Have you ever found your thoughts fleeting, jumping into one another? Have you ever felt that maybe you were a little too harsh while driving today, and things would be calmer if you had just stopped and taken a breath? Have you ever felt tired, and even burnt out at work because you haven’t pressed pause for a while? Or maybe you’ve realized that you’re not giving your 100% to the task at the hand, and you are definitely capable of so much more! Slowly, one day after the other, you go about your lives in an auto-pilot mode. You wake up, get ready, go to work, slog and strive to meet deadlines, come back home, and go to bed. The same routine goes on for 10-20-30 years. And then one day when you wake up, you realize that so much time has gone by! And yet, nothing of what has happened seems significant to you. You’ve lived your life in such a mind ‘less’ manner that life has just passed you by. You weren’t aware of your thoughts, your emotions and your capabilities; you kept juggling between things and didn’t stop for a moment to just let everything seep in.
I know it’s a scary picture that I paint. It’s scary for me too! Thankfully, there is something that we CAN do to avert such a crisis. We can live life more fully by cultivating the practice of mindfulness as a part of our daily routine.
Mindfulness simply means ‘putting our full mind (read mental abilities and resources) to the situation in front of us’. In other words, it refers to being fully present and aware in the here-and-now while keeping the frets of the past and the worries of the future at bay. Mindfulness allows us to cultivate a sense of calm by replacing over-reactiveness and over-sensitivity. In simpler terms, it guides us to be in the present as fully as possible, with all our thoughts, emotions and physical sensations, and fearlessly experiencing each event as it happens.
Given our limited understanding of the term, we often understand mindfulness as traditional practices of seated meditation. However today, we have moved beyond that view and adapted mindfulness to fit many other activities – mindful eating, mindful listening, mindful walking, mindful working, mindful studying and so on. The list is endless. The idea behind this is two-fold –
It indicates that mindfulness is not a restrictive practice but something which can be incorporated in any activity, thus requiring us to be fully present in it
Mindfulness is not just a 5-minute activity but rather a full-day, all-day, every-day state of being
While mindfulness has become a trend today, engaging in a genuine mindful practice is tricky. This is due to the state of our current minds, bodies and environment. Today’s world is highly stimuli driven. We are bombarded with different stimuli at each stage, sometimes many at once, which makes it very challenging to attend to each stimulus fully. We also live in a fast-paced, competitive world which rewards quick task completions and faster processing of events, all at the risk of being caught up in an endless, mindless loop. As a result, we often end up multi-tasking and juggling between tasks without being fully attentive and present to any one of them. Lastly, with the current invasion of gadgets, social media and the omniscient internet, we are training ourselves to ‘react’ rather than ‘respond’ to things in a thoughtful manner.
Despite these challenges, the practice of mindfulness is definitely worth a try! Research today has grown leaps and bounds in trying to highlight the numerous benefits mindfulness has on our physical, mental, social and emotional well-being. Mindfulness has almost become a single answer to many questions – How do we reduce stress? How do we perform better at work/academics/sports? How do I pay more attention to my needs and those of others? How do I become more compassionate? How do I remain calm and composed? How do I maintain a steady emotional state? How do I increase my self-awareness and gain more insight into my behaviour? How do I sleep better? How do I…and mindfulness is almost always the answer to it!
To highlight a few of the benefits:
Mindfulness helps us combat stress and reduce the chances of burn out
By increasing our ability to focus and pay full attention, it also enhances our performance of a specific task. This may be work, sports, academics, cooking, socializing, and so on. Any task done with mindfulness is found to be more enhanced than average tasks done on an autopilot mode
It helps us gain more control over our thoughts and emotions. By allowing us to pause before ‘re’acting, mindfulness helps us remain calm and composed while observing our actions and their consequences enfold subsequently
For many of us, mindfulness is the path to sound sleep. By helping us keep stress at bay and experiencing a sense of fullness and positivity, it often results in individuals experiencing deep, relaxed and restorative sleep
Studies have also indicated that mindfulness is useful in keeping mental illnesses such as anxiety and depression at bay. By maintaining a balance of sorts, it helps us alleviate our mood and our mental well-being, thus acting as a protective factor against various mental illnesses
Mindfulness also improves our interpersonal relationships. This is often a by-product of increased sensitivity and awareness of other’s needs combined with mindful communication, thus allowing an easy sail through different relationships
Lastly, practicing mindfulness daily for regular periods of time has also found to slow down ageing and increase one’s longevity!
All of us want to reap these benefits but practicing mindfulness daily is challenging! Let me give you one tip to make it a little easier – try and focus on your breath when you want to be mindful of your situation. You can focus on how the inflow and outflow of breath feels in your nostrils and how your chest rises and falls each time you breathe. You will slowly notice your thoughts slowing down and aligning with your emotions, a sense of calmness washing over you, and heightened attention and awareness of the task in front of you. And voila, you’ve just made a small attempt at being mindful! Let us realize that we hold the key to mindfulness within us – our breath. This realization is so powerful yet so humbling. This article was written by Ms. Trivedi, a therapist on our platform. She is a passionate mental health advocate who believes that mental health services should be accessible and available to all. She believes that people are strong and powerful with immense capacity to become the best versions of themselves. Click here to book your first therapy session.
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