How to make mindfulness a part of your life
Dubai: You’re in the car. You realise you forgot to lock the main door of your flat. You run back only to find that you actually did.
A colleague asks “How are you?” and walks off without even bothering to hear your reply.
You’re already in the office. A thought suddenly strikes you: Did you unplug the flat iron? You’re in a dilemma whether to go back or not, and hope and pray that a fire doesn’t erupt at home.
Do any of the above sound familiar? Turns out, many of us have committed one or all of these ‘mindless’ acts.
It’s like our brain plays tricks on us sometimes and we just can’t seem to remember. Worse, when we are actually engaged in a task, we’re not “really there” — meaning not fully, mentally present.
This mindlessness happens virtually to everyone nowadays. It doesn’t discriminate by age, class or gender.
In a way, it’s the body’s coping mechanism in this hectic, hyper-connected world, said Bina Mathews, a master NLP coach and hypnotherapist.
“We are juggling so much every single day, in addition to being plugged into the online world 24/7. So we slip into neutral gear, as it were, and coast through everything on autopilot,” Mathews told Gulf News.
“When we’re operating in a mindless way, we’re choosing not to take in all available information. So, we go through the day reacting to internal thoughts and feelings and external events, rather than responding.”
When we work on autopilot most of the time, our mind — or consciousness — fails to appreciate life, said Reenu Sahore, a certified life and NLP coach, and mindfulness teacher.
“Living this way, we often fail to notice the beauty of life or hear what our bodies are telling us. We all too often become stuck in mechanical, conditioned ways of thinking and living that may be harmful to ourselves and the people around us,” Sahore said.
“When in autopilot, we tend to get lost in the ‘doing’ mode. We find ourselves constantly striving, struggling and getting stuff done, instead of really living our life, forcing us to be vulnerable to anxiety, stress, depression and reactivity. Research shows, in fact, that the more our minds wander, the less happy we are.”
Finding the right balance
While many of us need to re-learn mindfulness and practice it daily, Mathews said having occasional mindlessness can also be a good thing.
“Conscious mindlessness is also a necessary part of our lives. Being able to balance mindfulness and mindlessness means being aware of the benefits of both and practising them appropriately. Mindfulness requires much cognitive processing power, for all the things we need to do in daily life,” Mathews said.
Having mental shortcuts, or spurts in mindless thinking, is also necessary at times to avoid ‘overload’.
“Contrary to our instincts, unconscious thinking processes are better at handling and analysing large amounts of complex data, so believing that mindful analysis is always preferable may lead you to make less effective choices. So, mindlessness is good and necessary at times.”
So, to strike a balance between the two, if you’re constantly mindless, try re-learning mindfulness. Begin with simple exercises. Gradually build up as you go along and experience its many benefits, such as reducing depression and pain, accelerating cognition, increasing creativity, and de-biasing the mind, among others.
Both coaches advise residents to do mindfulness meditations with professional guidance. Paying attention to life and its details will pay off in the long run. “All of us are part of this mad rush. In the race to achieve in life, we keep going mindlessly. [But] when we are aware of what we do, we’re directly experiencing with our senses, and thus we are mindful. There is growing research that when we train our brain to be mindful, we’re remodelling the physical structure of our brain,” Sahore said.
MINDFULNESS TIPS AND EXERCISES:
Practice and make an effort to observe yourself DURING any part of a day for a minute. Realise what is happening in your mind and body at that moment. Observe your breath, with deep exhalation and inhalation for a couple of minutes and if your mind wanders off in the process, let it be and bring it back gently again to your breathing.
Explore these 5 daily practices for more mindfulness in your life:
1) Wake up with awareness in the morning, breathe in and plan your day.
2) Enjoy every mouthful of food.
3) Give your fast brain a moment’s break whenever you become aware of it.
4) Be grateful for your life and everything in it.
5) Drive yourself calm, not crazy.
6. Consciously focus your concentration on each element of your task, whatever it may be: walking, eating, listening, brushing teeth, experiencing nature and the like.
7. Before going to bed every night, think of three things that have always been a part of your day that you neglect thinking of. But by being mindful, you realise they add value to your day. As the first thing the next morning, recall these three things and be grateful. Do this every day.