How two minutes made a mindful difference

We didn't expect to be sitting in a hotel bar with our eyes closed as part of a Happiness Project experiment. Yet for our month four meet-up, we did and we highly recommend it.

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Mindfulness has been getting a fair bit of exposure over the last year; the psychologists latest equivalent to the nutritionalists sugar ban.

Being mindful, if you didn't already know, is about being in the present and appreciating the moment. It's about allowing yourself to just be and with doing so - noticing the world around you. To not reflect, and neither to rush. It's a great feeling when you do it and if you're like us you'll have a whole manner of things racing around in your head the first time you attempt it.

The key is to focus on your breathing, which needs to be slow - in through the nose, and out through the mouth. It is helpful to count slowly as you breathe out. Imagining breathing out a lengthening string from your pursed lips also helps.

Then just stop and observe. Notice what is around you from the smells to the sounds and the colours; even the textures. Consider how your body comes in to contact with the chair you're sitting on. Through your mind you will take a mental snapshot of your situation - your present moment.

We all agreed that the conversations taking place at nearby tables became magnified and found it quite amusing that one particular table's discussion fascinated us all! Yet we also found that the two minutes gave us an oasis of calm in what was in reality a noisy environment.

The moments of silence granted out of marks of respect are examples where the mind can wander. I clearly recall the two minute silence we were to observe shortly after the Queen Mother died.

Dreadful timing on my part meant I was in a changing room rushing to get, ironically, an outfit for a funeral. For a brief moment the responsibility I had been given of being part of a large community showing respect was overshadowed by this overwhelming surge of remembering my own mum, who had herself only recently passed away. There I was in tears in this changing room. Those two minutes had not only allowed me to respect a woman who the nation admired, but also prompted me to finally succumb to the grief of losing the person I admired the most.

The busyness of life has led most of us to do most things mindlessly. Be it rushing to get the kids to school and not appreciating the beauty of the moment; the youthfulness, the rising sun outside, how the cat purrs through the chaos of it all, or the gratitude of seeing water run from the tap. The routine of everyday life and 'feeling like a robot' becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. Yet it's for us to change that sometimes proves difficult. Yet we can all do it. We all have a conscious choice to make the most of our lives and to enjoy each precious moment more.

To be fully focussed in the present and fully enjoying something is akin to a passionate doctor who is performing a surgical operation. He enjoys what he does, has to be fully focussed and can not let his mind wander. Any coach will agree that to fully listen to a client requires full concentration and focus.

Our two minutes of closing our eyes in the bustling hotel bar gave us clarity to realise what changes we needed to make in our lives to ensure we become fully present.

  • Even when there is a morning rush, deadlines to meet, things seemingly going wrong - take a deep breath;
  • When the house is in disarray and the mountain of clutter becomes an overwhelming burden - assign time to get through it, in little chunks, giving each item its full attention;
  • Take even ten minutes per day to practice meditation - be still, focussing on your breath;

From our meet-up session last month I can honestly say that my pen pot has never been more organised! Meanwhile, I'm a lot more relaxed and most of all so much more appreciative of all that I have and all that surrounds me.

A wonderful quote:

"When you love someone the best thing you can offer is your presence" - Thich Nhat Hanh

When time stands still

Michelle Stromgren

Marketing Consultant and Performance Coach, Owner -

Marketing consultant and performance coach running a business to support individuals and SMEs in their growth and development, fundamentally to increase confidence and get a healthy work/life balance. Alongside volunteering for a number of charities, Michelle is a mum of two and an advocate of clean air and green spaces. She loves nature, photography, writing and most of all learning. "Never stop learning. If you don't think you can do it, change your mind set and at least try."