Mindfulness has been a popular topic in the Western world in the last few years, however it’s been around for hundreds of years in the East, as a meditation practice. Thich Naht Hanh, a Buddhist monk says that mindfulness is the energy that helps us recognise the conditions of happiness that are already present in our lives. According to him our true home is not in the past. Our true home is not in the future. Our true home is in the here and the now. “Life is available only in the here and the now, and it is our true home.” We send so much of our lives living in our mind, either reliving the past or thinking about the future, we forget to appreciate the present.
Mindfulness is about being present; experiencing each moment as we live it. It’s about awareness, awareness of our bodies, of our thoughts, and of our reactions. If done correctly it can create a pause between a situations we experience (someone cutting us off in traffic) and our instant reaction to it (getting angry). If we practice mindfulness on a regular basis, our reactions are more considered rather than triggered immediately by our emotions. You may after a brief pause still want to retaliate in an angry manner after being cut off, but that is a choice rather than a reaction.
Mindfulness is described as a form of meditation; however this does not mean that you need to sit and meditate for 10-15mins every day if your lifestyle doesn’t allow it. We can practice mindfulness through everyday tasks, below are a few ways to practice mindfulness whilst going about your day-to-day activities.
Mindful Breathing For this exercise you simply bring your mind and concentration to the breaths you are taking. Feel your lungs filling with air as you breathe in, and feel them exhale as you breathe out. As you breathe in, you breathe in positivity and energy, and as you breathe out, you release the tension you are feeling. When you practice mindful breathing you are simply allowing your breath to take place. You are aware of it and enjoy being in the moment – there are no other worries or thoughts in your mind at that moment. It is effortless.
Mindful Walking Like with Mindful Breathing, Mindful Walking is effortless. Every step is enjoyable. Every step helps you bring your focus back to the world and sensations around you in your present. This is not about doing as many steps as possible in one hour, or distracting yourself with music as a way to go the extra mile. It’s about the joy of walking, taking one step at a time and being in the moment and enjoying it.
Mindful Hobby Practicing Mindfulness whilst doing something creative can be very beneficial in providing you with a break from the worries and stresses of your mind. There are many creative hobbies that require concentration and focus such as model building, painting, adult colouring books are very popular for this reason. Pick a hobby or a project that requires you to work with your hands, one that will pull your focus and concentration into the present and keep it there, blocking out the thoughts and fears that creep into our mind when we let it wander. If you do this often, not only will you have something tangible at the end of it but you would’ve given your mind the space it needs to be quiet, even if it for a little while.
Mindful Listening Most of never really put our thoughts and stresses to one side and truly listen to the person in front of us. There is always a constant narrative, even if it is to do with what the other person is talking about; what we’re going to say next or what advice we should give. Next time, someone is talking to you, just concentrate entirely on what they saying. By focusing on them, you are drawn back into the present, you are aware of only the conversation you are having, and any narrative in your mind is quietened.
Mindful Eating Food is a source of comfort for so many of us, we all enjoy eating, but there have been times where many of us have finished a meal in a rush and not really tasted it. Either from lack of time, watching TV, working or even being distracted by our feelings, we’ve missed out on the delicious taste and smell of our food. If you focus your attention on food while eating, concentrating on tasting it, chances ae you’ll feel more satisfied and nourished afterwards.
Our lives are lived in the present. If we are preoccupied with our memories of the past and our fears of the future, we miss out on the present. If we continuously miss out on the present, we feel that we are not really living life, and that it’s getting away from us. This can lead to deeper feelings of emptiness and our mental health can deteriorate. Even if you pick one of the above and make that transition from past/future back into your present on a daily basis, your mental health will improve.