We live in a world that runs on smart phones and fast food. Almost everyone today is doggedly chasing targets and numbers, putting their own mental and physical health at stake to succeed. A student chases that coveted Class XII percentage that he needs to get into a top-ranking institute. A sales executive chases those sales targets, working day and night to earn his bonus.
Be it a corporate employee, a homemaker, or a student, we all have places to go and things to achieve. And while motivation drives us to perform to our best abilities, too much pressure does the exact opposite.
This is where mindfulness fits into the picture.
What is mindfulness?
Simply put, mindfulness is the awareness of oneself in the present moment. It is the basic ability to be aware of our surroundings and what we’re doing, without being overwhelmed by it. And although this ability is already present in all of us, our hectic lifestyles have led us to a state where we don’t even think to just stop and catch our breath.
Why do you need mindfulness?
There’s a reason why eminent business magnate Richard Branson, CNN news anchor and journalist Anderson Cooper, and sensational singer-songwriter Katy Perry perform and promote this practice. It is considered a cornerstone to achieving self-improvement and has numerous health benefits, three of which are explained below.
- Mindfulness can help you combat stress — It is natural for someone to underperform or make mistakes when
they’re under severe distress and pressure. When you practise mindfulness, you will be able to assess your current situation rationally rather than impulsively, and this in turn means you are better at taking the right decision and doing well.
- It can change the way you process distressing emotions — Brain imaging studies conducted by the American Psychological Association have shown that mindfulness can change the way you react to negative emotions for the better.
- Mindfulness has been linked to improved sleep — It has been observed that practising mindful meditation can improve one’s quality of sleep. And there’s no surprise that a well-rested mind functions better than an anxious and sleep-deprived one.
How do you practise mindfulness?
One of the biggest advantages of mindfulness is that it is something that you can teach yourself. All you need is time, willingness, and well, a brain!
- Even spending as much as fifteen minutes a day to practise mindfulness can result in many benefits in the long run. Find some time everyday to just sit down in a quiet, comfortable place.
- Turn off your smartphone. Yes, the thought of turning off your phone during the day might seem horrific, but mindfulness works best in an environment without too many distractions.
- Slow down and try to observe the moment. This is easier said than done because your mind will probably be racing with a hundred thoughts, but that’s to be expected. Accept your thoughts as they come and let them pass. It might help you to visualise each thought as a cloud, acknowledge it and just let it float away.
- Do not judge yourself if your mind doesn’t calm down immediately. The goal here isn’t to silence your brain, it is to observe and accept yourself and just be present.
- Mindfulness is often practised in conjunction with meditation. The act of deep breathing can help you calm down and stay in the here and now.
Watch this video for a guided mindfulness meditation exercise. It’s a short video that will give you an idea of how to go about practising mindfulness through meditation. If you start out with this video and practise for long enough, you will soon be able to anchor yourself to the moment without any external help.
Let me clarify that mindfulness is not a panacea; it is not a universal cure for all our problems. However, it is a small, simple yet effective tool that can help you be the best version of yourself.
Take this 30 Day Meditation Challenge for Beginners below:
Also published on Medium.