Mindfulness, the most scientiﬁcally investigated form of meditation, has been the subject of a huge growth of interest in clinical and scientiﬁc circles in recent years. Mainly because the studies have largely announced the profound effect on our health. But what is mindfulness and how can you find it?
Most of us equate mindfulness with meditation, and meditation with sitting still (and maybe chanting ‘om’). However, you can be mindful in many ways. Learn some skills to become mindful when you are surrounded by noise, in a social situation, when commuting, when you are eating, exercising or even when you are angry and frustrated!
Mindfulness is simply being in the moment, recognizing, accepting and appreciating how you feel and what you are doing right now. You will be amazed at the effects of something so simple. Click To Tweet
How exactly does this help to heal your body? The body generally has two states, fight or flight, and rest and recovery. Many of us were born wired for fight or flight, especially if our parents were stressed when pregnant or in our early days of life. Let’s face it, parenthood is tough on everyone! Modern society with its pressures, stresses and constant stimulus keep us stuck in a permanent state of fight or flight even if it takes a subconscious form. This has a detrimental effect on our body and can often be the cause of many chronic illnesses that we are seeing on the rise, especially in our children. Inflammation, for example, cannot be switched off whilst in fight or flight because our immune system needs to be on high alert for the conscious or subconscious (our body does not differentiate from the two) dinosaur chasing us.
Rest and recovery is the process whereby our bodies heal and recover. Do you often feel like the minute you go on holiday you get sick? Those ‘sick’ symptoms are actually the repair work going on. The body, in our daily lives, pauses healing while we run like the wind for our lives. To help our body to return to this healing state on a more daily basis we must stop for a moment, breathe deeply and repeat ‘I am safe’. That is the beginning of mindfulness. Most of us reading this probably do feel quite safe generally, but mindfully believing and appreciating this particular sentiment can offer your body a huge sigh of relief every now and then! Remember, tiny movements create huge ripples of change.
Here are 5 simple ways to help you to become more mindful in your everyday life and return to rest and recovery:
1. Breathe Consciously
The simple act of a conscious breath has profound effects on the body. Simply saying in your mind ‘breathe in and breathe out’ creates a physical and emotional connection to your body that promotes healing. All meditation is routed in connection to breath. Use your focus to feel the physical sensation of your breath entering and leaving your body. Paying attention to where your body is and what is around you (you can easily do this in public or private), to whatever is happening in the present moment, this is the essence of mindfulness. Using breath as an anchor is often used as simple tool because breathing is always happening in the present moment. As you breathe, be aware of your five senses: listen for sounds, take account of any smells, feel the ground beneath you or the sensation of your clothing. Is there is a particular color you can see if your eyes are closed? Focus on something in your view. Think about a particular sensation or taste. Try to take three or four conscious breaths every day, that’s enough to begin with.
2. Mindful Movement
The body is built to move. Do not think that the stressful trip to the gym is necessary as many fitness regimes keep us in the very high adrenaline mode we need release from. I simply mean moving as nature intended. Walking, standing, moving with intention and being able to feel your feet on the ground. Ideally this would be in nature and thankfully in Hong Kong we are never far from a park, mountain or water. Listening to music can also help. Being aware of the lyrics and rhythm can be a simple way to find mindful movement. Recognize how the music makes you feel now, instead of going into memories. Stay in the present and thank your body for the emotions and the movement your body wants to make. Walking to music is brilliant. I have even been known to do a little MTR dancing! Even simply standing by a window and really appreciating the nuances of your view, whatever that may be, is a good start. Simple yoga moves like sun salutations are quick and easy to get your body thinking about body placement, breath and feeling safe. So, next time you are walking to get somewhere, even if it is just to the lift out of your building, try to do it more mindfully and remind your body that it is safe and being looked after. Who knows what that frame of mind will lead to for the rest of the day.
3. Eat Real Food
It is so common nowadays to just cram food into our mouths, to eat on the go, or to not even eat at all in our fast-paced, goal-driven society. Food is of upmost importance to our health and having one mindful meal a week can be a massive step in the right direction. Imagine if you could eat anything you wanted and your body chose healthy, healing and nourishing foods on its own without feeling deprived, coerced, shamed or forced to do so, instead feeling satisfied, loved and happy afterwards. This is mindful eating! Eating real food, that you have chosen, shopped for, cooked and consumed with purpose can truly heal our cells. If that seems too much for you, start with the basics. When eating any food, luxuriate in the smell of it, appreciate what it looks like, take a moment to enjoy the colours, flavour and textures, feel the sensation of chewing and concentrate on the cutting of your food. This method works on a simple packet of crisps or an apple as well as on a dégustation menu. Take the time and space you need to eat. Your body will thank you for it.
4. Try Bach Flower Remedies
One of the safest, gentlest and effective ways to help to release any subconscious fear or emotional blocks to healing your body is to use Bach Flower Remedies (see more here). Rescue Remedy is widely recognized and can be found in most pharmacies. Safe for every age group (both of my children had some straight after birth) this remedy can begin to help the body to calm down both consciously and subconsciously. Based on vibrations from plants used to help us with our own innate cellular vibrations, the healing potential of using an emotional-based method may be significant (see some research here), even if simply from a placebo, or mindful, basis. Considering the risk of any side effect or damage is slim to none, there is no reason not to try them!
5. Give Journaling A Go
This aspect of mindfulness can cause a degree of stress from some people, it did for me! However, journaling is simply a method of recording and taking responsibility for the moment- the very essence of mindfulness. Recalling the day, detailing things to be grateful for or simply doodling accesses mindfulness. Using some positive affirmations can begin to change thought patterns and core beliefs which may be blocking our ability to heal and find joy in life. Even just writing all the negatives can help to release them from our head and help us to strategize for the future. Sometimes being too much in our own heads is stressful, use the time to purge all your thoughts onto paper, even if it is to then destroy them and their hold over you. Putting ink to paper is hugely creative and therapeutic. Try it!
If you are interested in learning more, there is a new mindfulness program called Inner Rainbow based on these simple skills and and aimed at people of all ages. There is also Children’s Mindfulness 7-week course available in 3 locations around Hong Kong starting in Feb/March of thus years for kids ages 5-7 and 8-11 with teen and adult classes to follow.
About The Author: Louise Kane Buckley is a well-known naturopath and nutritional therapist in Hong Kong as well as the founder of online wellness blog Loula Natural. Make sure to follow Loula Natural on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram.
Image courtesy of pexels.