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With a million tabs open in your mind, constantly racing from one task to another, on life's meandering path, the world in which we live never seems to stop moving. How often have you had the feeling that you're always in a hurry, managing a never-ending to-do list, and thus missing out on the simple pleasures of the present? If your answer is ‘very’, then my dear friend, you’re not alone! It's quite common to become overwhelmed by the commotion in today's busy world and forget to take a breath.
Imagine having the ability to pause life's hectic pace, to genuinely appreciate each moment, and to maintain tranquillity and clarity even when things are chaotic. It would certainly be amazing, don't you think? To be able to just hit stop on the fast pace of life, anytime you need to. Imagine being able to pause time, even for just a moment, so that you can truly appreciate everything in your immediate environment and take in its beauty without any interruptions.
Mindfulness provides this means of re-establishing a connection with oneself and the environment. So, let’s set out on a journey together in this blog, a voyage’, into the essence of mindfulness. We'll explore the true meaning of mindfulness, its significance, and the surprising ways it may enrich your life. In order to fully explore the magnificent world of mindfulness, prepare to press the pause button on life's whirlwind. So, take a deep breath and let's start our path towards mindfulness together.
WHAT IS MINDFULNESS?
You might have heard the term "mindfulness" being thrown around a lot lately, but what does it actually mean? Imagine yourself sitting quietly in a room with your eyes closed and breathing slowly and deliberately. You are completely in the present, not thinking about the past or the future. Instead, you are embracing the present moment with an open mind and heart. That, my friend, is mindfulness at its core.
The practice of mindfulness involves deliberately focusing attention on the present moment without passing judgement. It entails staying completely present in the moment with all of your thoughts, feelings, sensations, and environment without attempting to alter or judge them. It resembles a mental workout for your mind. Training your mind to take control of your life is the essence of mindfulness. It involves keeping an objective eye on your feelings and thoughts without becoming caught up in them. It involves treating every moment with curiosity as if you were seeing it for the first time. The best part is that mindfulness isn't just for yogis who live in the mountains. Anyone can pick it up and use it to their advantage.
But after reading all this, you might ask, “How is mindfulness so effective?”. Let’s explore the answer to this question by understanding the science behind mindfulness.
BENEFITS OF MINDFULNESS
Have you ever wondered what mindfulness practice does to your body and brain? It appears that this age-old practice is more than just a sentimental idea. No, it's supported by actual science!
Think of the brain as a muscle. By practising mindfulness and going to the mental gym, you're essentially giving your brain a fantastic workout. Here's an overview of what's going on in the background:
Rewiring Your Brain: Researchers have shown that mindfulness can actually alter the way your brain is wired. It's comparable to renovating your mental home. Your brain begins developing new neural connections through a process known as neuroplasticity, but what about the old, damaged ones that contribute to stress and anxiety? They are removed through pruning.
The Stress Buster: Mindfulness is a stress-reduction superhero. The relaxation response in the body is triggered when you practise mindfulness. Serotonin and other feel-good neurotransmitters take the front stage when stress chemicals like cortisol step aside.
Emotional Control: Have you ever experienced those times when your emotions seem to be running amok? You have the ability to exit at the next station thanks to mindfulness. It enables you to become conscious of your feelings without becoming overwhelmed by them. It's like having superhuman emotional abilities!
Increased Focus: Have you ever noticed how easily your thoughts can go during challenging tasks? Your coach for concentration is mindfulness. It improves your capacity to maintain attention on the task at hand, whether it's a professional project or a conversation with a buddy.
Now that we have understood what mindfulness is, let us dive in exploring all the different techniques, to start our journey into the essence of mindfulness.
HOW TO PRACTICE MINDFULNESS: THE ART OF BEING PRESENT
The optimal strategy for you can be chosen from a toolset of many mindfulness approaches; it's not a one-size-fits-all approach. Let's go through some of the most powerful mindfulness exercises you can start with:
1. Mindful Breathing: Think of your breath as a dependable anchor. You can always come back to your breath if your thoughts start to go into the past or the future. Simple but effective.
Locate a Quiet Area Find a spot to sit that is peaceful and comfortable to start. Just a quiet setting will do; no extra equipment is required. Step 2:
Get comfortable in a chair or on the floor by sitting with your back straight and your hands on your lap in the second step. You can either keep your eyes closed or softly lower them. Step 3:
Concentrate on Your Breath, without attempting to regulate it and pay attention to your natural breathing. Feel the rise and fall of your chest or abdomen or the sensation of the breath entering and leaving your nostrils. Step 4:
Mindful Observation; simply recognises thoughts, feelings, or distractions as they appear without passing judgement. Then slowly bring your focus back to your breathing. Every time your mind wanders, you gently bring it back to the present. Step 5:
Practise patience in this step by being patient with yourself. The goal of mindfulness is to develop awareness, so it's okay if your thoughts occasionally stray. You exercise your awareness muscle each time you return your focus to your breath. Step 6:
Gradual Progress; begin with little sessions, perhaps 5 to 10 minutes, then progressively lengthen them as you get more accustomed to the practice. To keep track, you can use a mindfulness app or a timer.
2. The Body-scan Meditation: This one will give your mind a full-body massage. You'll be astounded by what you might find.
Find a comfortable position by lying on your back or sitting in a chair that is cosy. Choosing to close your eyes will reduce visual distractions. Step 2:
Start at the Top; start by concentrating on the top of your head. Slowly examine every area of your body, from top to toe or vice versa. Step 3:
Take Note of Your Senses by paying attention to any sensations you have as you concentrate on each individual body component. These could be hot spots, knots, tingling, or even sore spots. Step 4:
Try to consciously let go of any tension you feel in any area. Imagine the relief and peace your breath brings to that location. Step 5:
Continue to move slowly as you keep your attention focused on every part of your body. Give yourself permission to fully and without restriction experience the emotions. Step 6:
Take a moment to savour the sensation of awareness and peace once you've finished scanning your entire body. You just returned from a quick vacation both in body and mind!
