By Maya Jelin, Wellness Consultant & Health Coach, Pickering
Mindfulness seems to be that fad word everyone seems to be tossing around, but not many understand the true meaning of it, nor practice it daily.
So what is mindfulness and do I want some of that?
Mindfulness is about training yourself to pay attention in a specific way.
When a person is mindful, they are;
- Focused on a present moment
- Not worrying about anything that went on in the past, or that might be coming up in future
- Not being judgmental about anything they notice
We spend so much time thinking over stuff that happens, or worrying about things that may be happening in the future, that often we actually forget to appreciate or enjoy the moment.
Mindfulness is a way of bringing us back to experience life as it happens.
When you are mindful, it:
- Gives you a clear head
- Slows down your thoughts
- Slows down your nervous system
- Gives your body time to heal
- Lets you relax
- Helps you cope with stress
- Helps you be more aware of yourself, your body and your environment
The good news is that you can build mindfulness using a lot of different strategies, and it will have a good impact on your physical and mental health.
People who are mindful;
- Have decreased anxiety
- Have decreased depression
- Are less angry and moody
- Have a better memory
- Are able to learn properly and solve problem easier
- Are happier
- Are more emotionally stable
- Have better breathing
- Have lower heart rates
- Have improved circulation
- Have better immunity
- Sleep better and are better able to cope with pain
- Have a better sense of who they are
Here are a few mindful exercises you can try at any time, any place:
• Mindful Breathing
This exercise can be done standing up or sitting down, and pretty much anywhere at any time. All you have to do is be still and focus on your breath for just one minute.
Start by breathing in and out slowly. One cycle should last for approximately 6 seconds. Breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth, letting your breath flow effortlessly in and out of your body.
Let go of your thoughts for a minute. Let go of things you have to do later today or pending projects that need your attention. Simply let yourself be still for one minute.
Purposefully watch your breath, focusing your senses on its pathway as it enters your body and fills you with life, and then watch it work its way up and out of your mouth as its energy dissipates into the world.
If you are someone who thought they‘d never be able to meditate, guess what? You are half way there already! If you enjoyed one minute of this mind-calming exercise, why not try two or three?
• Mindful Observation
This exercise is simple but incredibly powerful. It is designed to connect us with the beauty of the natural environment, something that is easily missed when we are rushing around in the car or hopping on and off trains on the way to work.
Choose a natural object from within your immediate environment and focus on watching it for a minute or two. This could be a flower or an insect, or even the clouds or the moon.
Don‘t do anything except notice the thing you are looking at. Simply relax into a harmony for as long as your concentration allows. Look at it as if you are seeing it for the first time. Visually explore every aspect of its formation. Allow yourself to be consumed by its presence. Allow yourself to connect with its energy and its role and purpose in the natural world. 10
• Mindful Awareness
This exercise is designed to cultivate a heightened awareness and appreciation of simple daily tasks and the results they achieve.
Think of something that happens every day more than once; something you take for granted, like opening a door, for example. At the very moment you touch the doorknob to open the door, stop for a moment and be mindful of where you are, how you feel in that moment and where the door will lead you. Similarly, the moment you open your computer to start work, take a moment to appreciate the hands that enable this process and the brain that facilitates your understanding of how to use the computer.
These touch point cues don‘t have to be physical ones. For example: each time you think a negative thought you might choose to take a moment to stop, label the thought as unhelpful and release the negativity. Or, perhaps each time you smell food, you take a moment to stop and appreciate how lucky you are to have good food to eat and share with your family and friends.
Choose a touch point that resonates with you today. Instead of going through your daily motions on autopilot, take occasional moments to stop and cultivate purposeful awareness of what you are doing and the blessings it brings your life.
Keep in mind that the cultivation of moment-by-moment awareness of our surrounding environment is a practice that helps us better cope with the difficult thoughts and feelings that cause us stress and anxiety in everyday life.
With regular practice of mindfulness exercises, rather than being led on auto-pilot by emotions influenced by negative past experiences and fears of future occurrences, we harness the ability to root the mind in the present moment and deal with life‘s challenges in a clear-minded, calm, assertive way.