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March 18, 2019

Why Mindfulness is the pause button we all need

As someone who associated being busy to being productive, the term mindfulness was beyond my understanding. In all honesty, I didn’t want to understand it. Anything that invited me to stop was simply hindering my progress or at least so I thought. I had goals to achieve after all. Then inevitably, I was forced to stop.

I would admit, I was always an anxious person but as my desire to constantly be doing and thinking amplified, so to did my anxiety.

It presented itself in different forms. From sleepless nights to a constant state of nervousness it felt like I was constantly battling with my mind.

At some point during this journey, I started practising yoga daily, which then introduced me to what stilling the mind meant. It was a moment of “Oh Mindfulness, nice to meet you, where shall we go, what shall we do.” In which the response I received was “One breath at a time.” And so it began, my relationship with Mindfulness.

In short, Mindfulness is the act of being present. It means turning off autopilot and really relishing in the here and now devoid of judgment. For me, it meant not feeling guilty about my past or worried about the future. But don’t take my word for it.

“Mindfulness helps you go home to the present. And every time you go there and realize a condition of happiness that you have, happiness comes.” -Thich Nhat Hanh

While I am nowhere close to being an expert on the art of Mindfulness, these are some of the ways in which I try to incorporate it in my daily life.

1. Start Early
Mornings are great to start off with. Instead of trying to remember all the things I want to accomplish for that day, I try to observe the sounds and scents around me, particularly as I move into my morning routine. It’s easy for the mind to wander off in mundane tasks such as brushing your teeth. But being present I have found helps me to feel less anxious about the day ahead.

2. Exercise
In the past whenever I exercised I would get so caught up in the end goal. A flat stomach, toned arms and a firm butt. Don’t get me wrong, I still want all those great things but now I take a different approach. I try to practice yoga daily and while doing so I also try to focus more on how my body feels as I transition through the various poses and spend less time in my head. I found that when I do this, I approach working out as something that makes me feel good and I more inclined to stick to doing it.

3. Meditation
Quieting the mind isn’t easy but a regular meditation practice helps. Personally, I love meditating to Tabla music. But when I first started, I explored different approaches such as sitting in a quiet place and focusing on my breathing or a guided meditation. I think whatever approach is taken the real importance is to accept that the mind will wander off but guiding it back lovingly to the present moment is what really matters.

4. Regular Check-ins
A technique that really helps me to stay consistent with my mindfulness practice is by scheduling regular check-ins within the day. I do this by setting reminders on my phone. During this time I tune in to what is taking place at the present moment. It doesn’t need to be for an extended period, just a couple of minutes during the day. I found that this really is an accountable way to stick with the practice and it prevents me using the ‘I forgot’ excuse.

5. Walk in Nature
Taking a stroll in a park or anywhere where nature is present really helps to zone into the current moment. Not to mention it also means getting some cardio in as well. Bonus points! Nature provides the natural beauty and all we need to do is appreciate it, fully.

6. Be Present with a Pet
Take your pet along on this journey. Whether it’s playtime or cuddling up on the couch, use these moments to help you stay grounded and present. Your pet and mental state will thank you for it.

7. Mindful Eating
When it comes to eating, I usually accompany it with scrolling through my social media feeds or catching up on a Netflix series. However, for at least one of my meals, I have replaced it with the intention of being mindful while I eat. That means focusing on the texture of my food. How does it taste? How does it smell? By doing this it really helps me to be present and live in the current moment.

As I mentioned Mindfulness isn’t something I have fully master. I still struggle with it but it’s definitely something I keep returning to as I have experienced its amazing benefits. I think with everything in life, striking balance is important. I still enjoy planning for my future. But too much of anything is never a good thing. Practising being mindful helps me to stay grounded and offers perfect support when anxiety tries to make itself present.

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Daniela Nandlal  |  Contribution: 480