You’re busy, and overworked. “I can’t be in two places at once!” you cry. And unless you’ve discovered time travel, you can only be present in the precise physical second that you inhabit.
But what about your mind? Is it at home, but lingering at the office too? Planning next month’s family holiday, and still reliving that awkward discussion last Monday?
Your stress levels are building. Maybe mindfulness could help?
What is mindfulness?
In the simplest terms it is about bringing your mind and your awareness into the ‘here and now’. It’s about recognising and appreciating the place and the moment you are in. It sounds simple, but in our daily lives, which can be fast, diverse, and demanding, many of us have lost (or might never have discovered) the art of mindfulness.
There is an app(lication) for that
Unfortunately, mindfulness isn’t an instant ‘plug and play’, but just like other arts, it can be mastered through application – in other words, practice. Mindfulness can become your own personal skill, available to use whenever you choose, to focus and enrich all areas of your life.
To help you learn and practise mindfulness, here is an exercise you might like to try. For each step, there is an action, and a particular attitude, or state of mind, you need to bring to the process.
1. Give your full attention to just one thing. It might be a flower, a stone or a pencil. Focus on the object rather than think about it.
Bring curiosity and an open mind, as though you have never seen this object before.
2. Be in the present moment. Try to leave behind your thoughts about the past or the future. If your mind wanders, refocus your attention on the object.
Bring patience and gentleness to this step. It is natural for your mind to be distracted, so teach it kindly how to focus.
3. Look at the object simply for what it is. Try to avoid thinking about it – its features, its function, or your feelings towards it.
Bring your acceptance and your capacity to be non-judgemental. Don’t categorise, compare, or evaluate the object; simply be aware of it, as it is, right here and now.
Do this for a few minutes each day. Like any new skill – physical or mental – the more you practise it, the more it develops.
The mind-body connection
Mindfulness can contribute to your total wellbeing. There are potential benefits related to improved immune function, chronic pain management, better sleep, mood, and emotional health. There’s also evidence that regular mindfulness practice reduces stress, and improves concentration, and work performance.
Reports show Australian educators are so aware of the positive link between mindfulness and wellbeing that they want to see mindfulness practice in the Australian school curriculum by 2020.
Speak with a trained psychologist, who can suggest strategies to help you achieve these benefits.
You might also like to try these free audio exercises, to practise mindfulness.