We live in a hyper-busy world, where our pace of life is always frantic. Our minds are constantly occupied and we are forever up to something.
With that in mind, I would like you, the reader, to take a moment and think about the last time that you did nothing – just 10 minutes doing absolutely nothing. And when I say nothing, I really do mean nothing. Therefore, no emailing, no texting, no internet browsing, no television, no eating, no reading; not even sitting there reminiscing about the past or planning for your future.
Our mind is one of our most precious and valuable resources, through which we experience our existence. The same mind that we rely on to be happy, content and emotionally stable. We also depend on it to be kind, thoughtful and considerate in our personal relationships. Another of its valuable assets is that it helps us stay focused, creative, spontaneous and perform at our best in everything that we do.
But then, instead of looking after it and nourishing it, we end up never finding the time to do so. Curiously enough, as individuals we tend to spend more time taking care of our cars, the clothes in our wardrobe, our physique and hair. As a result, we eventually accumulate stress and burn out. Our mind becomes muddled like a washing machine which goes round and round, or cluttered like an untidy bedroom, unable to discern its many contrasting emotions. We are then left helpless and unable to deal with anything.
Unfortunately, throughout our daily lives we are bombarded with all sorts of distractions competing for our attention, so much so, that sometimes we are no longer present in the here and now. We tend to look past the things that are more significant for us. Oddly enough, this has become so normalised that everybody assumes it is the standard way of life. We are made to feel that we have to brush this whole issue aside. In other words, suck it up and move on.
Here is a personal anecdote of mine that can serve as an example.
When I was 29 years old, I attended my very first Pilates class. Without my knowing, all the attendees present consisted of elderly ladies.
Side note: Pilates is not just designed to strengthen the core muscles and improve balance, but it also sharpens mental faculties and improves performance, both at work and home. Its emphasis is on breathing techniques and mindful thinking, that can help reduce stress and anxiety, enhance concentration, and even improve sleeping habits.
At the time, I was going through a rehabilitation process due to a knee injury. When I saw all of the elderly women in my class, I foolishly assumed that it was going to be a piece of cake. Little did I know that the torment I was dealing with internally was going to leave a huge impact on my performance. Instead of going into the class mindful, in reality, my mind was full.
My sports injury had deeply affected my identity as a sportswoman and I was battling other inner demons as well. One exercise, which is performed with a big inflatable ball known as the fitball, seemed like walk in the park – or so I thought. I couldn’t manage to do one single exercise properly. I failed miserably at every task, whereas the elderly women performed each one effortlessly. They were as fit as a fiddle, while I was weak and mediocre.
Although this experience was humiliating, it actually proved to be an important wakeup call. That day I learned the fundamental lesson that before aiming for physical progress, I had to work on my psychological well-being first. I had some healing to do. Mindfulness was the key to all of this.
We all deal with stress in different ways. Some bury themselves in work as a distraction. Others turn to their friends and families for support, whilst some will hit rock bottom. The present moment is so under-rated, and we don’t give it the importance it deserves. Hence, if we don’t take care of our mind, we will wander into a trajectory headed towards unhappiness.
Some tips on how to practice mindfulness right now:
- Stop what you’re doing and take a deep breath
- Put your phone down
- Do one thing at a time
- Find mindful moments in everyday tasks
- Spend some time outside, and notice your surroundings
- Create something
- Engage in physical activities