August has arrived and we are now over halfway through the calendar year! As we look back on the difficult months we’ve faced, the pace at which time has moved may well feel overwhelming. With restrictions frequently evolving and things slowly adapting to a new type of normal, these events can create a lot of mixed anxieties and uncertainties for yourself and others around you. Humans are an adaptive species; we have survived and thrived due to our ability to cope with uncertain times. However, it’s important to remember that we’ve all been impacted by the demands of lockdown, rendering uncomfortable thoughts and feelings as a typical symptom of entering back into the unknown. The down-side to being an adaptive species is that we often rush through life without taking notice of the world around us. We end up experiencing tunnel-vision as we push forwards, self-consumed by our thoughts, wants and desires. You may well have heard the phrase “living in your head” before; describing the tendency to get stuck in our thoughts, cycling over the same issues again and again in our minds. Rather than being aware of the present moment and enjoying the here-and-now, our mind rushes onto the next problem we face as we chase whatever future we desire.
This is where mindfulness comes in. According to Professors at the Oxford Mindfulness Centre, mindfulness is about “knowing directly what is going on inside and outside ourselves, moment by moment”. When we rush through life, neglecting the world around us, we fail to take on board how our bodies are feeling and lose our ability to track the thoughts driving our emotions and behaviour. In contrast, when an individual becomes more mindful, they are said to see the present moment more clearly, stopping to acknowledge and appreciate the sights, sounds and other sensations their body is experiencing. Ultimately, mindfulness can help people to enjoy life more and learn to understand themselves better at the same time. It teaches us to recognise when we allow our thoughts to take over, highlighting how they are simply ‘mental events’ that do NOT have to control everything we do. In essence, becoming more mindful is about learning to harness your thoughts; recognising when a helpful thought develops into an obsessive spiral that can overwhelm us. It enables us to snap out of our thoughts and pay greater attention to what’s actually important in the present moment. Time is the world’s most precious entity and one that cannot be utilized to its fullest if we are caught up in our own heads.
It must be stressed that mindfulness itself is not a specific activity; it is something we can bring into our lives no matter where we are or what we’re doing. It is the general human ability to be present in the moment that can be developed into a habit through meditation, reflection and intentions. By becoming comfortable grounding yourself in the here-and-now, you’ll develop a more balanced, focused and calmer view on things, establishing a healthier relationship with your thoughts as well. Practising mindfulness may not feel natural to begin with because humans have evolved to pay close attention to our thoughts as they were once necessary to promote survival. However, we now live in a safer environment than our ancestors before. We are lucky enough to live in a world full of beauty so don’t let your time on this planet simply pass you by.
Mindfulness is not an exotic exercise; it is a natural approach to life that we are all capable of achieving. It just takes patience and a willingness to slightly adjust how we choose to approach our daily lives.
THE MINDFULNESS SERIES
To help you bring mindfulness into your everyday life we have put together some helpful ideas you may want to try. Whether you practice all of them in your daily routine or find out which works best for you, implementing techniques like these will help you to become more present each day:
The process of initiating intentions ensures your conscious decision-making is aligned with your emotional drivers that often dictate how you go on to behave. This way, you can start the day off with a chosen course of action and instil an inquisitive drive in yourself to discover more about it during the day. An intention is like a promise to yourself to work towards what you want to happen. Spend 15 minutes writing down and reading aloud, one clear intention each morning that you are promising to work towards throughout the day.
One of the best ways to tune your focus into the present is to allocate time in the day to practice Mindfulness Meditation. This specific activity involves sitting silently in a comfortable environment and paying close attention to the thoughts, sounds and sensations occurring throughout your body during that time.To guide you through this powerful form of mediation and help you learn how to gain control of your wandering mind, try following an online Mindfulness Meditation video each morning.
Although humans have a tendency to focus on negatives, as you become more mindful, you will find yourself taking this judgement out of the equation and becoming more aware of qualities about yourself, others and the world around us that you can actually be grateful for. Start off each day by writing down 3 things you feel particularly grateful for and set them as a reminder on your phone for the evening. This way, you open the day with a heightened awareness of the good in the world and close it by reflecting on them with gratitude.
Whether it’s TV shows, video games or social media, we are surrounded by distractions that prevent us from truly living in the moment. For many, these tools provide an escape, enabling us to distance ourselves from the challenges and stresses of everyday life. As a result, we often fail to find comfort in the present, missing out on the real opportunities life presents. Try reducing your reliance on these digital distractions by scheduling in blocks of 15 minutes throughout the day where you can fully commit to turning off your electrical devices.
Mindfulness shouldn’t be seen as a big thing! It is simply an everyday mindset that anyone can achieve, enabling them to acknowledge and appreciate what’s actually important in life.
Blog Author: Ben Oliver - Feb 8th 2021