Mindfulness – 5 steps to giving your brain a detox.
Firstly, what is mindfulness or being mindful? The general definition puts it as being fully aware or conscious of something. A mental state achieved by focusing on the present moment and withholding self-judgement for the thoughts and sensations that are observed in the mind and body. It is practised to heighten therapeutic benefits.
It is a great way to calm the mind and lower stress levels. Well, that’s how we can see it in the West, the origins are founded on something more than lowering stress levels. As a practise dating back over 2000 years, it was used and still is to end suffering by many groups, such as Buddhism, Hinduism and Taoism. In today’s society it has taken on many forms and filters, however, the practise seeks to achieve similar goals no matter the label.
While the practise of mindfulness is to focus on something, meditation, is to pursue the thoughts of nothing, however, the two are so closely linked, they aid each other.
When stepping into this realm, l’m not suggesting there is any “correct” definitions that supersedes another, it’s all about exploring the benefits that they bring and giving it a go.
As we wake each day, often, our minds are awash with so many thoughts all competing for the same amount of real estate. The range of thoughts can be overwhelming. For many of us, these thoughts are all so known as “worries”, we worry about so many things on the daily. Some deserve the worry, that right amount of fight or flight response, others are a construct of what we are allowing to create pressure upon us for no reason.
Recently, l have found myself getting stressed about so many thoughts l can’t control, like finding a parking spot near my home hours before l even leave work or getting a table at our favourite Sunday brunch spot. To be honest, l think this is indicative of when the dam bursts, every little thing becomes something to stress about and see as something that is going wrong or happening to “me”. It’s not, it’s just things that are happening that are totally neutral
So how can we stop the chatter, find some calmness and bring about a quieter mind that can balance staying focused and in the moment?
5 Easy steps to being mindful
1 Stop Judging, Labeling, Ruminating
We all do this, judging whether that be someone, something or ourselves, constant judging is just tiring. It puts you in a position of constantly having to evaluate everything and label it, you are constantly having to rank everything. As a result of that, it’s easy to see yourself at the bottom of your own self-made totem pole, we get irritated, frustrated and upset. Just try for one hour, not a day, you work towards that duration, of not judging anything that happens and giving it a label, either good or bad or positive or negative. Just let things be neutral, if you are in the coffee line up and its taking too long, let it go, don’t have an expectation of how long you thinks it should be taking, just be, use the time to think of something nice, maybe a recent trip, a good friend etc. You’ll be surprised how quickly you’ll be sipping on your latte feeling good about your roasted beans.
Let things go! Ruminating on something that has passed, just weighs us down. It’s just non sensical how we can still be giving energy to things that happen that we see as a slight against us personally, most of the time they are not, it’s just something that happened. Move the f*ck on, you’ll feel better. At this point you are more than welcome to read the story about the two monks that helped the women across the river. We only have so much energy, stop wasting your resources on things in the recent past that are just trivial. The trick is convincing yourself that they are in fact that, trivial non personal things that happened. The better you get at this, the less pointless stuff will steal your valuable energy.
The practise of mindfulness keeps you in the present moment, focus on sights, sounds, smells and touch. Absorb the essence of the day and see what is happening around you, there is a very good chance something wonderful is happening right next to you, if someone is wearing a crazy pink faux fur over coat, smile inwardly at that persons colourful style rather than think it’s too loud and awful, enjoy the human interaction when two friends in the coffee shop laugh uncontrollably rather that get annoyed they are too loud. Just let yourself be.
2 Know when to put down your phone
Mindful people, tend to have a healthy relationship with their tech. Smartphones being the most pervasive devices in our lives, many positives for sure, but some more questionable habits are formed when we are attached to them 24/7. Set the right boundary that works for you, maybe not first thing in the morning and last thing at night? Give yourself those moments to perhaps do some deep breathing and cleansing the mind. Put them away when you are spending time with loved ones, be present with the humans in front of you and not the ones reaching out to you via the phone. Show the people you are with that the time you are sharing with them is special, nothing shows “I’m happy to see you” more than taking a call when with a friend right! When you are with people, be with them, eye contact increases the bond you have distraction does not.
3 Get outside – Preferably around nature
Think of the last time you had a great walk in the woods, around a lake, at the beach or on a trail. Chances are you felt fantastic during and afterward. Mindful people do not compromise their city living and time spent in nature. It’s such a great reset to take a walk either alone or with a loved one in nature, the calming effect of walking amongst trees is so uplifting. It increases all the right hormones and helps lower the bad ones. It gives the mind some white space to actually just be in the moment and smell the air, which will almost always be cleaner and more replenishing than in the City. Communing with nature takes us to a less complicated headspace, one in which we can just feel like a regular human that is part of a greater fabric, the focus becomes less about oneself and the list of things we have to do and more about being in your own body, it’s uplifting and energizes us. So, go and breathe in some nature and do all you can to make it a habit.
4 You don’t always have to be happy
Mindfulness is not walking around with a perma-smile and never allowing yourself to feel stressed or unhappy. In fact, mindful people really allow themselves to feel sad, angry, upset or other negative emotions. The key is not repressing feelings that are as legitimate as happy ones, allow them, experience them, however, have the right mindset about moving on from them at the appropriate timeframe. (see number 1 about ruminating). Know when to change your focus to feeling more positive about negative emotions, that is, after all, how we move forward. We hear all the time about moving forward, it often relates to moving on from negative experiences, you have to feel them and live them before you can release them.
This one shouldn’t need me to say a lot about its benefits, that being said, l can’t recall the last time I meditated, so l guess therein lays the point. It’s easy, free, doesn’t require a membership, so why aren’t more of us doing it? Maybe our brains are just so stuck in the “on” position it will actually hurt too much to attempt to quiet the brain.
Whatever the reason. Give it a go. Start maybe with 2-5 minutes a few times a week. Find a quiet place and a comfy position and just breathe. Feel the breath come in and go out, keep your thoughts only on that. If the goal is to become more mindful, then meditation will help with that. Meditation is like a concentrated blitz of being mindful (of nothing). It’s such a great way to set yourself up for a great day, or gain some clear space about a negative situation, again, by not thinking about it and just focusing on breathing.
As you may imagine, with such as personal and global age-old practise of mindfulness and meditation, there are countless ways you can find your own path to creating a calmer mind. Here are just a few other thoughts:
Do not take yourself or life so seriously, find time to see the humour in things, laugh at yourself from time to time, it’s like a pressure valve for the senses.
Stop trying to multi-task the sh*t out of life! It’s ok to focus on just one task at a time and be happy when it has been completed well.
Expand some of your daily routines as an opportunity to meditate, this could be on a bike at the gym or unloading the dish washer. Meditation doesn’t always need to happen in a quiet room sat crossed legged. Find some creative ways to deepen your practice.
Show some empathy and compassion to all, we are all on the same journey and just maybe the person looking angry or impatient, is just having a bad day. Chances are if they see you smile at them, it will help. It may help you more than them.
Again, l’m not writing this to state how we should achieve a deeper sense of being mindful, I’m simply saying, it has been considered for centuries in certain cultures that “being mindful” will enhance the human experience and journey. Evidently, in our own society, more and more people are seeking a way back to a peaceful detachment from the daily grind, even if, for only a few moments.
I think l need to get me some of that mindfulness!