Mindfulness is such a buzzword these days. It gets thrown around in the fitness sphere, the workplace, as conference topics, it’s even a thing in schools! But what does it really mean?
It is a misconception to say that mindfulness is sitting in meditation with a blank mind. Whilst there is an element of meditation in mindfulness, the essence of mindfulness is to be present and aware in an accepting and non-judgemental way.
Simply put, it is living in the moment.
The goal of mindfulness isn’t to stop thinking, or to empty the mind. Rather, the point is to pay close attention to your physical sensations, thoughts and emotions in order to see them more clearly, without making assumptions, or being consumed by the story. It is not about emptying your mind but, instead, it is about focusing so much on the present moment, that you embody the notion that this very moment is the only place that truly exists.
In today’s day with the increasing prevalence of social media and living in the age of immediate gratification, more than ever, mindfulness matters.
Being more mindful helps with stress reduction, as it helps cultivate a focused mind and by doing so, increases mental tranquility. And today, increasing research is being conducted on the effects of being more mindful and we are finding a growing body of evidence leading to the measurable effects of mindfulness on the body and brain.
So how can you implement mindfulness into your daily lifestyle, the workplace and your home?
- Meditation – Meditation is perhaps the first thing that will come to your mind when we talk about mindfulness, so I will start with that! Meditation brings us back to the present moment, and gives us the tools we need to be less stressed, calmer and kinder to ourselves and others. A simple and achievable meditation technique is to take a moment to sit in contemplation, ideally at the same time every day, and become aware of thoughts that are coming in and out of your mind. With this awareness, you will discover the transient nature of thoughts and over time develop a practice to simply let go of any thoughts that no longer serve you. We then develop the ability to choose to pay attention to them or not. The days you don’t have time for meditation are the days you need it the most!
- Yoga classes – The physical practice of yoga helps to slow our entire nervous system down and discover the connection between mind, body and soul. Regularly practicing this connection helps us come into a state of mindfulness, connection and presence. If you have never practiced yoga before, I recommend you try three classes before deciding whether it’s for you or not!
- Intention setting – Setting an intention is very different from goal setting. Intentions are often about the journey and not necessarily a finite point. Examples of intention settling is ‘achieving more flow in life’; ‘living in alignment with your core values’; ‘being more empathetic’. And intentions can change day to day. What is your intention for today?
- Breath work – There are many breathing techniques that can help you be more present and mindful. Sama Vritti, equal breathing, is a simple and effective technique used to help focus on the present moment. With the mouth closed, inhale and exhale through the nose in a slow and even manner. The breath is coming all the way down to your belly with little or no movement in the chest. Slowly deepen your breath as much as comfortable. Starting your breath cycle inhale for a count of 4. Hold the breath for a count of 4. Exhale for a count of 4. Hold the breath out for a count of 4.
To start, repeat the four-part cycle for 4-6 rounds of breath. Once you get more experienced and comfortable with this style of breathing, I recommend you increase the duration to 15 cycles (or more if you manage to stay focused and present)!
- Focus on the task at hand – Multitasking has been proven to be ineffective and the actual quality of the work suffers. By simply being more focused on one task, we are coming back to the present moment and in turn practising being more mindful.
- Take scheduled brain breaks – It is so important to schedule short ‘brain breaks’ throughout the day. These are moments (about 7-8 minutes is all you need) of planned solitude to provide the silence needed to focus on thoughts of the soul, rather than thoughts of the mind which in turn increases mindfulness. With the frantic pace of our modern lives, it’s become harder to find quiet moments, hence the need to schedule them into our busy calenders. So plan some moments throughout the day to go for a walk and just let the mind wonder where ever it wants to wonder and simply observe those thoughts.
Mindfulness is about focusing on the task at hand and entering a state of flow which means that we can work on something effectively and efficiently, without confusing the mind.