August 15th is National Relaxation Day. It’s a day where you can step back from your hectic life and take a minute to be present - take in the moment no matter how ordinary, clear your mind and connect with yourself.
‘Mindfulness’ is a word that popped up in Western culture in the 1970s. John Kabbat-Zinn of the University of Massachusetts Medical School studied with Buddhist teachers, integrated their teachings with medical findings, and eventually downplayed any connection between mindfulness and Buddhism. Mindfulness as a secular technique that can help people cope with stress, pain, anxiety, depression, illness, and drug addiction. In fact, Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) is offered by many medical centers, hospitals, health maintenance organizations, and many big-name businesses since it has many rewards for people who consistently commit to it. The acts of rumination and worry can lead to anxiety and depression, and mindfulness based interventions are effective in reducing these.
Multi-tasking - making your brain shift from task to task in short intervals - creates a higher level of stress, mental effort, frustration, and mental workload. We may think it lets us get a lot done and we’re proud of our ability, but it is not sustainable without some side effects. Mindfulness or monotasking has a stigma of seeming lazy but purposefully paying attention to the present moment helps us provide higher quality results and a fuller experience. Clearing our mind and decreasing our mental load can increase our creativity and our desire to learn, and decrease burn out. With clarity, curiosity and creativity we develop self-knowledge and wisdom.
So, how can you increase your mindfulness? Mindfulness is a lifelong work in progress. Having a daily 10 minute practice will train our brains to be mindful all of the time.
How to do it:
1. Sit (or lay) quietly, eyes closed, focusing on:
your breath and the airflow through your nostrils, or
your breathe and the movement of your abdomen, or
do a body scan to check in on various areas that may hold tension or feel relaxed.
2. As thoughts arise, notice them passively, non-judgmentally, then return to your focus of breathing or body-scanning, or
3.Try focusing on sounds, sensations, thoughts, feelings, actions:
spend time mindfully eating a raisin
go for a walk outside - notice and appreciate the sound of the trees or birds in the sky without feeling the pressure to do anything more
tend to your garden - enjoy the beauty
identify a person in your life who appears to be living daily with intention - appreciate the important role that person plays in the lives around them
have lunch anywhere but your desk - truly enjoy the meal you are about to eat; smell, texture, and sound
take the headphones out- enjoy your physical activity by taking in your surroundings without the noise
be attentive as you drive your car
pay attention as you wash your dishes by hand
Maybe you already know how to be mindful! Being aware of it allows you to choose to be mindful more often. Being mindful shows respect for yourself and for those around you. Living by paying attention helps us be grateful for more details that we might otherwise miss. Enjoying the fullness of life by paying attention is a good way to spend ‘Me Time’.