People who have trained their minds to be mindful and present have reported experiencing a fundamentally positive change in their life. Studies reveal that practising mindfulness consistently elevates mood and reduces the effects of depression and anxiety, all of which contribute to a boost in the immune system. So, what is mindfulness and how can we begin practising it?
Essentially, mindfulness is the ability to maintain present awareness of our thoughts, feelings, sensations, and the surrounding environment through a nurturing lens. Alongside a balanced diet and regular exercise which train the body to function optimally, we can also train the mind through a series of practises.
Though it sounds simple, the act is rather difficult. How do you stay in the present when there are there a million things pulling for your attention – answering emails, making mental notes to call back a client, whether you need another cup of coffee, thinking if you should take a different commute home – it seems there is no time to live in the moment. The reality is that none of those scenarios need to happen all at once, and most certainly not right now. The more your mind wanders, the less use of your time you make. To train your mind to be truly present, take a moment to call on your senses – what you smell, the emotion you feel, the texture you touch. Centre your mind in the environment you are living in right now, and keep a reminder to continue this practise several times during the day – be that a timer or a sticky note.
Taking the time to express gratitude in a manner that is mindful of the language and vocabulary you use is essential. The words we utter shape our cognition and thoughts, and positive language tends to have a healthier response on your mental health. Take three minutes in the mornings to list the things you are grateful for in a positive manner; an example of this is, ‘I am lucky to be in good health today’, rather than ‘I am lucky I don’t have a snotty nose and fever today’. Even if the overall sentence conveys a positive meaning, optimistic connotations lead to a healthier mind. Other examples are:
Positive: I have a good hair day.
Negative: I don’t have a bad hair day.
Positive: Everything is going well, thank you.
Negative: Can’t complain.
Be a Single-Tasker
A study by Zheng Wang from Ohio State University informs that multitasking only encourages the feeling of productivity, and it is essentially ineffectual when it comes to the progress of work. You can test this for yourself by keeping a time journal noting down how long tasks take when done one by one, and how long they take when being multitasked. To get into the habit of completing one task at a time, set a timer of say, 20 minutes, during which time your only job is to focus on the work at hand.
Taking ten minutes out of your day to stretch your muscles has been shown to increase serotonin levels, which is the hormone that stabilizes your mood and reduces stress levels. This is especially essential for people who sit at a desk for long stretches of time to be mindful of their posture. Start by stretching your arms and calves and holding the position for 15 to 20 seconds. Once you feel flexible enough within a few days, try to hold onto that position for 60 seconds.
Write Down Your Accomplishments
The practice of ‘to-do lists’ first thing in the morning has long since been around. Just as it is productive to note down a to-do list, it is also beneficial for the mind to write down an ‘accomplishment list’ at the end of the day. Whether is it a milestone you hit at work, a skill you picked up, a compliment you gave – the simplest act that made you feel proud of yourself. Reading this list before calling it a day will elucidate the person you want to be and the personality you want to adopt.