with it you can keep using it every day for the month. Here are some that you can try
For some people focusing on the breath can make them feel anxious or uncomfortable. If this is the case for you then try a body scan meditation, a mindfulness of sound meditation or a walking meditation (daily exercise is a great idea as exams approach).
How to do informal practice
Informal practice is any time you bring your awareness to the present moment. There are lots of ways to do this and if you sign up for the Month of Mindfulness email I will send an email every day for 31 days with an idea for informal practice for that day.
You do not need to follow them rigidly unless you want to. Sometimes people find one practice particularly helpful and use it for several days or weeks. Remember any time you want you can reread the emails or sign up again and receive them again.
If you want to join in a Month of Mindfulness
1. Decide how long you will practice for every day. If you want you can download and fill out this chart to keep track.
Month of mindfulness checklist bw
2. If you are going to listen to a guided meditation as your formal practice then decide which you will use.
3. When you are ready sign up below to get emails suggesting ideas for informal practice every day for 31 days.
If you want support with the 31 day month of mindfulness challenge please do leave a comment or give me a shout on email or twitter(#MOM31). If you want to find out more about mindfulness then there is a summary of my posts here.
It is great to have other bloggers joining the challenge and writing about it. Jennifer over at thesavingsopportunity.com has written an excellent post about it here.
Thanks to @EP_pturner for sharing and feedback, @patweber for spotting a broken link on a related post and @emartin1974 for her support. Thanks to @TheSavingsOpp for her wonderful article and to @muminsearch who has given me some great ideas to incorporate into my Month of Mindfulness challenge next year.