Mindfulness Techniques for Busy Life

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A little mindfulness can go a long way for preparing you for the day and ensuring you start off in a peaceful and balanced manner.

Living life in 2014 is undeniably demanding; the ever increasing pressure to be accomplished, busy and actively pursuing future goals can have negative drawbacks on our physical and mental well-being if we do not properly understand the nature of our actions. We feel the debilitating effects of physical and mental exhaustion from constant multitasking, stimulation, planning, and overthinking, but can often do nothing more than attribute these as consequences of the nature of the world we live in.

This attribution could not be further from the truth, with more individuals each day discovering empowerment and regaining control of whirlwind life through an approach of mindfulness.

We are constantly in a “Doing” mode; where we need to be doing something in order to feel accomplished and alive. Thinking is also “doing”; when we are constantly thinking of the past or worrying about the future we are not experiencing reality in the present, the now. In fact, we live in a society that values “doing” so highly that it feels attractive and exciting, when in reality too much “doing” leaves us with no space to develop deeper relationships with ourselves, others, and the world around us.

It is through mindfulness that we come to realize that there is also a “Being” mode, which is always available to us even in midst of our busy lives. In the “Being” mode we simply allow ourselves to exist fully aware in the present moment. “Mindfulness [is] the practice of being fully present and alive, body and mind united. Mindfulness is the energy that helps us to know what is going on in the present moment” (Thich Nhat Hanh, 2008). In this way, mindfulness allows us to transcend doing mode, and enter being mode; the space in which we gain a sense of perspective.

The idea behind being mindful is to be present; bringing conscious attention and full awareness to life experiences as they are happening. It is purposefully a here-and-now experience that allows us to encounter life in an open, receptive, and interested manner. When experiencing “moments” mindfully, we can more clearly see them for what they truly are, and we can then come to better understand the nature of our own actions; why we think, feel, and act the ways that we do.

We have to change our daily habits in order to change our lives, and mindfulness is not always easy to cultivate; but certainly with practice it becomes part of daily life. The following exercises and techniques are simple and convenient, but effective at bringing mindful awareness into your everyday life:

1. Mindful Breathing – even for 60 seconds!

You can bring mindfulness to any circumstance through breathing. Whenever you are, whenever it is, you can always find time for 60 seconds to bring yourself back to your breathing. Try the simple four-fold breathing technique:

1. With emptied lungs, inhale slowly for 5 seconds
2. Hold your breath for 5 seconds
3. Exhale slowly for 5 seconds
4. Hold your lungs empty for 5 seconds

Keep your mind clear and focus on your breathing.  Your mind will try to wander as you breathe and count, “One… two… three… oops, I forgot to start the laundry this morning… dangit, I’m thinking! One… two…three…”, so just be ready to bring your attention back to your breathing once your mind begins to stray.

2. Mindful eating

A lot of the time, our eating habits fall secondary to everything else we are doing. That is, we multitask while we are eating; watching tv, having conversation, thinking, reading, or working all while ‘scarfing’ down our most important energy resource as quickly as possible. Try a few of these techniques to help appreciate meals and bring awareness to your eating habits:

–  Set aside time for eating without any other entertainment; 5 or 10 minutes is usually enough!
– Clear your mind before you eat and examine your meal with your senses before consuming it. Look at the physical presentation: the colours, the shapes, the textures, and the way it is all organized on the plate. Take in the smells and feel the temperature.
– Focus deeply on each mouthful; carefully select each item and set down your cutlery in between mouthfuls. Slowly and thoroughly chew the food, appreciate the flavour and texture. Focus on all the sensations you feel while taking these mindful mouthfuls.
– Listen to your body as you are eating; focus on how full you actually feel versus how much food is left on your plate.

3. Mindful walking

We walk every day anyway, so we can absolutely shift our modes of thought to bring mindfulness into everyday walking. Whether you set out intending to walk mindfully, or you decide to mid-movement, all it takes is bringing attention to your action of walking and to your external and internal environments. Focus on your feet and how they hit the ground, your speed and pace, your posture, your breathing, the space immediately around you, and your internal state. The most important thing is to try to keep your mind from wandering; just enjoy the experience of walking!

4. Mindful listening

To truly listen to something, whether it is another person’s words or to the sounds of nature, really does take attention and effort to stay present. Mindful listening is another wonderful way to cultivate overall mindfulness easily into everyday routine. Try a few of these gentle self-reminders to encourage truer listening in both alone and accompanied experience:

– When practicing mindful breathing, eating, and walking remember to listen mindfully also. When you find yourself alone, remind yourself it is a perfect time to listen to your environment!
– When engaged in conversation with others, try to keep your mind from wandering, or drawing conversation back to self; ask open ended questions, encourage dialogue, allow others to finish their full thoughts, and take time before responding.
– Listen non-judgmentally; there is no need to determine, define, or think about each thing you hear. Just listen and let things pass.

Mindfulness includes strong elements of kindness without judgement to yourself and others, and it can be extended infinitely. Through mindfulness we can learn to live with ourselves in the world we find ourselves in, peacefully.

References

The Moment is Perfect, Thich Nhat Hanh, Shambhala Sun, May 2008.

 

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