‘The key to practising mindfulness based cognitive therapy (MBCT) is paying attention. It sounds easy, but we don’t automatically know how to do it. To be able to shift attention at will is my solution to how we can live better, be happier and stay healthier, because it means we are in control of our magnificent minds,' says Ruby Wax.
'Think of mindfulness as a “mind gym” where you learn to build your ability to pay attention like a muscle. A well-honed muscle of attention helps us make the right decisions, even amidst all the stimuli and emotional turmoil of our lives. MBCT is really “mind fitness” – and all the equipment you need is already in your head.’
5 everyday mindfulness tips:
Choose an activity you do each day and, for a few moments while you're doing it, try to pay attention to every sensation - sight, hearing, taste, smell, touch - just try to sense it.
1. Eating: “Find something you enjoy putting in your mouth (within the realms of normality). Cut whatever it is into bite-sized pieces. Place a morsel in your hand. Without feeling ridiculous focus on what it looks like, as if you’ve never seen anything like it. With a sense of curiosity, notice the colour, the edges, the shape. After a minute or so, chew slowly and notice what sweetness or bitterness tastes like. Notice what the urge to swallow feels like.”
2. Showering: “What does the water feel like? Experience the movements you make while soaping up and washing the soap off again as if you’ve never done them before in your life. Notice when your mind takes over, then bring your focus back to the feel of showering.”
3. Making tea: “Slowly, try to experience the detailed sensations of pouring, stirring, smelling, tasting and, hopefully, not burning your lips off. But if you do . . . try to sense that, too.”
4. On your computer: “Tune into what the sensations are of tapping your fingers on the keys. Come off autopilot and notice when your mind begs you to type something and, when you do, come back to the feeling in your fingertips. Notice: are your shoulders humped over? (I do most of my emails in the posture of the Hunchback of Notre Dame.)”
5. Doorways: “Here’s a really easy one: Each day when you go through a particular doorway use it as a reminder to notice what’s going on around you; the sounds, smells, sights and the feeling in your body. Oh, come on, you can’t get away with saying you’re too busy to walk through a doorway.”
Ruby Wax, OBE, comedian and author, has a master’s degree in mindfulness-based cognitive therapy from Oxford University. ‘A Mindfulness Guide for the Frazzled’ (Penguin Life, £14.99) is out now.
Photograph: Steve Ullathorne