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Join ENGSO Youth Mindfulness Challenge | #HealthyLifestyle4All

Updated: a day ago

At the opening of the European Week of Sport 2021, ENGSO Youth committed to actively contribute, as a youth and grassroots sport partner, to the European Commission’s new initiative #HealthyLifestyle4All. The initiative was officially launched by the Commissioner Mariya Gabriel, on 23 September, in Bled, Slovenia.

As part of the initiative we committed to organise several activities promoting healthy lifestyle among young people, specifically highlighting the importance of mental health for youth.

We believe mindfulness is the most important skill of 2022.

Our first initiative, organised within the #HealthyLifestyle4All framework, was developed by our Young Delegate and Sports Psychologist Tabea Werner.

The aim of the "Mindfulness challenge" is to make mental well-being a priority and bring mindfulness closer to youth. Daily mindfulness training can improve young people's well-being, physical and mental health and reduce stress, depression, and anxiety.

Join our challenge and try the exercises below. Start with exercise 1, and perform one each day for 30 days.

Day 1 – Watch your thoughts.

Draw a line on a piece of paper, write “Past” on the left side, “Present” in the middle and “Future” on the right side. Set a timer for 90 seconds and just notice your thoughts. Is your attention in the present moment? Then put a finger on “present”. Is your mind moving to an event happened a minute, an hour, a week, a month… ago? Then move your finger on the line in direction “past”. Are you thinking about future events? Move your finger right. Wherever your attention is in the 90 seconds, notice it and move your finger.

Day 2 – What is mindfulness?

According to Jon Kabat-Zinn, professor at the University of Massachusetts Medical School and founder of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction, „mindfulness is awareness that arises through paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgementally.” So, mindfulness consists of two parts: attention and acceptance. As you may have noticed in the first exercise yesterday, our thoughts tend to constantly jump between the past (“The training session yesterday was exhausting”) and the future (“I have to prepare the dinner”). Scientists also call this a “monkey mind”. Training mindfulness is also training attention and awareness. It can help to be more often in the present moment.

Day 3 – Did you know that…

…mindfulness training can improve well-being, physical and mental health and reduce stress, depression, and anxiety?

Day 4 – Mindfulness Myth #1

Mindfulness is meditation. That is a myth. Although it is true that you can do a lot of formal mindfulness meditation exercises mindfulness is much more than meditation. You can be mindful watching TV, eating, listening to music, … Mindfulness is more an attitude and a way of living.

Day 5 – Appreciate.

Appreciate one thing today. This can be the sunlight on your skin, a beautiful snowy landscape, delicious food, great music, a conversation…

Day 6 – 3-2-1

Want to try a more formal exercise today to anchor yourself in the present moment?

Notice and name three things you see (e.g., desktop, water glass, pencil) … Three things you hear (e.g., birds, car, rumbling stomach) … and three things you feel (e.g., warmth, back of chair, tension in neck). Now notice and name two things you see. These can be the same you named before or different ones. Two things you hear… and two things you feel. Finally notice and name one thing you can see, one thing you can hear and one thing you feel. You can expand this exercise to 5-4-3-2-1 or shorten it to only one thing – whatever fits in the current situation.

Day 7 – Did you know that…

…regular mindful exercises can change your brain shape and activity? Like training your muscles in the gym, you can train your brain with mindfulness exercises.

Day 8 – Formal vs. Informal exercises

You can practice mindfulness formally by sitting or lying down and meditate. In addition to this you can also practice mindfulness informally by focusing you attention fully on what you are doing.

Day 9 – Do it slowly.

Whenever you feel in a hurry today, do it consciously extra slow.

Day 10 – Mindfulness Myth #2

It is a myth that mindfulness comes from Buddhism. In fact, it has been used in many religions, but it is not a religious practice. It is a mental skill.

11 – Be thankful.

What are you grateful for? Think of one thing today.

12 – Eating mindfully

Nowadays, a lot of people eat on the side while checking the smartphone or watching TV. Or they are in a hurry on the way to the next appointment. Today take your time for a meal. Notice what it looks like – what color, what shape, what size? How does it smell? Does it make any sounds when you touch or chew it? How does it taste and feel in your mouth? Eat slowly and appreciate every bite.

