Have you noticed “Mindfulness” is popping up in the media and even the corporate world, and wondered what the fuss is all about? Here’s a quick summary of what it is, why it’s so powerful, and how you can get a bit of the action.
“If you correct your mind, the rest of your life will fall in place.” Lao-tzu
Mindfulness, put simply, is being aware of what’s happening both internally and externally in your world, in the present moment. That’s the key, “in the present moment”.
Mindfulness is so powerful firstly because it creates awareness of what’s happening inside and out, and only what you are aware of you can change or at least manage. Aware of the self-talk, body tension in response to outside events and interactions, pending illness and emotions.
Secondly, mindfulness is powerful because it brings your awareness to the present moment, the only moment in your life that is actually real at that point. Think about it, the past moments are gone, and the future moments are not yet here. It is only in the present moment you can create your future. In the present moment what you think, feel, absorb and give meaning to, that’s what creates your future. So doesn’t it make sense that the more aware you are of what is actually happening, the more empowered your decision-making?
Thirdly, mindfulness is powerful in decreasing stress, anxiety and depression because those three states are created in your mind by time travelling to the past and/or future. Created by reliving, therefore feeling in your body, past negative experiences, and imagining them happening again in the future. Created by time travelling into the future and imagining all the ‘what-ifs’ of failure, rejection, danger. Being present, aka mindfulness, means those frightening or sad experiences no longer exist. Your body can relax letting the stress and tension go, feel safe, heal and without the past/future head trash, your mind can clearly focus on solutions and actions needed right now.
So how can you tap into the magic of mindfulness? There are many ways, but the first step is always breathing. When you’re stressed you tend to breathe shallowly, so your lungs become clogged with stale air. Breathe in for a count of 3, and slowly out for a count of 6, feeling the relaxation flow all the way down your body. Once you are feeling relaxed, balanced breathing in for six, and out for six works best. You can continue simply focussing on your breathing if that works well for you.
If you prefer more active mindfulness, choose a sense e.g. smell, hearing, sight, touch, taste (only if you are having refreshments – licking trees and building is a bit weird), and go for a walk, or stand looking out a window, focussing on that sense. If you choose sight, pick a colour, object, animal or people rather than go into overwhelm. To stay present it’s important to observe without judgement or a conversation in your head. If you feel anxious, remind yourself, “Right here, right now, I’m safe” and focus on calming your breathing. If other thoughts intrude, gently without self-criticism, flick them into the bin, back in the past or out into the future to be dealt with when you finish. Note, I didn’t say “worry about” or “later”.
When you’ve finished, whether it’s been 2 or 10 minutes, notice and enjoy how calm and relaxed you feel, and continue with your day, giving yourself permission to pause for a few moments to regain that mindfulness whenever needed.
Note: if you have stressed yourself into a state of anxiety, depression or ill-health, in addition to these exercises, seek professional help to clear that ‘head trash’ and the underlying causes out of your life for good sooner rather than later.