…Counting Breaths …

loveyourself mindfulness jennikaargent countingbreaths

loveyourself mindfulness jennikaargent countingbreaths

Sitting in a hot Epsom salt bath one evening, I began to feel a little uncomfortable. I wanted to stay in there for longer, so I could get the full benefit of the salts, but I felt restless and not all that relaxed. I decided that I would at least stay in there for 50 breaths. Why I chose this number or method I don’t know. All I know is that it seemed like a good number.

I began to count my breaths. As I did this, I watched the steam weightlessly lifting from the surface of the water. My breaths naturally slowed down. It seemed to take much longer than expected to reach 50, but I reached that number, and during that time I had managed to enjoy a lot more of the bath than before I started counting.

I applied it to a few journeys into and out of work, and realised it was an great form of meditation practice. The great part is that the second you lose count, you know that you lost concentration and come back to the breath. So in order to keep count, we really have to stay with the breath and not get lost in thinking.

Months later and I am reading  a book about Zen. I find it is actually a real technique practiced in Buddhism and mindfulness which I didn’t know about.

A couple of weeks ago, I reached exactly 650 breaths from train platform to train platform on a journey across London (I take roughly 10 breaths per minute, so the journey was some 65 mins). It wasn’t actually that hard – but what was hard, was not responding to texts, since it was VERY difficult to respond and keep counting.

If you have never tried this, then why not try now? Perhaps starting with 10, and building it up slowly. Even if you never reach 10, just by realising you have lost count, you are practicing mindfulness of the breath. Congratulations! Let me know how far you get before you lose count…



Taking time for yourself



The average Londoner works around 45 hours per week, with some working up to 70 hours plus… often in jobs we don’t really love. According to Forbes, for every happy employee, there are two unhappy ones. So taking time for ourselves, is more important now than it ever has been….

I currently work 3 days a week and have done for the past 15 years or so. People often say to me ‘wow, you’re so lucky’ or ‘is that because you have kids?’. Well, no, I don’t have kids, I just value my time more than I value money. And as Dizzee Rascal says: I don’t need a reason!

You might be curious what I do in the 4 days a week I have to myself. It’s pretty varied, but it generally consists of two things:

  1. JUST BEING ME… at work I have to dress and act a certain way. On my days off, I do exactly as I please. I paint, draw, practice yoga, exercise, meditate, learn piano, volunteer at a hospice etc. etc. the list goes on but I wont bore you with it.
  2. DOING THINGS AT MY OWN PACE…. I don’t enjoy feeling rushed. I prefer taking my time and doing things slowly. I know this isn’t the lifestyle for everyone, but I’ve certainly found a balance that works for ME.

How I came to find this balance was not so pleasant though. Many years back, I was at university full-time, working every evening, and fitting in course work at the weekends, as well as getting my first mortgage. It all started to become too much for me, with no social life and no time to relax. I ended up mentally crashing and suffered with a bout of depression and a break-down. It was severe for a few months but eventually I found support in the form of counseling, meditation, self-help books, healing therapies (reiki, acupuncture, reflexology) and physical exercise. I realised that I had not invested any time at building my inner-strength, nor spent enough time building supportive friendships. After making a full recovery and finally completing my degree, I decided I would work part-time and have more time for myself, cooking meals from scratch, going for walks in the woods, massaging my feet and doing things that I really love, like photography and drawing.

For a while I felt guilty for taking this time for myself. But life is a balance, no matter what area you look at: food, exercise, work, relaxation, time with family and friends. Too much or too little of any one thing is usually bad news. As a kid, I remember my father asking me at the end of every day “were you industrious today?!” and I remember feeling a little awkward at not having “achieved” anything special that day, but what he probably meant was ‘did you put in 100%?’  setting personal boundaries.And yes, I did put in 100%, both at school and at play. Society can be very goal-oriented, and although goals are a great way of achieving what you want in life –  those goals need to be the right kind of goals for YOU. So I made it my goal to feel happy, relaxed and take time for myself!

If you think you could do with some time for yourself then make it your goal, find a way to set some time aside and really enjoy it 100% without feeling guilty or feeling like you should be doing something else. Taking time for ourselves is just as important as working and earning money. Putting yourself first and making sure you have enough time for yourself means you can then put 100% of yourself into your goals, whether its building that business or caring for others.

You might like to check out this video which can help you understand about setting personal boundaries