According to Psychology Today, mindfulness is “a state of active, open attention on the present. When you’re mindful, you observe your thoughts and feelings from a distance, without judging them good or bad. Instead of letting your life pass you by, mindfulness means living in the moment and awakening to experience”. Now, that may sound fairly simple and straight forward but let me assure you it is not that easy! We live in a world where our daily lives are filled with so many different gadgets, devices, apps and appliances that are designed and created for the specific purpose to make our lives and jobs easier, our tasks simpler and quicker, and to relieve daily stressors by making just about everything available through a single tap on our cell phone screen.
However, in this attempt to bring ease and accessibility at our fingertips, we have managed to complicate things more. Where there were once 5 ways to communicate, there are now 5,000 ways to communicate. Where there was a time when we had one landline phone which didn’t dial International numbers and letters would be handwritten and placed in the mailbox, to an era of Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat and Instagram (to name a few) in which information, location, photographs, and videos are share instantly or even live.
In a world filled with time-saving options, why are we constantly short on time? Today, when communication across the globe is so accessible and quick, why do we still feel like we haven’t had a decent conversation with our family members living under the same roof is so long? With all the advancements and ease, why do we find people so much more anxious and stressed out? The complex impact of social media, the Internet, and our communication systems on our home and work environments is enormous and many of us are oblivious.
This is where the concept of mindfulness comes into play. It is a mental state that we shouldn’t just try to achieve, it has become a necessity to gain some peace of mind in our haphazard world! It takes commitment and some effort, but once you make a habit of applying a few tips and techniques to your daily lives, it will become like second nature and assuredly have a profound impact on your stress and anxiety levels and your overall perception of life.
You don’t really need to go anywhere to learn mindfulness, read on to learn a few things you can do in the comfort of your own homes:
1. Take a day to disconnect. Per Louise Jensen, an award winning Naturopathic Kinesiologist, Mindfulness Meditation Coach and Nutritional Therapist, it is important to take a day out of your week where you detach and disconnect. Turn off your electronic devices, tablets, TV’s, stereos etc. and just let the silence kick in. Without having those constant distractions of a message tone beeping, a phone ringing, the canned laughter of a sitcom, or a new Facebook notification, you can view your home and surroundings with a fresher and clearer perspective. Take time out to notice the view outside your window, cook a nutritious meal with love and attention, pay attention to what you are eating, take a shower with your senses heightened noticing the temperature and the water pressure, connect with nature by doing some gardening, take a walk. You would be surprised how a day spent like this can lower your stress levels and give you a fresh boost.
2. Realize and accept that you DO have time. With our rushed and hectic schedules, we often feel like the day has whizzed past and we barely had a moment to think straight let alone spend quality time with our loved ones. Elisha and Stephanie Goldstein, both Clinical Psychologists, emphasize that balancing all of life’s demands can be stressful and time-consuming. It can often feel like there isn’t enough time to really connect with your family. By slowing down enough to find small moments in each day to make a connection with each other—from saying “good morning” to your children in a loving way or sitting down to a meal together, there are so many small moments through which we can connect. Having these moments, even if they are fleeting, are vital for our mental well-being.
3. Incorporate breathing exercises into your daily routine. Sarah Vaynerman, the founder of NYC-based wellness company Work from Om, says that meditation is a simple and effective way to steady the mind, give clarity to your thoughts and help you to manage stress. Incorporating basic breathing meditations into your day can help you to “slow things down, increase your productivity and your ability to make rational decisions in high stress situations”, says Vaynerman. Sarah has step-by-step techniques of short breathing exercises that work to activate the parasympathetic nervous system – the relaxation response – which involves regulating your breathing in a way which, in turn, lowers our heart rate and blood pressure quite effectively. For example, Vaynerman walks us through a one-minute breathing exercise like this: Close your eyes and take a deep breath in for a count of four, and then exhale for a count of eight. As you inhale, visualize the movement of oxygen through your respiratory system. As you inhale, imagine any stress you’ve been holding float away. Repeat five times.
4. Do one thing at a time. This seems kind of impossible to most of us today, when being able to multitask at a fast rate is seen as a very positive trait. Consciously stop yourself from doing this. If you are eating, savor your food, pay attention to what is on your plate, chew with awareness, rather than shoving forkfuls of food in your mouth as you watch TV and reply to emails on your phone. If you are watching a movie, just relax and enjoy it rather than texting a friend in the middle and liking a few photos on Facebook. Try and put your full energy and concentration in one single task at a time, you will find you are getting thing done quicker, more efficiently, and with less stress.
5. Have fun! I know that sounds cliché, or even obvious, but it is the truth which is why it is repeated so often. We often forget that we are entitled to and deserve some time off to do something we enjoy and have fun doing. Whether it be going out for a movie with friends, playing Scrabble with your sister, or flying a kite in the park with your kids; just make sure to allow yourself the time to brush away all the responsibilities and to-do lists and just let go and be entertained! Give yourself permission to “let your hair down” (as the saying goes) and just relax your mind.
Mindfulness is a broad and open field which you can explore and discover as much as you please. There are many things you can do to make yourself more presently aware and less worried about mistakes from the past and consequences of the future. But, like everything else in life, you must start somewhere. Do attempt to put in a bit of effort and incorporate some, or ideally all, of the tips mentioned above and take note of the impact it has on your life. I would love to hear your insights!
Vaynerman, S. (2016, April 13). 3 Easy Mindfulness Meditation Techniques to Practice at Home or at the Office. Retrieved from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/sarah-vaynerman/three-easy-mindfulness-me_b_9674614.html
Jensen, L. (2015, April 28). 7 Tips To Make Your Home A Mini Mindfulness Retreat. Retrieved from https://www.mindbodygreen.com/0-18483/7-tips-to-make-your-home-a-mini-mindfulness-retreat.html
Goldstein, E & Goldstein, S. (2015, July 24). 5 Ways to Bring Mindfulness Home. Retrieved from http://www.mindful.org/5-ways-to-bring-mindfulness-home/