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Mindfulness Practices: Change The Way You Live

It’s a difficult and busy world. You mindlessly fold the laundry while keeping one eye on the gas stove, and another on the television for important world updates. You talk to your loved ones while commuting from work, parallelly listening to the radio. But in that rush to complete the to-do list, you may find yourself losing the connection with the present moment—totally missing out on what you’re doing yet doing it anyway and just forgetting to understand how you’re feeling.

Mindfulness is the practice of purposely focusing attention on the present moment. It also involves accepting and believing that there is no “right” or “wrong” way to think or feel in a moment.

Research shows that the benefits of mindfulness and meditation practice have been beneficial for everyone ranging from executives to schoolchildren.

Benefits of mindfulness include:

  • Mindfulness improves well-being. Being mindful makes it very easy to savour the pleasures in life as they occur and also helps you become fully present in the activities. It will also develop a sense of tolerance to deal with adverse events.
  • Mindfulness improves physical health. It helps in relieving stress, improves sleep quality, helps in balancing blood pressure and other ailments.
  • Mindfulness improves mental health. In recent times, therapists use mindfulness meditation in the treatment of various disorders that include depression, anxiety, eating disorders, etc.

Mindfulness techniques

There are various ways to practice mindfulness, but the goal of any mindfulness technique is to achieve a state wherein one is alert and focuses on relaxation. Here is a variety of them that could be followed:

Mindful wakeup

It has to be done first thing in the morning, before accessing any type of social contact. On waking, maintain a relaxed posture and indulge in light breathing. Then let your breath settle into its rhythm and ask yourself: “What should be my intention for today?” Use a few prompts to help you answer the question better like, What can I do to have the best impact today? What quality of mind should I strengthen or develop? During these difficult moments, how can I be more compassionate to others and myself? 

By setting your intention for the day, you will feel more driven and productive each day. There will be huge changes in how the quality of your communications, relationships, and mood flows.

Mindful eating

Eating is seen as one of the most pleasurable experiences we as humans engage in. If we do it mindfully, it can turn eating into a far richer experience.

You can pause and breathe before eating. It will slow down and allow a more calm transition to eat. It will be helpful if you place attention inwards by closing your eyes and bringing awareness to the physical sensations in the belly. You can ask yourself “How hungry am I?” During this process, don't try to think about when you last ate or what time it is, and listen to your body, not your thoughts. This will help in mindfully choosing what to eat, when to eat, and how much to eat. One should not indulge in mindless eating. Take your first three bites mindfully and experience the taste, flavours, textures, and how much enjoyment you are receiving from a certain food. Make a mindful choice about what to eat based on what you enjoy.

Learn to stay in the present

It is a less formal approach to mindfulness that requires you to be in the moment. This includes:

  • Starting by bringing your attention to the sensations of your body
  • Breathe in through your nose and allow the air downward into your lower belly. Let the abdomen expand fully, and then breathe out through your mouth
  • Notice the sensations of each inhalation and exhalation so that you can concentrate on the present moment.
  • You have to engage all your senses fully. Notice each sight, touch, and sound so that you can be in the present situation fully.
  • Your mind might wander from the task, you can gently bring your attention back to the sensations of the moment by light breathing.

Mindful pauses: Rewire your brain

95% of our behaviour is due to the autopilot mode. It’s because the neural networks underlie all of the habits, which in turn reduces the millions of sensory inputs per second into shortcuts so that immediate processing can be done. But working this way isn't healthy. You have to indulge in pauses and acting.

Try and experiment with a series of “If this, then that '' messages which will help you create easy reminders to shift into steady processing of the brain and not just the autopilot mode getting activated. For instance, you can use the idea that: 

When the office door opens, you have to take a deep breath, before starting your day. Or, “If the phone rings, before picking the call, just take a deep breath before answering.” These intentional actions will help shift into mindfulness and strengthen the slow brain.

The effects of mindfulness will vary- the more you do, the more effect it has. You can start with at least 20 minutes so that the mind begins to settle. Even if you don't do it every day, it's a practice you can keep coming back to when you need it. Doing so can help you cope with the daily struggles and also boosts your mood in the longer run. You can utilise the self-help content available in our curated content library to learn more about the benefits of being mindful. You can even reach out and drop a message in HappiCHAT whenever you feel like sharing your feelings with someone professional.