Everybody’s wearing it these days. From Russell Brand to Lena Dunham to Giselle Bundchen, celebrities are touting the benefits of meditation and mindfulness. The ever-impressive Arianna Huffington of Huff Post released a book in 2015 called Thrive, imploring us to be more present and connected.
Mindfulness, the practice of bringing one’s attention and awareness to the sensations and experience of the present moment, can make us feel more happy.
Why are we all so eager to practice mindfulness? What is happening in our lives to make us feel we need to learn how to be present? Shouldn’t it just be a given?
Yes, it should. But it isn’t.
Our lives are crazy busy. The rise of constant busy-ness; being busy because it’s a habit and not necessarily because you have all that much to do, is an easy trap to fall into. It’s a practice cultivated by most people these days because being busy is equated with being productive and being productive is equated with being happy. We are missing so many incredible opportunities and moments of connectedness because we are too busy to tap into them.
When was the last time you went for a walk without an agenda? Without taking your phone or iPod, without meeting a friend, without having a destination or an activity in mind?
When is the last time you ate a meal without talking to someone, reading a book or magazine or looking at your phone or the TV?
When is the last time you sat and had a cup of tea in silence?
Technology has a lot to answer for. It’s ever present and pervasive in our lives. We love it and now we “need” it, but is it driving this sense of always being on and being busy? I believe yes. Our iPhones have become constant companions and looking at them is compulsive for many (including me). It is an automatic reflex when having a moment with nothing to do; you look at your phone in a queue, look at your phone in the bath, look at your phone while waiting for friends. Talk on the phone or listen to a podcast while walking. And so it goes on.
What about all the moments we are missing by not being truly connected to the now?
Lately I’ve been practicing mindfulness – having a “mind-full-of-NOW-ness” – with the most incredible results. I’m more productive. I’m happier. I’m noticing some incredibly simple and special things that I otherwise would have missed. I’ve slowed down and it’s making me a better person. If you’d like a taste of the power of being present, try one of these simple exercises at home.
3 simple mindfulness exercises to try at home.
- Go for a mindfulness walk. Go out in the garden or to a park and spend time being present with the blades of grass, the leaves and flowers, the birds, animals and insects doing wonderful and exciting things. Just watch and be present and see what you notice. It is the most lovely thing just to be in nature.
- Count your breath. Count 20 deep breaths and take note of how it slows down your nervous system. So simple; so grounding.
- Practice 10 minutes of mindfulness. Sit for 10 minutes. Don’t look at your phone and don’t ask anything of yourself (including asking yourself to clear the mind, which is often counter-productive). Just sit and let whatever thoughts are present come and go. Sit for 10 minutes and see how it feels.