Our everyday lives are a cacophony of activity; a myriad of routines, commitments and daily adventures that can often have us reaching Friday and suddenly wondering where the entire week disappeared to. We are caught up in the have-to’s and the should-do’s. We are dropping kids at school, making time for our loved ones, juggling work, hobbies, social lives, bills and emails. More than ever before, we are living fast paced lifestyles that are dominated by a need for more time, as we constantly chase our tail through the weeks that turn into months. There is a new term for this way of living- ‘the glorification of busyness.’ We assume that the busier our life is, the more productive and successful it must be. Yet in our race to get ahead, we often fall behind on the things that truly matter to us.
Finding a sense of balance in life is so important, and one of the easiest and most effective ways to find balance, is to practice mindfulness. Being in the present moment, aware of our immediate feelings, emotions, sensations and place in the world, prevents us from getting stressed and overwhelmed. So often, we live in past or the future. Our mind wanders to what to cook for dinner tonight, a work meeting from last week, a trip planned for two months time. Our mind is sneaky and loves to wander back and forwards, yet our habit of living outside of the present moment is what often induces our feelings of anxiety, depression and lack of contentment.
Practices like yoga, meditation and other holistic modalities work to bring us back into our body. One of the reasons we feel so good when we come out of a yoga practice is that for the duration of time that we have been on our mat, we have been acutely in the moment, we have left our thoughts and their associated emotions at the door. One of the key goals of yoga and meditation is to bring these lessons off the mat, and into our everyday lives. Living mindfully, consciously and with presence has the power to transform your life. If you’re eager to begin, try incorporating these five tips into your day:
-Taking a moment to breathe:
One of the most effective ways to come back into your body is with the breath. We have lost of the art of breathing properly. Our breathing is more often than not, caught in our chest, rather than deep in our belly. Shallow breathing alerts the body to a state of stress; we feel anxious, on-guard and the body is unable to function properly. Dropping into your breathing throughout the day can help you release this tension and find calmness and balance. No matter where you are- at your office desk, driving in your car, preparing dinner, or in line at the supermarket- you can always practice five big deep belly breaths. Of course, taking 10, 20 or 30 minutes a day to close your eyes, breathe and gently meditate is ideal and will work wonders for your overall stress levels. Yet taking five deep breaths throughout the day is a wonderful first step towards mindfulness. Let your breath be your anchor to the present moment.
More and more studies are appearing on the power of gratitude. This very simple practice only takes a few moments a day and can transform your whole mood and outlook on life. Recognizing the things in life that we are thankful for is a mindfulness technique that has the power to shift our brain chemistry and over time, enables us to look at the world through a more optimistic framework. Try keeping a notebook and jotting down 3 things each day that you are grateful for- they don’t need to be huge things, often you will find it is the small things in our lives that inspire us and light us up.
-Becoming aware of your surroundings:
How often are you really aware of your surroundings? The world offers us so many beautiful gifts that we tend to loose sight in our day to day life. As you wander through the world, begin to take note- inhale the fresh aroma of the flowers, reach out and touch the dew on morning grass, look at the perfection of nature, listen to the birds calls. If you’re in a city environment, smile at strangers you pass by in the streets or take a moment to appreciate your lunch before you begin to eat. When we take in the world around us, it becomes easier for us to stay connected to the present moment. We become more aware of those around us and the inherent beauty that surrounds us. Look at the world through new eyes and be amazed at what is right in front of you.
-Practice acceptance and forgiveness:
One thing that keeps us trapped in the past and at odds with our current reality is holding onto anger, guilt or resentment. Addressing and letting go of negative emotions is incredibly freeing. If it means being the ‘bigger person’ or swallowing your pride, imagine how beneficial it will be for you to let of what has been hindering you and holding you back for no real reason at all. Forgiveness may also begin with ourselves, letting go of guilt and emotions that no longer serve us. Don’t let yesterday ruin your today.
-Do more of what you love:
We all have something that lights us up inside. Call it a gift, our dharma, a passion or a hobby, when we do more of what it is that we love, we are naturally happier, healthier, more in tune with the present moment. When we do what we love, time vanishes, we are in pure presence. Think of an artist or a musician. Think of a mother with her child or a young boy with his dog. Think of a surfer, a farmer, a dancer. When we connect with that which lights us up inside, we exist in that perfect moment in time and nothing can draw us away. Gifting yourself time to do what you love, filling up your love tank, enables this joy to spill over into every aspect of our lives. Give yourself permission to experience uninhibited joy.