Humans experience much more stress in modern daily life than they did a hundred years ago. Life was physically more demanding then, more labour-focussed, but the stress levels were less. The complexities of modern day-to-day living and the stress on both mind and body cannot be underestimated. For instance, the stress of driving a car on a busy road is huge
We always seem to be going somewhere and working towards something, a means to an end. We rush things to get them done so that we can move onto the next thing. Often, we feel frustrated because we never have enough time for ourselves.
Mindfulness is about being fully focussed in the present moment. It is about not worrying about where we are going or what is coming next. Research shows that people who live in the moment are often happier than those who are always looking into the past or the future. There is power in the NOW. You can choose, in any moment, to change your thoughts, actions and feelings. Being in the present can reduce stress levels, improve concentration and increase productivity.
Mindfulness can be practised in a number of ways.
Meditation is hugely beneficial and could really improve many aspects of your life and health. If you find it hard to concentrate for so long, the following exercises will help.
Focus on your breathing. Taking a few deep breaths and just focussing on those can calm your mind and eliminate stress. This is also good if you are feeling upset or annoyed.
Concentrate on one activity – whether photocopying, tidying files or ironing a shirt: whatever it is, focus on it. Don’t think about anything else. If your mind wanders, don’t worry, bring it back to the present. If making a cup of tea, feel the cup in your hand, the noise of the water being poured, the steam of the kettle, the textures, temperatures, aromas, taste. What sensations arise, what feelings, etc? This is also a grounding exercise and is good to do after meditation.
Detailed Visualisation – Some of us try to influence events by visualising the desired outcome. But how many of us visualise in detail? Most imaginings are fleeting and vague, an idea or a concept. If you are stressed about a situation, imagine it happening in the way you want it to, but ground it by focussing on each detail. If you are taking a driving test, imagine what the car looks like, feels like, the colours, the sound of the engine, the feel of the steering wheel beneath your hands, the texture of the car seat, the handshake with the instructor, the feeling of achievement when you pass. Even though you are imagining a future event, it will bring you right into the present moment and reduce your stress or worry about that situation.
Live in the moment – This doesn’t mean you should ignore deadlines or stop managing your time but it does mean you should accept that everything has a time and a place, and that right NOW that time is being given to a particular activity. When you take a break, don’t feel guilty, don’t worry about getting back to work or that you won’t finish the work in time. Enjoy the break for what it is. You can make the break a bit shorter but fully embrace it.
Practising mindfulness can help you take back control of your day and your thoughts and feelings and, ultimately, your life.