As you sit across from a friend discussing the latest in 2020 drama, a fleeting thought fills your head: “Don’t forget to grab milk on the way home!” Noted. You unconsciously check your email for that important brief you’ve been expecting – it’s fine, you’re a multitasker – then squeeze in a cheeky 8 second (okay, 40 seconds) scroll through Insta. As your friend reaches her conclusion, you respond with your own two cents (a half baked opinion you coined mid-convo). Another fleeting thought: “I think I need to practice mindfulness...”
Firstly, what is mindfulness and why is it on everyone’s minds?
Mindfulness is the state of being truly present in a moment, and conscious not just of oneself – your thoughts, feelings, habits, and sensations – but of others also. It allows you to be not just in the moment, but calm and accepting toward that moment. It can be the difference between living passively vs. living with intent.
And in an overstimulated, information-overloaded day and age, a time in which we’re always connected yet often lacking meaningful connections, where instant gratification is expected and gratitude is frequently lost, devices are smart, algorithms are smarter, and switching off generally includes more screen time, mindfulness has never been more relevant.
But is mindfulness for you?
Whether you work a high-pressure job, are a busy parent, an emotional eater, are lacking focus, or simply seeking a greater sense of calm and control, mindfulness is something that we all can benefit from. It encourages patience, can prevent relationship conflict, and promotes emotional intelligence. It can help you become a deeper listener, improve productivity, and even has an impact on your physical health.
Here’s how you can promote a little mindfulness in your day-to-day life:
- Mood diary - this is an effective exercise to help identify patterns and triggers in your behaviour. Were you more agitated on the day you skipped your workout? Did you overeat on the day you felt stressed?
- Move your body: If you have difficulty slowing down your mind, exercise can help. Not only does it reduce stress through the release of endorphins, it helps clear your mind and focus on that one moment – your breathing, your form, or pushing through another set.
- Sleep hygiene: When you don’t sleep well, your mind becomes scattered. You may experience irritability, less control over bad habits, poor memory, and go about your day disconnected. The best thing to do to fix this is to focus on clearing your mind and slowing down your thoughts before bed. Try listening to a sleep visualisation or meditation (TIFFXO.com includes quick and practical meditations as part of its online fitness program that are perfect for this) and avoid screen time an hour before lights out.
- Make time for self-care: Give yourself permission to take at least 30 minutes every day to relax, unwind, and recharge your batteries.
- Breathing: Take a moment each day to bring your attention to your breath. Notice it’s patterns and rhythms. You might find you are taking short and sharp breaths more than not. Try a simple breathing exercise to collect your focus: Breathe in for 4 counts through your nose, hold for 4 counts. Then breathe out through your mouth for 4 counts and hold for 4 counts. Repeat 3 times, then return to your natural breath.
- Turn off notifications: with so many distractions already in our lives, unnecessary app notifications that are designed to suck us in are the last thing we need. Switch off the ones you can live without (i.e. most).
- One thing at a time: The more engaged in a single moment we can be, the more meaningful and calm these moments become. Avoid dual screening, try not to eat while watching TV or scrolling through your news feed, and when in a conversation, rather than crafting your response before they are done speaking or tuning in and out, give that person your undivided attention.
It’s safe to say that practicing mindfulness can be therapeutic – life-changing even. We all have room for personal growth, and living mindfully will foster that.
This article was written by Cass Dunn, resident psychologist of www.tiffxo.com.