Crystals, incense, meditation corners and indoor plants. These used to be viewed as the useless accessories of bohemians and hippies. As the importance of mental health and mindfulness becomes the status quo, both young and old are coming to appreciate the need to actively pursue a fully balanced life.
Before you quit your job and barrel into the great beyond, seeking the purpose of life like Walter Mitty, I can assure you that balance can be achieved at home, in the office, at school, in traffic, or sweating it out at the gym. You can reach a state of “Om” anywhere as long as you’re willing to do the work. All it takes is a few subtle shifts in the way you already do things and you’ll immediately begin to feel the difference. You will notice yourself feeling more connected to the earth, and the universe at large.
SO, WHERE DO YOU START?
Right here and right now. Mindfulness begins when you learn to be present. If you’re already imagining the bumper to bumper congestion you’ll have to burn through at 5pm, an undercurrent of stress will pollute your entire day. Consciously give this moment all your attention and efforts.
The way I like to visualise it is as if my life is a storeroom of different boxes. I never let the boxes touch. When it’s time to be productive, I roll up my metaphorical sleeves and unpack my work box. No at any point do I peek into my exercise box, my cooking box, or my ‘what Netflix series to binge tonight’ box.
Women have been hailed master multitaskers, but in all honesty, when you’re switching from one project to the next, important information often gets lost in the process. Be single-minded. Set realistic goals every day. Achieve them. You will be well on your way to improving your mental health.
Something I cannot go without stressing is the need to take breaks. If you work in an office, or are stuck in classes all day, carve out 10 – 15 minutes every 3 hours and go outside. A short walk to the closest cafe for a turmeric latte or green juice would be an added bonus, but the fresh air and sunlight that greets you will put a smile on your face and instantly lift your mood. The oxygen that rushes into your body will improve brain activity, increasing your productivity when you eventually return to your desk.
Tradespeople need to rest too. Carpenters, plumbers, electricians and the like should take regular breaks to stretch, you may risk cramping or muscle bruising. Getting into the childs pose, downward dog or cat and cow pose will stretch out your back while working on your central nervous system.
While you’re on your daily break, take a minute to do a mindfulness exercise. Be discreet: practice controlled breathing for 60 seconds, or find three people to hug throughout the day. When I remember, I do an effective grounding technique where I identify five things I can see, four things I can touch, three things I can hear, two things I can smell, and one thing I can taste. These kinds of exercises centre you.
Often, people find themselves in a state of flux because of high-stress environments (self-imposed or otherwise). Looming deadlines and titanic expectations can make even the most organised person feel overwhelmed. You don’t need to know you’re headed for a burnout to slow down. Shift gears now.
The notion that people who work slowly get less done needs to be abandoned. You really can be more efficient and diligent if you don’t have the threat of time lighting a fire under your seat. Employees and students who aren’t panicking don’t make the silly mistakes frantic people often do because they can focus.
Anyone with pre-existing heart conditions, asthma, obesity, diabetes, depression, anxiety, gastrointestinal problems like IBS, and those who suffer from chronic headaches will tell you that stress is something to be avoided as it aggravates these conditions.
“Stress is not your friend.” (tell this to prospective employers that ask you whether you can perform in stressful environments/under pressure).
There are healthy ways of dealing with stress like journalling, making use of colouring books, cooking for yourself, or even taking a mental health day to recharge every once in a while. But you need to be able to identify stress, as well as your stressors. Be mindful of times when your breathing quickens and your heartbeat accelerates so you are better prepared to deal with the shift in your mood in a way that is conducive to your happiness and productivity.
Lastly, practice gratitude. There are many half-baked decisions, absent-minded thoughts and subconscious actions that could’ve led to your demise. But you are still here. That is something to be thankful for. Humans have become so jaded; we all walk around with our fists up, not realising we are cheating ourselves of this fantastical journey called life.
We are here to learn, and do, and make fools of ourselves, and dream, but we get distracted by the administration of existing.
Please, PLEASE don’t forget to have fun.
If you take all these into consideration, and adopt at least one practice a week, you will drastically improve your mindfulness and general quality of life.