13 – Mindful breathing

Take a deep breath and focus your attention on your breathing. Where can you feel the air? In your nostrils? Your lungs? Notice how your body moves when breathing. Stay with your attention on your breath for 10 breaths.

14 – Mindfulness Myth #3

Sometimes mindfulness exercises can lead to relaxation, but this is not always the case, and it is not the goal of mindfulness. It is a myth that mindfulness is a relaxation technique. For example, you may be mindful when feeling grieve for a loved one, but you may not be relaxed. Similarly, you can be mindful in a sports competition without being relaxed. Rather you often need some tension to perform.

15 – Mindfully listen to music

Half time! If you have done the challenge until today, you have probably learned a bit about mindfulness. Today choose a song and try to listen to it mindfully. That means try to notice all the different parts of the song. Focus for a few seconds on e.g., the guitar, then shift your attention to the drums or the vocals.

16 – Informal practice

Every time you take your smartphone today, take a breath consciously.

17 – Look at an object mindfully.

To get out of the autopilot mode of everyday life and land in the present moment, it can help to consciously perceive an object. To do this, first select an everyday object that is currently close to you. This can be a pen, a cup or the computer mouse. Now focus your full attention on this object. Let your gaze rest on it for a while. Notice the first thing that catches your eye about the object. Now begin to look at the object very closely, as if you had never seen it before. What color or colors does the object have? What shapes can you discover on it? How is the light reflected in the object, where does it cast shadows? Try to explore as much of the object as possible with your eyes. Do not think about the observations; perceive them without judging or classifying them. Let the object be as it is right now. Now you can slowly raise your hand and touch the object. First place a finger on the object. How does the surface feel? Is it smooth or rough? How can you feel the shape? Now run your fingers very slowly along the contours of the object. How do the sensations change as you move? What is the surface like in other places? Let the thoughts and feelings that may arise just move on and return to consciously feeling the object. If possible, you can also take the object completely in your hand. Explore how the object feels in different positions. You can also touch the object with the back of your hand or your fingernails. At the end of the exercise, place the object in front of you one last time and perceive it completely. Take a deep breath and come back into the room with your attention.

18 – Mindfulness Myth #4

A lot of people think that mindfulness is a technique to control or get rid of unwanted thoughts and feelings and instead think positively and feel good. That is a myth. These techniques belong to distraction and avoidance but not mindfulness.

19 – Body Scan

You can do this exercise sitting or standing. Once you have found a comfortable posture, close your eyes, and take a deep breath. This exercise is about consciously noticing your body without judging anything. Now focus your attention on your feet. Notice their shape and the space they occupy. What body sensations can you feel in your feet? Perhaps a tingling sensation or warmth or cold? Now turn your attention to your legs. Feel their length and notice the sensations in your legs. It is also perfectly okay if you feel nothing. Allow the sensations to be as they are in this moment. Now turn your attention to the pelvic area and the buttocks. Again, observe what sensations you can perceive. If you notice that your mind wanders during the exercise, gently notice this, and bring your attention back to the body sensations. Now shift your focus to the abdomen and lower back. Feel the movements of the breath and let all the sensations just be there without judging them. Now shift your attention to the chest area and the upper back. Again, notice the sensations that you can feel at this moment. Now turn your attention to your hands. Notice how your hands lie or Now direct your attention to your arms. Observe the shape and length of your arms and feel the sensations that are present at this moment. Now shift the focus to your face and the entire head. What sensations can you perceive there? Perhaps you notice how the breath flows in and out through the mouth or the nose. Don't judge, just let everything be there. Next, notice your body as a whole. Finally, take a deep breath, move your fingers, and stretch your body.

20 – Informal practice

You know the situation when you are standing at a cash register, waiting for the bus, or sitting in a waiting room and you reach straight for your phone? Today, take this time to practice mindfulness. Turn your attention to your feet and notice what you are feeling - warm, cold, hard, or soft ground? Tight or loose shoes? The contact with the ground, the pressure on the forefoot or heel, inside or outside... Sometimes it is completely different on the left and right. You may shift your weight from front to back, to the left and to the right and feel.