By Team Unmasked
What’s the first thing you think of when it comes to practising mindfulness? I think we’d ALL be rich if we had a pound for every time someone suggested meditation. Whilst meditating is a great way to unwind and reconnect with yourself, it’s not the easiest thing to master for busy, neurodivergent brains.
But not to worry! There are plenty of alternative ways to be mindful that are just as beneficial for the mind and soul.
1. Listen to music
One of the beautiful things about neurodiversity is how we often experience sounds (including music) differently. Now, if you’re very sensitive to noise you might be thinking otherwise - but, certain music has the ability to stimulate the entire neurodivergent brain.
8D audio can do just that. By applying a continuous and gradual ‘panning’ between the left and right stereo channels, it creates a fake surround sound that tricks the brain into thinking it’s hearing sound from multiple directions. Listening to this music is highly stimulating, helps you with brain functioning and can even increase your attention span.
There are many neurodivergent individuals who work best listening to calm, medium-tempo music like classical and low-fi. On the other hand, there are many who gravitate towards high-tempo music like dance and EDM. Whichever you prefer, music can be a joyful gift to your sensory system and a powerful, mindfulness tool.
2. Focus on your movements
Simply focusing on your movements is a great, and easy, way to practise mindfulness. There are several ways that you can do this; breathing exercises, stretching your body, taking a walk outside or exercising are all great examples. When you’re engaging in any of these activities, try to focus on the feeling of your body moving. This might be the breeze against your skin, the feeling of different textures touching your hands and feet, or the smells around you. This is a double-winner as it improves both your mental and physical health.
3. Play a game that requires your full attention
Mindfulness is all about concentration, attention and awareness - 3 things that are beneficial for neurodivergent brains to practice. Playing a game is a great way to do this, but this means giving it your FULL attention - not half playing a game on your phone whilst you’re watching TV (I think we’re all guilty of this?).
This doesn’t mean you can’t play a game on your phone, you just won’t get the full impact unless you really concentrate on it. In fact, a study found that digital games can be effective for post-work recovery without feeling like a chore, just like mindfulness apps do.*
But, if you want to use this as an excuse to reduce your phone time, then a physical game works wonders too! Why not try to unwind with a puzzle, a game of chess or even (dare I say it) a game of Fortnight? By completely immersing yourself in the game where you complete small, achievable tasks, you end up in a flow state of mindfulness.
4. Read a book
This may be one of the oldest tricks in the book (pardon the pun). But, reading is an excellent way to be mindful and relax. Some neurodivergent brains need to be stimulated visually, so physical books work best. However, others really benefit from audiobooks, allowing you to sit back and fully immerse yourself in the story without having to physically read - great for dyslexic people.
You might be thinking, “I hate reading!”, but when was the last time you searched for a book that really sparked your interest? Take time to find out what you like and you could open up a whole new world.
5. Engage in your special interests
Special interests are fulfilling, emotionally satisfying and calming - perfect for when you want to be mindful. The great thing about being SO passionate about something is that you can almost guarantee it will bring you to a place of joy and happiness. Taking time to dive into your latest passion can decrease levels of depression, stress and emotional reactivity in autistic people.
Whenever you’re being mindful, through thought or activity, remember to be aware and accepting of the emotions you’re feeling - without judgement. Most importantly, be kind to yourself and have fun. Not all mindfulness practices work for everyone, so take the time to find what works best for you, and don’t be afraid to try something again. Just because you weren’t sure the first time, doesn’t mean you won’t enjoy it next time.