We are masters of multi tasking! We write our emails while listening to the news, we fold laundry while staying on track with the latest TV show, and we read our book while listening to music while commuting to work. Mastering all those necessary habitual tasks, we may find ourselves loosing connection with the present moment and missing out on noticing what we actually do and how we feel.
The reality is – for most of us, a good amount of stress and challenge is part of our everyday lives. We all have our things that we need to get done and accomplish. The most dangerous thing about stress though is how easily it can just creep up on us. And while some people seem to be able to just roll with whatever life throws at them, others stumble upon the smallest obstacles and get caught by moodiness, general unhappiness or feeling overwhelmed.
If you are wondering about an easier way to manage life, this read is for you! It is an introduction to mindfulness.
For me, mindfulness used to be this word that airy-fairy people seemed to be using a lot. I had no idea what it really meant and frankly, wasn’t ever really interested. However these days, it is one of the strongest tools in my toolbox and so I want to share with you a few simple steps how you can start right now.
The practice of mindfulness is simply being aware of what is happening right now.
Pay close attention to your breathing
Start with 5 minutes. Sit quietly and focus on your breathing. Notice the air that goes through your body, the rising and falling sensation. And notice whether your breath is shallow or deep, long or short. Allow thoughts to come and go. When your mind gets distracted, just gently bring the attention back to your breath.
Notice – really notice
Take a moment to be fully aware of a given moment. For example, when you walk, pay attention to your body and how it moves, to the noise of your shoes, to the air on your face and hands. What are the smells? The sounds? What is it that one thing that usually slips by without reaching your conscious awareness, which you can now notice?
Distance yourself from emotions
Allow emotions to be present without judgment. You can practice this by naming them: ‘I feel angry’, ‘happy’, ‘frustrated’ and so forth. Try to catch yourself when such an emotion is present. Just noticing. Try this a few times a day if you can, to train this muscle that eventually allows us to distance ourselves from our emotions.
I suggest you to just start small and only pick one of these exercises to start with. As with all new muscles, until we use them we don’t even know they exist. The key to mindfulness is that this new muscle needs to be trained. Therefore, repeat those exercises over and over again, every day.
And if it still sounds too daunting, simply get a piece of paper and write down one thing that you are grateful for, at this moment in time, and repeat this tomorrow.
Lastly, for those of you who want to know what all of this is for, here is a snapshot of its benefits:
Mindfulness improves our wellbeing. It helps to become more conscious of what is happening here and now, to fully engage in activities or conversations, to experience pleasures more intense. It benefits our physical health, too. It helps us to manage stress better, to even reduce chronic pains and improve our sleep. Plus, it helps to improve our mental health.
There is a ton of good stuff in mindfulness and it is really simple to do! Have fun!