May Reflection: Mindfulness Tips
When was the last time you took 5-10 minutes to simply do nothing? No technology, eating, chatting, or even mind wandering? Do you often find yourself wishing you could have better control and regulation over intrusive thoughts and feelings that arise throughout the day? Wishing you could be more relaxed and engaged in the present moment? There’s often a misconception that because our lives can be so busy and hectic, there’s not enough time or importance to stop everything we’re doing and value stillness. A research article recently published at Harvard indicates that the average person spends 47% of their waking hours cycling through thoughts about the past or future that detach them from the present. They also stated that, “In fact, how often our minds leave the present and where they tend to go is a better predictor of our happiness than the activities in which we are engaged.” This is significant research that may have you wondering, what can I do to foster better control of how present I am throughout the day without my mind getting stuck in loops of thoughts that don’t serve me? Mental health awareness month just passed, and it’s important to maintain the awareness emphasized in the month moving forward by continuing to do self assessments to reflect on how we’ve been nurturing our mental wellbeing and facilitating a productive, focused, and tranquil headspace. Mindfulness meditation in particular, acts as somewhat of a superpower to help facilitate the balanced, nurtured state described above that we’re all striving for.
Alan Watts, a profound philosopher and scholar who was particularly well known for embodying many Zen teachings, emphasized that many of us are not living in the eternal now, where reality is. Rather, we are always thinking about the satisfactions of life that will be coming later. Mindfulness meditation aims to alleviate this false notion. Mindfulness consists of being highly tuned into what your body and mind are feeling as you rest in stillness. This trains many essential skills that can promote not only more calmness throughout your day, but also better mental clarity and focus. This observation of what you’re feeling is intended to be taken from a neutral perspective, without passing judgment on what thoughts and feelings arise. Being able to take a step back and simply observe can reveal many patterns in our thinking that we may not be consciously aware of. Not only can this shine a spotlight on what’s really going on in our minds on a daily basis, but it’s also been shown in multitudes of studies to mitigate stress, anxiety, pain, depression, insomnia, and even high blood pressure. Furthermore, it greatly aids in preventing burnout and attention issues when working or focusing on something important. This form of meditation trains your mind to be more present in any given moment and to be able to have more control over your reactions to different situations. Now that sounds like a superpower, and all you have to do to obtain it is to take at least 5-10 minutes to give yourself space to simply observe what naturally arises in your mind and body as you rest in stillness. What’s stopping you from trying it today and seeing how you feel after?
May was mental health awareness month, which is a movement that dates back to 1949 that has substantially evolved over the years as open discussions addressing mental health issues have perpetually become more prevalent and socially acceptable. This movement was created with the intent to minimize the stigma and hesitation around having open discussions about one’s mental wellbeing. In addition, it aims to educate individuals on what protective factors and practices exist to nurture one’s own mental health. Although the movement has been greatly successful in raising awareness, the amount of people that actually sustain practices to alleviate mental distress is less than 14% of people in the US. Given how much turmoil has been presented over the past years with the pandemic and multitudes of distressing events in the world, there’s never been a greater emphasis on maintaining your own wellbeing and showing self love and care for yourself and others. Mindfulness meditation is one of many easy to integrate practices that can promote a better wellbeing for you and your loved ones. What habits can you create today to promote better mental wellbeing and fortitude for the future?