Being busy all the time, having an overcommitted schedule, living by a lengthy ‘To Do’ list, checking emails 24*7, multi-tasking, FOMO (fear of missing out) are characteristics of life today. In the rush to accomplish everything we have tried to squeeze into our schedule, we are losing our connection with the present moment and how we are feeling. The constant connectedness is taking a toll on the ties of our hearts. The result is stress, anxiety, overwhelm and chronic fatigue, and sometimes more severe mental health issues.
We have a growing problem at hand. And the solution is to slow down. There is enough research now to support the recommendation of ancient religions to live in the present moment to stay balanced and happy. One of the ways to be in the present moment is to practice mindfulness. Professor Jon Kabat-Zinn made mindfulness a part of mainstream wellness. He is known for his work on mindfulness-based stress reduction. He defines mindfulness as the awareness that arises through paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgementally.
This conscious attention on the right here, right now, being aware of our thoughts impartially, without being engaged with them, can be cultivated via mindfulness meditation. While there are many ways to do mindfulness meditation, a basic variant of this practice is –
- Find a place a time where you would not be disturbed for some time.
- Observe the present moment as it is-
- Note the rhythm of your breathing
- The temperature of the room you are in
- The sounds you can hear
- How the surface you are sitting on feels against you
- How your dress feels against your skin
- Notice any aromas in the air
- Note any judgments that creep in and release them.
- When you realize your mind has wandered off, gently bring it back.
You can start small and build the practice for 20 -30 minutes every day. This practice has the potential for permanent changes in the brain, giving us more choice to handle our everyday situations, making us calm, empathetic, and compassionate.
With mindfulness meditation, we move from high-frequency brain waves to lower frequency. It can decrease neurological connections to the medial prefrontal cortex, diminishing fear, stress, and anxiety. The density of grey matter in the amygdala decreases, also reducing stress, fear, and anxiety. Mindfulness meditation can build new pathways to the parts of the brain responsible for traits like focus and decision-making. Research also shows that the areas of the brain responsible for emotional regulation, planning, problem-solving, learning, and memory increase with regular meditation practice.
Even if you do not have the time for meditation, you can build mindfulness into your life in other areas, e.g.,
– Walk mindfully for a few minutes – Pick a time in your day. Stand straight with your weight distributed evenly on your feet. Start walking. Concentrate on the physical sensations of walking – the heel touching the ground, the ball of the foot coming down, the pressure on the foot, the other foot coming forward. Note the sights and the sounds around you. Experience the smell of plants around you as you walk. If your mind wanders, bring it back gently to note your steps.
– Eat mindfully – Take a moment to be thankful for the food you are about to eat. Notice the color, texture, aroma, and the amount of food on your plate. Eat slowly and chew your food well. Enjoy the flavor of the food in your mouth. Note how the food makes you feel. Make this an exclusive activity. Do not read, watch TV, or check emails while eating. Stop when you are full.
I am reminded of this quote by Pico Iyer in his book, ‘The Art of Stillness’, “In an age of acceleration, nothing can be more exhilarating than going slow. In an age of distraction, nothing is so luxurious as paying attention. In an age of constant movement, nothing is so urgent as sitting still,” Iyer said.
How will you incorporate mindfulness practice in your wellness routine?