It is not news anymore. The world is going through a pandemic. Jobs are becoming more demanding. Pay cuts are being summoned at all levels. People are losing their jobs, and quite a few others are fighting to save their lives. Life is getting stressful. But all is not lost.
COVID-19 has changed the way we live our lives. But can it also drive us to change the way we deal with stress? Can it teach us to be more present? Can it inspire us to cherish life more than we usually do? These are some questions that can help us navigate through the hardships.
In the midst of this pandemic and its stresses, lies an opportunity to be more present and aware without distraction and judgement. This often-overlooked aspect can help you unlock your creative potential, build resilience, reduce stress, manage anxiety, and even experience better sleep.
So what is mindfulness really? It is more than just an internet buzzword. It’s been around for a really long time. Researchers have found it to have a profound impact on the human brain.
Mindfulness is the state of being fully present while giving complete attention to the task at hand without being distracted or judging the actions. The state also includes an awareness of one’s thoughts and feelings without being caught up in them. But how can one practise mindfulness? Here are a few ways to incorporate it into your daily life:
- Meditation: Meditation can help strengthen the mindfulness muscle over time. While there are quite a few methods, the simplest one is to focus on your breath. Simply observe the changes that take place in your body when you inhale. The coolness of the air, the rising chest, the sensation of your lungs expanding, and notice the changes that occur when you exhale. There will be times when your mind wanders, but then gently bring your focus back to the breathing. There are also quite a few guided meditations that can help you make progress daily.
- When you eat, eat: This might sound odd in the beginning. However, a hectic schedule and myriad distractions often come in the way of paying all your attention to the food that you are eating. Noticing the texture, odour, and even the colour of the dish can help you be more present and enrich the experience of consuming food. This way you are more likely to feel satisfied and nourished after the meal, as you were present while eating it.
- Walk mindfully: If there is one activity that most people engage in every day, it’s walking. In the words of the renowned Vietnamese monk Thich Nhat Hanh, “Walk as if you were kissing the Earth.” When you are walking from one place to the other, pay attention to the movements that are taking place in your body. Notice the feet as they meet the ground and take off for the next step. Observe the sights, sounds and smells around you. You’ll be surprised at everything that is overlooked most often.
- Respond, don’t react: There is always a small space between the stimulus and our action in response to it. Acknowledging this space can help you become more aware of the choices you can make in alignment with your goals. This can not only increase the sense of having control over your life but also nurtures a calm state of being, especially in high-pressure situations.
- Sleep with purpose: Trying to fall asleep while looking at your phone or watching TV can be of little help. Instead, prepare your mind and body for sleep before getting into bed. Slow music or light reading can help. Once you’re ready, lie down and become aware of your breath. Feel your body against the gentle support of the bed, and ensure you use a mattress that is suited to your sleeping style and body type. As the mind wanders away, slowly bring it back to the breath and notice your body loosen up as it relaxes. While practising this approach, sleep can be experienced with a moment-to-moment awareness of letting the body and minds ease down.
Mindfulness is not just a practise but a way of life. It can enhance our perception, and as a result, even our responses to experiences in a positive manner. Mindfulness has quite a few benefits, ranging from enhanced resilience to better sleep, but we invite you to experience them for yourself. So take a deep breath and start your mindfulness journey today.