Healthy Mind

Mindfulness: the key to a stress-free life?

Whether it’s the looming threat of assignments and exams, pressures faced at home or a traumatic experience, stress and anxiety levels can reach alarming heights. As individuals, we will do absolutely anything to avoid unpleasant experiences in life. We do this because we don’t want to suffer any heartache.

The so-called “experts” advise us to take up activities and hobbies to distract us from the trials and tribulations of life. But is this the right thing to do? By blocking out all those negative emotions and thoughts, are we really living or are we simply reducing our capacity to deal with the difficult moments? Mindfulness is the exact opposite of hiding away from the hard times.

For those of you who don’t know, mindfulness is a state of mind and a state of being. It can be defined by one sentence: awareness of the present experience with acceptance. So many of us spend too much time worrying about the future or obsessing about the decisions we made in the past, that we miss out on the present. We do not stop and enjoy the moments; rather we wish that time would hurry up so we can reach moments that we assume will bring us happiness.

By doing this, we don’t realise on what we are missing out on. Living in the moment is one of the greatest abilities a person can have. If you live in the moment, how can you be bogged down by fears of the future? Why would you ever feel the need to worry about what tomorrow will bring if you are busy enjoying your time in the present?

That is the goal of mindfulness: stay in the present to reduce stress. You will be surprised how aware of your emotions you become when you take time to experience the surroundings around you. By listening to sounds, noticing people and smells, your body relaxes and suddenly your mind brings down those barriers that you have put up and all those negative feelings that you thought you buried, make an appearance. It sounds off-putting at first: who wants to experience painful emotions that will upset them.

Unfortunately, that’s another part of mindfulness. It aims to increase our capacity to deal with stress. Basically, you need to embrace the pain. In the end scheme of things, it works to our advantage. When difficult times arise, you will be better equipped to deal with hardship.

To practice mindfulness is to test your patience. Meditation is the key. Like most things, it takes time to master the art of mindfulness. In order to get into a state of calmness, taking 20 or 30 minutes every few days of quiet reflection is essential. Take time to sit in silence and be aware of your breathing; don’t be discouraged if your mind wanders every 30 seconds, it is normal.

We are so used to focusing on so many thoughts that our mind is not used to switching off. The more you try it, the better you will become at focusing on the task at hand. Concentration is very important in this instance. Once you can successfully concentrate on meditation then you will be able to successfully cultivate mindfulness.

Mindfulness practice can take many forms, such as Breath Awareness Meditation, Body Scan Meditation, Eating Meditation, Walking Meditation and Loving-Kindness Meditation. All these forms of meditation are designed to boost a person’s well-being, particularly Loving-Kindness Meditation, where you think about yourself and others in a kind positive way, repeatedly speaking words of praise upon yourself, friends and family. This has been known to increase compassion in individuals. You can do these acts of meditation at set times or informally while doing tasks. It is all about being aware of the present and soaking up the emotions and thoughts at that very moment.

It is important to note that mindfulness is not a miracle worker. You don’t suddenly start being the happiest person alive and you don’t feel pain. It’s not that whatsoever. You still feel sorrow but you have the capacity to deal with it better than everyone else. By accepting the present experiences, tomorrow seems like a faraway entity. What matters is today.

Further reading:

“The Mindfulness Solution: Everyday Practices for Everyday Problems.” By Ronald D. Siegel.

“Mindfulness for Dummies”………it does have some good stuff in it.

Or just Google ‘mindfulness’: simple, fast and cheap.