This semester has been the hardest few months I’ve had in a long time, but I cannot deny that something positive has come of it. I have begun experimenting with different mindfulness techniques (something doctors have always advised me to do) and for once, I feel they are working. So I thought I’d share them with you, as we are constantly being told by the media, doctors, counsellors and university to be mindful. But what even is mindfulness?
I have come to realise that mindfulness can be anything you want it to be. Before, I thought it meant meditating to relaxing music, lasting for about an hour, and who really has time for that? Not me. So here are the techniques I’ve been trying:
1) Unwinding: I cannot function if I am tired, and I am always tired. I’ve had an issue with sleep for years, and have experimented with over-the-counter medication like Niteol, but nothing has worked. Lately, and admittedly as a way of procrastinating my uni work, I have began to take a shower before bed, light some candles in my room, and watch a film with a snack or a milky tea. This has worked wonders for my sleep. I feel a lot more calm which helps me sleep better, and in turn makes me more awake in the mornings. I’m not saying I leap out of bed for my 9ams, but every little helps, right?
2) Food splurging: I’ve always been very restrictive in the way I eat. I don’t eat carbs with dinner (most of the time) and ice cream is only for meals out. But lately I thought, what’s the point? I exercise at least twice a week, and don’t really snack, so why don’t I deserve some Ben & Jerries if I want it? I definitely appreciate it a lot more and make sure I don’t do it too often. Yesterday, uni were giving out free Easter eggs and instead of saving it to give to my little brother, what did I do? I ate the whole thing in one and I don’t have a single regret (sorry Oscar!). Eating chocolate has been proven to make you happier, so if it means my summer body isn’t as ready as it should be, at least I’ll have a smile on my face!
3) SWIMMING! This semester I decided to take the plunge (sorry) and go swimming for the first time in the uni pool. I’ve always loved swimming but have been too scared to go to the one at uni. I got all the gear (goggles and a sporty cossy) and was thrilled to find heated floors in the changing rooms! Now I am totally obsessed and go at least once a week, and I’m already noticing a difference! My body is becoming stronger and I can swim 60 lengths in 45 minutes, which I’m hoping to cut down. In the water I feel utterly free from the stress of university and life in general, and all I care about is getting those extra lengths in.
4) Movies: Yep, I am counting this as a lesson in mindfulness. Amazon Prime is a babe for good films. I also watched the ITV series ‘Victoria’ recently (embarrassingly watched the entire 8 episode series in 2 days) and was utterly obsessed. It gave me something to look forward to, and Lord Melbourne was a fantastic bit of eye candy!
5) Friends: Being dragged down by a degree, it is hard to find time to see your friends, let alone the energy for a night out! I’ve been trying to find time each week to go for coffee, and just make sure that I don’t eat lunch on my own if I don’t have to. Being with friends makes me feel so relaxed, and reminds me I’m not the only one struggling. A favourite hobby of mine and a friend’s is walking round the Union looking for free food, because there always is some! Doing things instead of working together or just getting coffee is so much more exciting!
What I’ve found is that mindfulness is whatever makes you feel happy and at peace. Whether it’s chilling with your friends, meditation, or doing exercise, mindfulness is taking time for yourself and putting yourself first. At university it is easy to become obsessed with your degree, making sure you have time to see all your different friend groups, and visiting home. It’s so important to take time each week, or each day, to do what makes you happy, or else you will simply overload.