Have you ever felt overwhelmed?
Do you ever feel like you have a million things going on in your mind?
Thoughts like, what should I make for dinner for the family to work related stress then wondering what happened over the weekend?
Then you have the added responsibility of taking out the trash, sometimes even taking work home and answering emails, or just taking out the dog for a walk might seem like a chore as you have so many other priorities to tend to. Ever felt easily agitated because of this?
Have you ever forgot a person’s name the second after you’ve heard it?
Is there a way to overcome all this stress and lack of attention, and take control of our wandering mind? Yes, and the answer is: practice mindfulness.
What is mindfulness or being mindful?
Do you remember when you were a kid running and playing around without any worries? Remember that time you were just focused on playing or focused on an activity and you forgot the time? Unknowingly, you were at that point practicing mindfulness.
According to Dr. Mark Sherman “Mindfulness is a practice of being alive. It is a state of intentional, non judgemental awareness of what is here and now.” In our adulthood, often times we are too consumed with worries about the future or too focused on the past and past experiences that we forget to live in the now. I know I have to, from time to time, remind myself to come back to the present when my mind has drifted off to the future or the past.
Honing the skill of mindfulness is powerful as it empowers us to take hold of our lives again. For example, when we live in the past and hold a grudge on someone who have done us bad, we then get upset or angry. In that moment we have just given power to that same person all over again as they now control how we are feeling.
Or when we are fearful of the outcome of the future we have just given something that has not happened and may never happen the power over our own emotions. Pulling ourselves back into the present and acknowledging where we are at and being grateful for all the experiences we have had to bring us to where we are today allows us to take that power of our emotions back into our own hands. To me, that’s empowering.
We can’t change the past nor can we change the future, so being grateful and kind to ourselves is something that we can do right now.
Honing The Skill of Mindfulness Through Practice
Note that Mindfulness or the practice of it isn’t belonging to one religion or another. It is simply a learned skill to improve the quality of your life. It is a skill that empowers you to take deliberate action that is aligned with your values.
The formal practice of meditation involves an intentional commitment of time usually in the form of meditation. Practicing formal mindfulness meditation allows us to train ourselves to bring mindfulness into our daily lives (informal practice)
Forms of formal meditation:
- Seated meditation
- Walking meditation
- Eating meditation
- Body scans
- Pick a time of day: Choose a time that you can be consistent with day after day. In order for this practice to be effective it must be made into a daily routine.
- Set a time limit: A good starting point is 5-10 minutes of guided meditation.
- Find a quiet spot and take a seat: It could be in your room or at the park or even in the car before driving off to work.
- Feel comfortable: The more comfortable you are, the less you will think about it during your meditation. Sit in a way that feels good for you, whether that is in a lotus position or upright in a chair. Just make sure you are in a wakeful position, meaning a position you will not easily fall asleep.
- Close your eyes
- Notice your breath: Focusing on your breathing will help you to be in the present. Your mind will wander from time to time and it’s ok. Be kind to yourself and acknowledge where it has taken you without judgement and refocus on your breath to bring you back to the present. It may help to think of the words “breathing in” when you inhale and “breathing out” when you exhale to keep your mind focused in the moment.
Importance of Mindfulness
We are in an era where our sympathetic nervous system (fight or flight response) is constantly activated as we live in a high stress environment. From worrying about credit card payments to high-stress career to having a cup of coffee (caffeine automatically puts our body into a stress mode). What happens then is our heart rate increases, pupils dilate, adrenal release, and digestive system shuts down. Only the systems to ensure our survival is active.
As you can see, our bodies can take a toll when subjected to such stress over a period of time.
So the next time your boss slams down another stack of urgent reports to finish, take a few deep breaths and invite a positive and relaxed response through mindfulness focusing on those breaths. This action allows our parasympathetic nervous system (PNS) to be activated and shutting down the sympathetic nervous system. PNS is the “rest and digest” response, opposite that of SNS. In this mode we have lower blood pressure, our heart rates doesn’t speed up, better sleep, and better digestion.
Here’s a thought, have you ever felt so stressed or angry that you have lost all your appetite? Interesting isn’t it?
If you want to invite more happiness, increase quality of life and well-being, and reduced stress and anxiety, then make mindfulness meditation a daily part of your life