So far in this series, I’ve shared with you about two small changes that have had consequently improved my life. First, having oatmeal in the morning, which changed my eating habits, and second, doing incidental exercise, which has made me live a more active lifestyle. We are now at the last part of the series where I will share with you a third small change that packed a big punch.
I always seem to have so much on the go. Work deadlines, a busy social schedule, “adulting” – it’s sometimes hard to balance it all. For that reason, I have always been on the lookout for a magic remedy to make my stress melt away. While I haven’t found anything that quite works instantly (Genie, where you at?), I have found a tool that helps me slowly regroup and what I refer to as the stress-buster.
You might be wondering what mindfulness is and if practicing it requires you to a) sit a top of Huángshān mountain and take a silent oath for 24 hours or b) pretend you’re Julia Roberts and start eating, praying and loving.
Mindfulness is all about being aware and present in the moment, without attaching any positive or negative meaning to your situation. It often requires closing your eyes and focusing on your breath.
For example, you are right here, right now, reading this blog post about me telling you all about living in the moment you are in right now.
People have been practicing mindfulness for thousands of year. Its origins come from the East and have ties to Hinduism and Buddhism. Mindfulness was popularized in the West by a scientist named Dr. John Kabot-Zinn. He developed the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program, an eight-week long program to help individuals reduce their stress levels. Based on the success of that program, other programs were developed and mindfulness spread in popularity.
It is now used as accepted therapy for anxiety and depression and has also shown effectiveness in treating symptoms of chronic pain, irritable bowel syndrome, and tinnitus.
Interestingly, studies have shown that mindfulness can actually alter the structure of the brain and how different regions of the brain communicate with each other.
How I Incorporate Mindfulness
So how do I fit in mindfulness in my daily living?
Well, I don’t know about you, but it seems like my brain never shuts off. My thoughts seem to jump from topic to topic like skipping rocks at the beach, and it’s hard to keep focused sometimes. This is why mindfulness has been such a welcoming addition. It allows me the opportunity to sit, acknowledge my thoughts and let these thoughts float away.
I have found that it has also been really helpful in high-stress moments, like before an important presentation at work, for example. I put in my earphones, close my eyes, and do a short meditation at my desk. No one around me is even aware that I’m “meditating” and my mind eventually clears out all the muck and negative self-talk.
However, I also apply the power of mindfulness to all kinds of uneasy situations at any moment of the day, not just high-stress ones. For example:
- Getting antsy waiting for the bus?
- Cramped in a crowded elevator?
- Stuck listening to Great Aunt Bertha’s stories of her youth?
Mindfulness is there for you!
I have been practicing mindfulness for a couple years now, inside and outside of the office. Over time, I have found that it gets easier to “train” your brain. The beauty of it is that if your mind starts to wonder, that’s not a problem. You just acknowledge the thought and bring your attention back to your breath.
A Mindfulness App
An app that has really helped with my practice is called: Stop, Breathe, Think. The app was originally developed to make mindfulness accessible to inner-city teens and has now grown to be one of the most popular mindfulness apps out there. The makers of the app believe that having a moment of calmness in your day is just as important as regular physical exercise, which, in my humble opinion, makes total sense.
The meditations on the app vary in length and content. My favourite is the Falling Asleep meditation because I have trouble calming my mind before bed.
1 sheep, 2 sheep, 3 sheep… (Hanzipan)
I use the free version of the app because it has everything I need but there is a paid version with more meditations.
There are also mindfulness retreats that you can go on if you’re feeling particularly adventurous.
By implementing mindfulness into my daily life, I have found myself feeling less anxious. I have more control over my thoughts and my reactions to stressful situations that are out of my control. Mindfulness has the ability to impact every facet of your life like it has mine.
For this reason, I wanted to let you guys know about this app in case there are some of you out there that haven’t heard about mindfulness practice or wanted to try it but didn’t know where to start.
Here are some additional resources if you would like to learn more about mindfulness:
The Power of Mindfulness: What You Practice Grows Stronger – Shauna Shapiro: TEDx Talk
Why Aren’t We Teaching You Mindfulness – AnneMarie Rossi – TEDxYouth
Let me know if you’ve tried mindfulness and what you think of it. If you haven’t tried it, I highly suggest you do. What do you have to lose besides those annoying thoughts?