Having grown up and lived most of my life in the million-miles-an-hour city of Hong Kong, I too have been plagued by the multi-tasking, monkey-minded, multiple-tabs-open syndrome. Modern technology certainly doesn't help, with its incessant notifications pulling our attention every which way. You’re having your lunch but you’re thinking of an email you need to write; you write the email but you’re worrying about a friend you need to call; you call your friend but you’re thinking of the meeting you need to schedule; you schedule the meeting and remember the lunch you were trying to eat… Do you ever find yourself going into auto-pilot, your body in one place but your mind in several others? This cognitive ability to multi-task is what sets us humans apart, but this can sometimes turn into self-inflicted ADHD. The irony with being busy is that, often, doing less really is more. Otherwise, like a phone or computer with multiple applications and programs open, we just end up draining our batteries faster, slowing our processing speed down, encountering errors, and eventually, having to force quit and shut down.
The cure? Some say mindfulness. It’s become quite the buzzword, but what exactly does it mean? Quite simply, it is any moment when you’re completely at one with the experience. Rest assured, you have experienced this before, be it getting lost in a good book or a good workout, or being fully present during a heart-to-heart, or being completely spellbound by a gorgeous sunset. Your mind is in the here-and-now, your senses are heightened, and the pleasure of the moment is magnified. The trick, of course, is being able to practice it intentionally and regularly.
There have been numerous scientific studies conducted on a range of profiles, from cancer patients to fifth-graders to inmates that have confirmed the array of physical and psychological benefits of mindfulness, from lowered aggression and anxiety levels to improved immune systems, self-esteem and life satisfaction. Brain imaging technology has even shown that practicing mindfulness regularly literally changes the structure and function of the brain for the better.
While it might not be realistic to be in a constant state of mindfulness, you’d be surprised what a difference a few mindful minutes can make in rebooting your brain. Here are 3 simple tips on how to make mindfulness a bigger part of your life:
1. Uni-task: Whenever possible, allow yourself the luxury of doing one thing at a time, and just watch how it increases your productivity, as well as your sense of equanimity. It doesn’t mean going MIA for extended periods of time, it just means allocating time slots, however short, for one activity before moving on to the next one, be it writing a report, reading the news, checking your emails, or scrolling Facebook. Set your timeframe, close those irrelevant tabs, and put away that phone. Don’t let your life be run by notifications and updates; take control and respond on your terms, in your own time.
2. Be with your breath: It is the quickest, easiest, most convenient way of coming back to the present moment, anytime, anywhere. When you give your breath your full attention, your body and mind naturally become one. Simply take a few minutes to tune in to the physicality, movement, pace and quality of your breath. If your mind wanders, it’s all good, just gently guide yourself back to your breath, your anchor. Counting your breaths, narrating the experience to yourself, or breathing to music can all help to keep your mind present. If you want to take things to the next level, use apps such as Headspace for some guided meditation support.
3. Savour the simple stuff: When I was a dance student, I had a teacher who noticed that we were stretching as if it were a boring chore, and pointed out that just by adding intention, attention and attitude to our movements, stretching became dancing. Turn mundane activities like eating, walking, brushing your teeth, or washing the dishes into graceful moments of mindfulness: slow down, anchor yourself in the moment with your breath, and savour all the sensory details of the experience. Mindful eating, for example, has been shown to facilitate weight loss, improve digestion and increase satisfaction levels.
Mindfulness allows us to respond, rather than just react. In the words of Victor E Frankl, “Between stimulus and response, there is space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.” If you’d like some support in leading a more mindful life, book in for a session or check out the Mindful Aromatherapy workshop!
- Christina Paul, Kinesiologis