By Grant J Everett
Mindfulness (also known as meditation or relaxation) is the art of clearing your mind of all distractions and anxiety by paying attention to your five senses. It means being physically present in the moment rather than living inside your own head. When done right, mindfulness can quickly help you to feel calm, grounded and in control. According to http://www.mindful.org, mindfulness reduces stress, enhances your work performance, and it can boost your awareness of how your mental processes work. When done right, mindfulness can be transformative.
On the surface, focussing on your senses might seem like a pretty ordinary thing to do. After all, just being conscious means that we are using at least two or three senses at any given time. However, the reason that mindfulness can be so valuable is because we humans tend to spend far too much time being distracted by unhelpful and unproductive thoughts. “Will I get a seat on the bus? Will my boss be demanding today? Are my friends avoiding me? Why is that guy looking at me funny? Does this outfit make me look like a butternut pumpkin? What if my phone credit runs out when I really need to make a call?” If you don’t have a way to fight free of this sort of mental molasses and bring yourself back to the now, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. So rather than doing useless laps in your brain, mindfulness empowers you to be fully present in the moment. It’s about being aware of where you are and what you’re doing, as opposed to feeling crushed by your own thoughts. No matter how challenging the situation might be, mindfulness can be useful to help you sort things out.
While a universal definition of mindfulness can be hard to nail down (there are many, many variations on what it means depending on what books you read or what websites you surf), one point that all mindfulness experts agree on is that this is a skill that every human being already possesses, rather than something you have to learn from scratch. Anyone can cultivate mindfulness, and you can practise it seated, standing or walking. You can even do a bit of mindfulness lying down, but there’s always the risk of falling sleep (plus going horizontal in public isn’t generally something you do in public, either). You can easily merge mindfulness exercises with any of your daily activities, such as housework, travelling, grocery shopping or your mid-afternoon coffee break.
A basic mindfulness exercise
Now you’ve heard all about mindfulness, here’s a quick exercise you can test out if you need to stabilise yourself a bit before getting back into life.
1) Take a seat somewhere stable.
2) Notice what your legs are doing. Really pay attention to them. It’s good if the bottoms of your feet are touching the floor.
3) Straighten—but don’t stiffen— your upper body. Your spine has natural curvature, so don’t try to bend it into a really straight line.
4) Let your arms hang naturally at your sides and allow your hands drop into your lap. This will create a pose that isn’t too tight or too loose.
5) Drop your chin a little. You can lower or close your eyelids if you want, but it isn’t necessary
6) Relax for a few moments. Pay attention to your breath going in and out, the sensations in your body, and your heartbeat. You can slowly flex each part of your body, one bit at a time, from toes to scalp.
7) Expect your attention to wander. That’s normal. Don’t concern yourself over the content of your thoughts. Just gently return your attention to your breath.
That’s it! Simple to learn, but not necessarily easy to master. Just keep doing it and the results will follow.
Mindfulness at a glance
• Mindfulness is not New Age hocus pocus. It is a practical way to relax and restore focus.
• Anyone can do it! Mindfulness is a technique we can all practice anytime and anywhere.
• Mindfulness doesn’t change who you are. Mindfulness is about recognising who you are.
• Mindfulness has positive benefits for our health, happiness, work performance and relationships.
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