Are you the sort of person who dismisses mindfulness as a new-age technique meant for monks, yogis and hippies? You shouldn't. Being fully present and aware of your thoughts and feelings helps you enjoy a better quality of life overall.
Mindfulness mostly comes down to two main premises: attention and acceptance. Attention involves focusing on what is happening in the present by directing your awareness to your breath, thoughts, feelings and the physical sensations in your body, while acceptance involves observing those feelings and sensations without judgement. It is a beautiful, powerful way of living that draws our attention to the present moment, requiring us to operate as observers of our emotions, thoughts and actions. It also trains us to be non-judgemental and allows us to ride our challenging moments with grace releasing us from strong negative emotions.
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You can practice mindfulness anytime and anywhere. For instance, if your daughter interrupts you while you are working from home, you can be mindful by actually listening to her and bringing your attention to your thoughts and emotions at that moment. This will help you respond to her and help your child thrive. Or, while you are eating, bring your focus to your meal's taste, texture, and aroma.
With sustained practice, you will realize that focusing on the present can be a liberating experience and can change your entire perspective. It helps us reset and focus better, which is essential for our mental and physical well-being. And in today's time, we need it more than ever.
In today's fast-paced life, we are all juggling multiple roles. We are striving to be good parents, spouses, and friends while also trying to be high-performing employees. Something's got to give, and it is usually our mental health. Practising mindfulness can inspire us to take meaningful pauses and be less reactive. Scientific research shows that after a few months of practice, the emotional centres of our brain around the amygdala become quieter.
Here is how you stay mindful
Engage with senses
Listen to the sounds, identify the smells, and watch what's in front of you. Firing your senses will ease you into the present moment and help you reset.
Saying "thank you" to someone or feeling grateful for something that is a source of joy brings positive emotions to the fore and helps you re-centre.
Listen to your body
Observe what different sensations you are feeling. Is your head heavy or light, your heartbeat fast or slow or are your eyes tired? Doing this will bring your attention to the present and help you connect with your body.
Some of the ways we could easily incorporate mindfulness into our daily life
While sipping coffee or tea
Sit comfortably, feel the warmth and shape of the glass, smell the aroma, and savour the taste and flavour. Focus on how the liquid feels on your tongue, how sweet it tastes or watch the steam that it gives off.
While brushing your teeth
Feel your feet on the floor, the brush in your hand, and your arm moving up and down.
While doing dishes
Savour the feeling of the warm water on your hands, the look of the bubbles, and the sounds of the pans clunking on the bottom of the sink.
While doing laundry
Pay attention to the clean clothes' smell and the fabric's feel.
Relax your hands and grip the wheel and focus your sight on the roads and landscape. Feel the wind on your hair and skin, listen to the sound of the car
Pay attention to the taste, sight and textures of what you eat.
Mindful walking or running
Notice the breeze against your skin, the feeling of feet or hands against different textures on the ground and the different smells and sights around you.
Try a body scan
Move your attention slowly to different parts of your body. Start from the top of your head and move all the way down to the end of your toes. Focus on feelings of warmth, tension, tingling or relaxation of different parts of your body.
Keeping a journal to note down all the things you have been grateful for and focusing on the .opportunities offered to you is also a great way to practice mindfulness.
Not everybody has the bandwidth to give a lot. However, trying to give, even a little, helps bring perspective and offers the satisfaction that comes from helping someone.
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While at work
When you are feeling overwhelmed, a quick session of even focused breathwork (five to seven minutes) of mindful breathing – focusing on your breath – can help quieten the chaos of emotions and thoughts and gently train your attention to stop wandering.
As a parent
Encourage your children to express themselves openly, to communicate with you and in the process, make them feel safe and supported.
Inputs from Bavitha Thomas, Psychologist, Mpower Pune Centre and Prakriti Poddar, Global Head, Mental Health and Wellbeing, RoundGlass