In the spirit of maintaining work life balance or integration, I am mindful of the blessings of mindfulness. Mindfulness has become a real “buzz” word and is now a mainstream method for emotional and mental well-being. But, what does it actually mean?
Mindfulness is the practice of paying attention in the present moment, in a non-judgmental way to your thoughts, feelings, and physical sensations. Learning how to be in control of your mind and your attention process, instead of letting your mind be in control of you is essential to mindfulness.
You may have noticed that you spend much of your day on autopilot, doing something automatically without awareness Have you ever driven somewhere and once you arrived you don’t remember the route you actually took to get there? Distracted behaviour is also opposite to doing things in a mindful fashion.
Benefits of Mindfulness
The benefits of mindfulness have been well researched. The Centre for Mindfulness Studies states that mindfulness reduces stress, decreases negative emotions such as depression and anxiety, reduces emotional reactivity, helps you to become more effective at regulating your emotions or balancing them out, increases focus, gives you more cognitive flexibility and improves your working memory.
Mindfulness like any other skill requires lots of practice. It is like a muscle, the more you practice, the stronger it gets. However, many people feel they do not have the time to sit and meditate. The great thing is that you can fit mindfulness in at any point during your day.
10 Daily Mindful Moments
1. Morning shower: Take one minute to feel the water against the skin of your body. Make this your only point of focus. Notice the texture and temperature of the water. Pay attention to what areas of your body the water is touching.
2. Morning coffee: Notice the aroma of your coffee. Bring your coffee cup close to your nose and observe the smell. Take it away from your nose and notice the smell again. Does the smell linger?
3. Start of your work day: You are faced with a long “to do” list. You may feel overwhelmed and have a strong urge to get it all done at once and to multitask. Fight this urge. Choose one priority task. Concentrate your mind on just that one thing. If you find yourself doing two things at once, stop and go back to one thing at a time. Then move on to the next item on your list and do it mindfully.
4. Lunch time: Take a mindful walk. Intermittently, for one minute, every 5 minutes or so, pay attention to how you are moving your body. Notice your gait. Feel the pressure points of your feet on the ground.
5. Afternoon meeting: Instead of taking out your phone and checking social media while someone is talking, listen to the pitch of their voice, to the smoothness or roughness of the sounds, to the clarity or mumbling of the speech, and to pauses between their words.
6. After work errands: At the grocery store as you are waiting in line, you may notice yourself growing weary and impatient. Take this time to simply observe what you see in the line up. Perhaps you are noticing the items placed by the cash register for last minute buys such as packs of gum. Notice the colour, shape and texture of the packages. Notice how they are arranged.
7. Kids home from school: You have just come home from a long day at work and the kids are home from school. The house is hectic, the kids are loud, they are making requests and demands from you, and you have to make supper. You notice your stress level rising. Take a time out to observe your breath. Breathe evenly and gently, focusing your attention on the movement of your stomach. As you breathe in, allow your stomach to rise in order to bring air into the lower half of your lungs. As the upper halves of your lungs begin to fill with air, your chest begins to rise and your stomach begins to lower. Repeat. Two to three minutes of this can make a world of difference.
8. Awareness while washing the dishes. Supper is taken care of and now it’s on to the dishes. Wash the dishes consciously, as though each plate is an object of contemplation. Pay attention to your hand movements, to the physical sensations of soapy water, and to the feel of the plate in your hand. Follow your breath to prevent your mind from straying.
9. Kids in Bed: Put on some relaxing and soothing music. Your only focus is to listen to the music. Observe each note as it comes and the spaces between the notes. If your pleasure is loud and hard, go for it, but you may want to use headphones so you don’t wake up the kids.
10. Your bedtime: You might notice you are tight and tense after your full and busy day. This may actually prevent you from falling asleep. Use this progressive relaxation exercise to gain awareness and to progressively relax your muscles. Do a full body scan starting from your head down to your toes. Notice where you are holding tension in your body. Tense each body part for 10 seconds, at 75 %, then relax each muscle all the way. Notice the tension and notice the difference once the muscle is relaxed.
Given that the benefits of mindfulness are well supported by research, why not give it a try? What do you have to lose? Especially, since it is free. You don’t have to buy anything in order to practice. And, you can use it at any time, anywhere.