When was the last time you smelt the air? I mean, actually, consciously took a good lungful of lovely fresh air? Probably if you’re honest, it might be a while...
This is a really easy mindfulness technique. Now, don’t get me wrong – I’m not a mad hippy and I don’t go in for all that navel gazing, but once you start to see the benefits of mindfulness, you will hopefully try to build it into your daily routine.
At least once per day as part of my efforts to be more mindful, I try to make a point of getting a really good lungful of fresh air. Most of the time, we only use a small amount of our lung capacity. That isn’t good for a start. Our lungs are made up of smaller and smaller branching air tubes, ending with air sacs called alveoli (who remembers that from your biology class?). They need to have good clean dry air going right through them to the very ends to help keep them fresh and dry. Failure to do this can lead to pulmonary infections, so have a go right now.
You don’t have to be outside, although the fresher the air, the better. Either sit or stand and take a deep breath, in through your nose, as far as you think your lungs can expand. Now hold it there and take a further bit of air in – you’ll be surprised how much extra you could get in ! Now hold the whole lot for a few seconds – don’t be fainting please ! And breathe out through your mouth. You can do that a few times and you will find it gets easier as you get better at it.
It is hard to remember to do this when you’re rushing around doing your daily business. I try to make a point of doing it every morning on my way down to milk the goats. I love the smell of the early morning air. So, to apply this to mindfulness, take your deep breath as described above, and notice the actual smell of the air as you breathe in. You might say “well it didn’t smell of anything – just air!” but if you focus as you breathe in, you will notice maybe grass, or wood smoke from someone’s fire or maybe rain washed leaves. At this time of year, I notice the herby, autumnal smell of decaying leaves. Our neighbours have silage stored for the winter and I love that sweet smell, so I always make a point of stopping to get a good sniff when I’m walking past.
So what has all that got to do with mindfulness? To do it, you have to physically stop what you were doing. This means you focus on something other than today’s list of jobs. It actually doesn’t matter if you don’t identify what you can smell: the main thing is that you are focussing your mind on yourself, even if it is only for one minute. In addition to this, you are taking in new, fresh air and bringing in oxygen which is vital for all bodily functions. If you try to do this several times per day, you will find it easier to cope with stressful situations and help you to think more clearly. If you have difficulty sleeping, you could try it before you go to bed at night.
Just have a go, and you’ll be amazed how refreshed it makes you feel! You don’t have to tell anybody you’re doing it, if you’re afraid they’ll laugh, but if you find it works for you, spread the word. You could even do it if you’re parked in your car – wind down the window to get some fresh air in. Please don’t do it while you’re actually driving!
I’d love to hear your feedback. Let me know if you tried it, and what you could smell. Looking forward to hearing from you! Happy mindfulness!
Vanessa Drew is a highly experienced garden designer based near Rathfriland, Co Down. Vanessa is also a part-time farmer, animal lover and owner of Ballyroney Cottage farmstay B&B. She enjoys hiking, mindfulness and is a wildlife and conservation enthusiast. In her blogs, she shares her passion for horticulture, animals and country lifestyle.