Make mindfulness part of your life

Something as simple as lying on the grass and looking up at the stars has a positive effect our...
Something as simple as lying on the grass and looking up at the stars has a positive effect our psychological health. PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES
A lot has happened since I set the last challenge to improve our sleep routine with the aim of helping us get a better quality sleep, writes life coach Jan Aitken.

I had let my pre-bed routine get a bit sloppy over the past few months, so I tidied it up and began reading for 15 minutes before turning out the light as it helps me to switch off from the day and transition into sleep.

However, the curve ball, also known as Covid-19, has definitely interfered with my sleep. I find it difficult to switch off as I try to get my head around the current situation. I know I’m not the only one. That has made me tweak things even further and now I don’t check any news sources for a couple of hours before bed, so I’m not mulling over what’s happening here or overseas as I try to get some shut-eye.

Here are some questions for reflection. Take some time to reflect on them.

What worked for you and what didn’t when setting up your sleep routine?

Do you need to tweak anything to make a routine easier to achieve?

Did you try to do too many things before bed?

Did you choose the right activities to put in your sleep routine?

What did you learn about yourself during the March challenge?

The challenge I have set aside for this month is around creating mental strength/resilience.

To some degree, we will all be struggling with what’s going on as almost every aspect of our life has been disrupted and “normal” simply doesn’t exist anymore.

Building mental/emotional strength or resilience is a useful thing to do no matter what’s going on. Now seems like a good time to start.


It is important to acknowledge what you’re feeling. There aren’t good or bad emotions. There are some emotions that are more comfortable than others. Placing a value judgement on them isn’t helpful.

Name what it is you are feeling. Don’t get too tied up around this, our brain stops worrying the moment we give something a name, so just name it — worried, sad, terrified, stunned, happy or whatever.

A lot of anxious thoughts and emotions will show up during this time — try to sit with them rather than trying to push them away. Repeated research has shown that avoiding uncomfortable emotions will only make them stick around longer.

Notice the uncomfortable emotions, thoughts and physical sensations as they come up. Look at them with curiosity. Describe them without judgement and then let them go. This is a fundamental part of mindfulness, which has been linked to good psychological health.


Studies have shown that creating routines that connect you to what really matters in life is important for good mental health. Routines establish structure, predictability and a sense of purpose.

"It’s good for adults and crucial for children to stick to regular wake-up, grooming and meal times. Where and how everyone works and plays at home should also be planned, while understanding that we all need to be flexible and adapt as needed," clinical psychologist Deborah Roth Ledley says.

New routines to replace old routines will be vital to help everybody thrive during the lockdown.


It is harder when our tried-and-true ways of taking care of ourselves are no longer available e.g. going to the gym or mountain biking on local tracks. But that’s not a reason to abandon self-care. Exercise and good nutrition are directly linked to emotional well-being, so now is the time to get creative.

Schedule self-care each day. It can consist of running or walking outside; using apps for exercise, meditation or brain teasers; take a bath — the possibilities are endless. "Meet" friends over the internet. Physical distancing does not need to mean social distancing.

One thing that is still available to us is nature. Studies show that spending time in nature — whether you are cycling, walking, gardening or lying on the grass and looking up at the stars — has a positive effect our psychological health. Just remember to observe the Level 4 guidelines about physical distancing.

Jan Aitken is a Dunedin-based life coach.

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