3. A Mindful, ‘Daily Activity’: You can practise mindfulness while going about your daily business!
Pick a routine activity to engage in mindfulness. It may be something as straightforward as eating, moving around, or even doing the dishes. Step 2:
Concentrate and focus on your senses as you perform the selected exercise. Consider paying special attention to the tastes, textures, and scents of your food when you are eating. Step 3:
Remain present; when your thoughts stray, gently nudge them back to the activity's sensory experience. When you're walking, pay attention to your surroundings, the feelings on your feet, and each stride you take. Step 4:
Practise Non-Judgmental awareness by accepting any thoughts or distractions that come to mind without judgement. Don't stop them, let them come and go like the clouds. Step 5:
Make a commitment to frequently engage in this activity while being mindful. You'll discover that it gradually becomes a regular part of your schedule.
This step-by-step process can assist you in beginning to practise mindfulness. Keep in mind that patience and consistent practice are vital. With practice, you'll become more conscious and present in your regular activities, which will decrease your stress levels and increase mental clarity.
4. Mindfulness-based Reflective journaling: Another great mindfulness-based technique to learn and practice, daily!
Find a space that is quiet and comfortable, where you can write without interruptions. It could be a good idea to set aside a special journal for mindfulness. Step 2:
Start by thinking back over your day. Think back on any instances, encounters, or interactions, whether rewarding or trying, that stood out to you. Step 3:
Express without criticism by writing about these experiences without passing judgement or critiquing yourself. Use the notebook as a place of safety to be honest about your ideas and feelings. Step 4:
Focus on the senses by describing the sensory elements connected to your experiences if you want to embrace mindfulness more fully. What did you hear, taste, smell, or feel? Step 5:
Explore your emotions by going deep. How did you feel in those circumstances? Instead of attempting to alter your feelings, try to identify and examine them. Step 6:
Acknowledgement and Goals: Write down a few items from the day for which you are grateful as you finish your journaling. You can also make affirmations or intentions for the upcoming day or week. Step 7:
Make mindful journaling a regular practice. It can be done daily, weekly, or anytime you feel the need to reflect and connect with your inner self.
5. Mindfulness-based meditation, harbouring feelings of love and kindness: We do not often talk to ourselves mindfully, this technique helps us reframe our conversation with ourselves.
Find a peaceful, quiet area where you won't be bothered to start, by getting comfy by sitting on the floor or a chair in a comfortable position. When it feels right for you, let your body relax and close your eyes. Step 2:
Start by putting yourself first. Repeat encouraging thoughts like "May I be happy, may I be healthy, may I be safe, may I live easily" or other well-wishes in your head. Say these words with sincere meaning. Step 3:
Gradually may also bring your loved ones into your focus. Offer the same blessings to them in your mind by picturing them and saying things like, "May you be happy and healthy." Keep wishing your loved ones, including family, friends, and others who are important to your heart, well. Step 4:
Include friends and others you might disagree with in your list now. The objective is to develop feelings of empathy and comprehension for all living things. Reiterate your congratulations to them as well. Step 5:
Finally, show all living things worldwide your loving-kindness. Imagine your good wishes spreading out to embrace every single living thing. Step 6:
Spend a few moments bathing in the warm and loving feelings you've generated. Allow this sense of loving-kindness to fill your heart. Step 7:
When you're ready, slowly open your eyes and return to your surroundings. Carry this sense of loving-kindness with you throughout your day.
6. Mindful Walking: Doing any kind of exercise mindfully, can really multiply its benefits. Walking mindfully may be a potent way to reconnect with both yourself and the natural world.
Look for a quiet area to stroll in, preferably in a natural setting. It may be a garden, a park, or just a calm residential street. Step 2:
Stop for a second before continuing. To centre yourself and become aware of your surroundings, take a few deep breaths. Step 3:
Start moving more slowly than normal. Pay close attention to how your foot raises, goes forward, and makes contact with the ground with each step. Step 4:
Engage and use your senses to stay in the present. Feel the air on your skin, take in the sounds around you, and take in the colours, shapes, and aspects of your surroundings. Step 5:
Gently bring your attention back to the act of walking as ideas or distractions come and go. Step 6:
You can choose to set an aim for your walk, such as being grateful, clear-headed, or just present. Let your experience be guided by this aim. Step 7:
Take a moment to think about your experience after your stroll. Take note of any adjustments in your mood or state of mind.
These are some of the most common and effective techniques that you can practise to start your journey of mindfulness.
Phew! What a voyage we've had through the realm of mindfulness, learning different practices that can change the way we interact with others and find calm in this hectic world. Each mindfulness practice, whether it is mindful breathing, loving-kindness meditation or mindful journaling, is like a thread woven into the rich fabric of mindfulness. Keep in mind that practising mindfulness is a way of being in the world, not merely a set of activities. It's about accepting life in all of its complexity, stunning, and unpredictability.
Therefore, as you go out on your own mindfulness path, be aware that it's normal to make mistakes. Being present is what mindfulness is all about, not being flawless. It involves approaching life with awe and curiosity, especially when times are difficult. The secret is consistency and patience, for practising mindfulness in the rush of daily life. You'll discover that mindfulness is not merely a practice, but a gift you give to both yourself and everyone around you. So, let's enter this lovely world of mindfulness together, one mindful moment at a time. When lived mindfully, life is a wonderful trip that is waiting for you.