Mindfulness – the Benefits of Now
In today’s busy world, it is easy to forget the value and importance of just being still; living in the present without preconceived ideas of how to feel and what to think. Referred to as mindfulness, the practice of purposefully living in the moment without judgment or reacting to what is happening around you, first originated in Eastern religions and traditions and recently became popular in the West through meditation.
Studies have shown that the practice of mindfulness has many benefits, such as:
- Minimizing anxiety
- Relieving stress
- Increasing focus and concentration
- Improving memory
- Improving understanding of feelings and management of emotions
- Enhancing self-awareness
- Promoting happiness
It’s difficult enough in ‘normal’ times to not be distracted by obsessive thoughts and worries about the future, but during this new COVID-19 reality, it seems almost impossible. However, it is in times such as now, that we most need to practice mindfulness, for all the reasons listed above, and to cope with the radical changes we have had to make in our lives because of this pandemic.
The good news is that mindfulness is a quality we all possess, it is not a skill that you have to study or train for, nor is it linked to a belief system or religion. Anyone can practice mindfulness and make it a way of living; there are many ways to start introducing it into your life, some of which you may already be doing, and all you need to change is your purposefulness or intent.
Here are some everyday examples:
Cooking or baking
From choosing the recipe for the meal or dish you are going to prepare, to engaging all your senses whilst working with the ingredients; how they feel, look, smell and taste, to how you present or plate your food, be present, undistracted and in the moment. Cooking will become an entirely new experience.
Let your body move freely to the music playing or that which you hear in your mind; uncontrolled and unchoreographed.
Listening to music
Listen to music intently; taking note of the instruments, melodies, composition and how the music makes you feel. Instrumental music without lyrics works best. After listening to the piece, think about the emotions it evoked.
Below are three simple mindfulness exercises to start with:
Using your senses, ground yourself and connect to the present. Sit quietly and work through each of your senses paying attention to what they are experiencing one by one i.e. what five things do you see, what four things do you hear, what three things do you feel, what two things do you smell and what do you taste.
This is a great mindfulness exercise to do just before you fall asleep. While lying in bed focus on the sensations that each of your body parts feels, from your feet to your head and back down again.
Find a peaceful spot and relax. Set a timer (start with just 10 minutes) and start focusing on your breathing, how the air moves in and out of your body. If your mind wanders, taking you away from the present moment, simply acknowledge your thoughts and gently bring your mind back to your breath. Continue to do so until your meditation time is over.
As part of your journey to well-being and happiness, commit to practising mindfulness in as many activities and tasks as you can and you will soon realise the wisdom of Emily Dickinson’s words, “Forever is composed of nows”.