“I will be gentle with myself. If I find myself getting stressed, I will remember to pause, breath and remember, I create my reality. Today my reality will be filled with kindness and good health.”
Our lives are filled with a lot of “hustle and bustle”: commuting daily or travelling long distances, taking care of ourselves and / or others, keeping a schedule, getting work done, studying, training and raising children.
Then we have the “electric circuit”: a vast electronic internet space with almost unlimited information, social networks and instant messaging. We scroll through social media sites and apps scanning for information, often as a distraction or to soothe boredom.
But when was the last time you remember truly being in the moment?
When was the last time you were able to quiet all the thoughts racing through your head, quieting your inner voice, ignoring the past and future and just allowed yourself to enjoy the present moment?
It happens way less often that it should!
Many of us are so consumed by events (my self included) that happened in the past or with what is coming in the future. We plan ahead, we worry about things happening, we try to predict situation. Other time, we might dwell on past experiences or exchanges. Something that happened in the past may still weigh on your mind. And many of these thoughts can keep us in the stress loop.
We worry so much about the past and future that we forget to live in the present. I don’t mean live in the moment” as a means of “seizing the day”, but in controlling our attention. This practice is known as mindfulness.
Mindfulness can be described in several ways, but ultimately is the self-regulation of attention and accepting the present moment non-judgmentally. Originating from a Buddhist contemplative tradition, the intention is to accept the present moment with a curiosity and openness towards all aspects of that moment. This includes thoughts, feelings, emotions and sensations.
Ordinarily, we can become trapped in a thought vortex spiralling away from us. One thought turns into am e,motion; the emotion swells up and out thoughts follow it. In this way, mindfulness is a great way to calm those swells and can help alleviate anxiety.
Practising mindfulness is a means of practising being in the present moment. With discipline, we train the mind to not think about “what might happen” or about things that have happened in the past that we still worry or stress over.
How often do you feel an emotional response from a past event?
How often do you worry about something in the future?
The emotions associated with worrying or regrets can lead to anxiety, depression and chronic stress. Typically, that’s where we find much of our stress; in thinking about things we have to do, things weighing on our minds, deadlines to meet, running into people that we don’t want to see, situations that are uncomfortable. We can’t avoid things, but we can change how we react to them. Practising mindfulness can increase resilience to stress and reduce the reactivity to acute stressors.
In addition to focusing the attention on the present moment, mindfulness encourages a nonjudgmental attitude; letting go of our expectations and allowing what is to be. It’s not necessary to void the mind of worry but initially just to recognise that the worry is there. To not judge yourself for those thoughts and emotions and to then bring your attention back to where you are in the present.
One exercises I practice myself and I recommend to my clients is to perform a self check in at least once a day. Remind yourself to check in! Push a mental pause button on everything around you!
“Body in this moment what do you need?”
The answer to this question could be anything: food ; water; a hug; a moment of silence; to kick your shoes off; to wash your hands; talk to a friend, sibling or parent. The purpose is to listen to your own body and mind and find out if you’ve been to busy or stressed to meet your basic needs and to manage that stress. It is self-care in the most basic sense.
Mindfulness, like yoga, truly is a practice. It doesn’t often come naturally and can take TIME. Habits are hard to break but it can be done. Set a timer or alarm, mark it in your diary or calendar, or simply have a reminder; a place, an item, an activity that jogs your memory: “I need to do a check in!”
For example when I got stressed / anxious, especially when I had to go shopping in a certain supermarket, I would bite my nails until they where raw. I realised this had to stop, so I practised catching myself before I put those fingers anywhere near my mouth. I started carrying Tibetan prayer beads in my bag and as soon as I pull in to car park of this supermarket, I play with my beads until, I have completed the shopping and I am driving out of the car park; repeating this every time I remembered to. Remembering is part of the practice. Shifting the attention, even for a moment, is the practice. NOT beating yourself up or judging yourself for the action (in my case biting my nails), is part of the practice.
Being mindful is truly a control over attention, and this leads to improved self-regulation, including emotional regulations and self – awareness. In addition to reducing symptoms of anxiety, depression, studies have shown that this cognitive awareness can also reduce pain severity.
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