What do you do when there’s a pandemic out there? Here’s one effective thing you can practise- mindfulness. Mindfulness has moved into the mainstream in recent years, becoming a widespread tool across offices and homes that helps with keeping ourselves calm and focused on the things that matter most to us. With the stressful times we’re in right now, it’s more needed than ever. Issues at work? A global economic fallout? As chaotic as everything may seem, we can, slowly but surely, get to working on solving the world’s problems. To get a good start, what’s better than starting from within to ensure that you have a good head on your shoulders?
So here are six tips that will get you started on, as well as help with your journey ahead. With clarity and less stress, you’ll be more equipped to handle whatever that comes your way.
1. First up: What’s this mindfulness that I’ve been hearing about?
According to the founder of Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) and one of the pioneers in the field, Jon Kabat Zinn, mindfulness refers to the awareness that arises through paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment and without judgement.
2. Okay that sounds great, but how do I meditate?
One of the easiest versions of this involves sitting in a quiet space in a comfortable position, closing your eyes, clearing your head and focusing on the breath. Using your breath as an anchor, focus on the present moment and let go of any thoughts and emotions that pass. It’s often recommended that you keep your arms and legs uncrossed and feet flat on the floor, and that the back is kept straight (but not too tense). There are many different variations of mindfulness, including the body scan, yoga meditation, as well as mindfulness exercises that also include the practice of gratitude. Start with something simple that works and experiment to find a style that you like. There’s no need to get worried about all the different types out there-lots of time to explore to see what fits you best!
3. Start small
Also, getting into mindfulness doesn’t have to mean a strict, 20-minute session in a yoga pose! Especially for beginners, you can go with short, manageable sessions lasting 5-10, or even 3 minutes long. Remember- this isn’t a competition, the process is the most important. What matters is that you’re preserving clarity of mind and peace along the way.
4. Don’t judge!
It is completely normal if your mind wanders and drifts into unrelated territory, so don’t fret! Simply and gently bring your attention back to your breath and the present moment. This inability to focus at first is a cause of stress and anxiety for some, but there’s no need to get worried at all over your mind drifting a lot. This isn’t a race, nor is it an exam- remember, cultivating mindfulness is a personal journey!
5. It doesn’t have to be formal!
You could even practise mindfulness while eating: Slow down and notice the flavour and texture of the food, really taste it. You could be mindful while walking to work as well- what sounds do you hear? What do you see on your way? Getting curious about everything around you can prove to be a really rewarding experience- if we care to look, there are so many details in our day-to-day that pass us by because we’re too caught up with our lives to notice the little things. You could also grab a few minutes while taking the train. Rather than scrolling through your newsfeed to pass the time, why not take a few minutes to breathe and notice the sensations of your breath and body? The practising of mindfulness is a lot more flexible than most people think. It doesn’t need to be done at home, on a cushion- you can be mindful while you’re eating and while you’re on the go. All that matters is that you’re in tune with the present moment.
6. As always, there’s an app for that
There are lots of guided exercises available on smartphone apps that can help you start and maintain an easy mindfulness routine. Also, they’re often already sorted for you, whether by type or time needed. They could be 5 minutes or 15 minutes; some focus on the breath while others are more about noticing and letting go of thoughts and emotions. Some exercises are even tailored to your daily activities- guided sessions meant to complement your meals, outdoor walks and to provide the technology breaks that everyone needs when work gets too much. So- if you don’t know what to do, or just want more guidance, simply plug in your headphones and pick whatever you feel like doing. Some examples of apps in this space to get you going: Smiling Mind and Headspace .
Doesn’t all this sound a bit like escaping from reality, you ask? Not quite! Practising mindfulness is a good way of pressing the pause button on our hectic lives to rest and recharge. Rather than escapism, it’s a valuable tool that can help us regulate our emotions and manage stress. When we’re able to pay careful attention to ourselves and others, we’ll be more able to act more altruistically and make wise decisions. As always, remember that you’re not alone! Many people are, like you, just starting to tap into the numerous resources available in starting their own mindfulness journey. What this means is: even if the outside world is full of chaos, we’ve got this.
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