Mindfulness is a mantra we hear repeated often these days. When practiced, it is known to reduce stress levels. It promises to sharpen your focus, improve our mood and boost your immunity too. No wonder, people from all walks of life are trying to reach that so-called blissful spot called Mindfulness. But the irony of the situation is that most of us want mindfulness like we get instant coffee – in a minute! And that’s never going to happen. So, how do we go about it?
To put it simply, mindfulness is all about taking a pause, and being aware and observant about what is happening in and around us, without being judgmental. With mindfulness, we notice when we’re distracted and what has drawn our attention away from the present moment. We consciously choose if we want to stay in that place of distraction or come back to what’s happening in the present moment. Mindfulness practice helps us filter out irrelevant information so we can be more effective.
Here are a few points in your daily life in which you can try to bring mindfulness:
What’s the first thing you do when you get up? More often than not, the answer is going to be – reach for the phone. Even before the senses have had the time to be alert, we bulldoze them into an addictive habit that does not let us think, and holds all the senses to ransom.
To bring mindfulness – Try to spend at least the first 30 minutes of your day without checking your phone, unless you have an emergency. Use this time to collect your thoughts, plan your day (without a gadget) or bond with your family.
Irrespective of where we have to wait – at the school while picking up kids, at the doctor’s, in a supermarket queue or at a traffic signal, we hate waiting, and we will do anything to avoid facing it. The moment we anticipate a wait time, we are already looking for distractions. And we ignore such a huge opportunity to be mindful.
To bring mindfulness – When life tosses you lemons of waiting time, make lemonade mixed with deep breaths, calming exercises or simply having a conversation with yourself. You will start noticing the people around you, the changes in the landscape of your city, or how the children smile when they spot their parents waiting for them outside the school – a surefire way to bring a smile to your face, too!
We mostly eat a rushed meal – a hurried breakfast as we are getting late for work or a working lunch at the desk. Dinners are mostly consumed in the company of some television program or a video. We don’t even notice what we are eating, or if we are really full. Eating, of all things, has become the most abused victim of auto-pilot.
To bring mindfulness – Pause before you eat. Think and decide – do you really want to eat the entire portion in front of you, or is it the sheer force of habit? Are you making sure you are eating a balanced diet? Are you eating out too often? Are you setting the example of right eating habits in front of your children? After all, the children don’t do what they are taught, they do what they see.
“We travel not to escape life, but for life not to escape us”, said a wise man. And yet, most of the time, our holidays are actually a reflection of our working days. Finding a popular holiday spot, ticking off all the attractions on the sightseeing list, and essentially doing it as a chore is all too common for today’s holidays.
To bring mindfulness – Truly unwind. Disconnect from the world. Enjoy the solitude. Observe the surroundings. Listen to your body. Try this, and see the difference in the stress levels.
Yes, we must exercise. Being fit is essential. But even a simple walk or a jog or a bit of exercise comes attached with a machine these days. If it’s not indoors in a gym, we stuff our ears with headphones and walk, without looking anywhere in particular. When was the last time you were able to identify a tree on the roadside? Or when did you stop to admire the beauty of a flower that bloomed after months?
To bring mindfulness – Try leaving your iPod behind for one of your jogs/ walks. Instead, focus on the sounds of nature and observe your breathing. Apart from making you more conscious of your surroundings, it will also give you mental peace and relaxation.
As Shakespeare writes in Hamlet, “There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.” Mindfulness isn’t asking your mind not to think, it’s asking it to focus its attention. All you have to do is to think less about mindfulness, and practice it more.
Hear Colleen Lightbody speak about mindfulness at ReThink – TEDxHyderabad 2018.