Through those initial phases of Covid19, the whole world hit pause for a moment. Slowing down was forced upon us by lockdowns and government restrictions, preventing us from leaving the home, aside from essentials. The roads were quiet for once, motorways during rush hour had only the occasional car passing through. Usually busy shopping streets, deserted.
Working from home or being unable to work at all meant more flexible schedules, more time with family, more time to explore hobbies, and a chance to get those house projects finished. Bliss! While we aren’t trying to negate the fact that there have been many people who struggled and experienced significant loss throughout this time, there are also many who enjoyed this opportunity to take their foot off the accelerator for a moment. Slowing down is a glorious thing!
Fast track a year and here we are, still bouncing in and out of lockdowns. There are still bills to pay and responsibilities to fulfill – eventually, we all had to hit ‘play’ again. Covid19 has, however, reminded people of the value of a slower life, where simple pleasures are appreciated more.
Looking back over the year that has been, have you managed to hold on to some moments of ‘slow’? Or did you get sucked back into ‘life in the fast lane’?
If you identified more with the latter, you might want to try mindfulness.
What is Mindfulness?
Mindfulness is a type of meditation that involves bringing your attention to the present moment. This involves having an awareness of your surroundings – what you are seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting and touching, as well as what’s happening at an internal level – your emotions, your thoughts, and how it ‘feels’ to be you.
We are often so caught up in our own heads and our internal dialogue of thoughts that we miss out on what is really happening around us. How many times have you driven home from work completely lost in thought, only to realise that you can’t remember half of the journey? Or realised half way through a conversation that your mind has been on your ‘to-do’ list and you actually haven’t taken in a word they’ve said?
Practising mindfulness helps you to slow down and direct your attention to the present moment, keeping you attentive to the real world around you, as well as your own internal ecosystem.
Why Practise Mindfulness?
Well for starters, there’s a lot that you miss out on when you rush through life! Mindfulness can also be very closely intertwined with cultivating appreciation and gratitude. Just think…
How much better does your coffee taste when you actually focus on enjoying each sip?
How good does it feel to stop and appreciate the warmth of the morning sun on your skin?
Do you even notice that beautiful sunset if you are watching Netflix on your phone during your bus ride home?
In conditions such as panic disorder, being able to refocus on the world around them and put a stop to the escalating thoughts of distress is a critical skill to master. In our day to day lives, practising mindfulness allows us to combat feelings of stress, develop a greater understanding of ourselves and better manage our emotional wellbeing.
How to Practise Mindfulness?
Mindfulness can be done as an extended meditation practise, or by taking short pauses throughout the day. A good place to start is by focusing on the breath, and then by bringing your attention to each of the 5 senses. Start with just a few minutes a day, and build up from there.
Remember – the whole purpose of mindfulness is being able to objectively observe, without criticism and judgement. Don’t beat yourself up if you find yourself getting caught up in trains of thought. Simply let the thought pass by, then refocus your attention. Mindfulness is a practise, which means it requires time, effort, and consistency to develop your skills and reap the full rewards.
There are also plenty of free meditation resources available on apps such as Insight Timer and Calm.
Give it a go, and embrace slow!
Author: Yolanda van Vugt
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