In this time and age, it is ever more important to be wary of stressors and learn the ‘art’, yes you heard it, art, of enjoying life to the fullest. Most of the times, we are so consumed by the circumstances of our past or the worries of our future that we forget that today is what we really have.
This idea of conscious living, or mindfulness, may seem contradictory to those who are habitual of going after their goals by sacrificing living right now. But cultivating mindfulness will not only help you achieve your goals faster, but also enjoy life as you go for what you love.
There are new researches doing the rounds on happiness – that suggest that happy people tend to be more productive, confident and successful. By being mindful, you will notice that you enjoy your meals more, you enjoy time with family and friends more, enjoy your work more. You will be astonished to notice how a small change like this could bring lasting positive changes to your daily life. Another study, conducted by the University of Utah, confirms that people with mindful traits have more emotional stability, and sleep better at night.
This attitude of mindfulness will not come naturally, because we are living in a culture where we are continuously bombarded with information, deadlines, work, stressors, and expectations to act, socialize, feel, and be a certain way.
Cultivating a sense of mindfulness will require some patience and practice, but the results will be worth it all.
Life is unfolding in the present moment. But most of the time, we let the present moments slip away, ruminating about the past or worrying about the future. We are in a constant state of flux, always busy doing something and thus we forget what it feels like to be still and calm.
“We’re living in a world that contributes in a major way to mental fragmentation, disintegration, distraction, decoherence,” says Buddhist scholar B. Alan Wallace. The following will sound familiar to most of you; when we are working, we think about when we would take a vacation. When we are vacationing, we worry about the work piling up.
Intrusive memories of the past or apprehension about the future – things that may never even happen – keep us from focusing on what really matters right now. Something that Mark Twain wrote always brings a smile to my face, “I have known a great many troubles, but most of them never happened.”
We don’t enjoy living in the present because our minds are hard-wired to hop from thought to thought, and create imaginary fears to paralyze us from functioning to the best of our abilities.
Most of the times, ordinary thoughts that cruise through our minds, control us. We become victims to our own negativity and can’t find a way to let go of unwanted feelings, even when we want to.
Living in the moment means being in a state of active, open, and intentional attention to the present. Instead of becoming immersed in your thoughts, you become an observer of your thoughts – rejecting what you don’t like, or what doesn’t benefit you.
Mindfulness has many other benefits – it reduces stress (obviously!), boosts your immune system, reduces chronic pain, lowers blood pressure and helps people cope with diseases like cancer! It even reduces the risk of heart disease.
Naturally, people who are mindful are happier, more confident, more secure, exuberant and emphatic.
Most of the times, we are so trapped in thoughts of our distant future or the past that we absolutely forget to experience things right now, in this moment. We eat dinner and think, ‘I have to put the kids to bed, have to study for the big exam, have to wake up early, so much to be done…’
We meet a friend after a long time and think, ‘She looks really happy. Wish my life was also as smooth as hers.’ Hasn’t this happened to all of us?
Instead, pause for a moment and focus on the taste of that coffee in your hands, really smell that scent you bought, listen deeply to that piece of music – and instantly you will feel that you are relaxing. Doing this over a period of time will bring more happiness, more joy, and a flood of other positive emotions. Depressive symptoms, boredom, disconnect and negative emotions in general will decrease.
Whitney Heppner and Michael Kernis of the University of Georgia say that mindfulness actually inoculates people from aggressive impulses. “Mindfulness decreases ego involvement so people are less likely to link their self-esteem to events and more likely to take things at face value,” says Kernis.
In general, being mindful will help you connect with other people better – you will become more emphatic, more ‘one with the universe’. Mindfulness will increase your awareness about how you interpret and react to the thoughts in your mind. In fact, it increases the gap between impulse and reaction.
Unlike most people, you will get a chance to ask yourself, ‘This is what I’m feeling. How should I react to it?’
If you find yourself in a heated argument with your significant other, just take a step back and focus on your breathing. There’s no better way to calm down and bring all your senses to the present moment than breathing.
A study was conducted to test the impact mindfulness has on people. Each subject was told that the other subjects were forming a group and taking a vote on whether he could join. After 5 minutes, the experimenter announced the results. Either a subject was accepted or rejected.
Before the start of this experiment and as a mindfulness exercise, half the subjects were given a raisin each, and were told to savor its taste and feel all the sensations that came with it.
Later on, in what they thought was a separate experiment, the subjects were asked to deliver a blast of painful noise to other people. Those who were rejected by the group and hadn’t gone through the mindfulness exercise let their frustration out on other people. On the other hand, those who did go through the mindfulness exercise but were rejected by the group, refused to inflict pain on others similar to those who were accepted.
So do yourself a favor and let your mind stay put for a bit, every day. A few months down the line, you will find that you’re a different person altogether, and will thank me for this advice 🙂