Have you ever been in a place or situation where there is just too much to take in? It feels as if every pore in your body is over saturated with stimuli. It’s just too much and you can feel your brain cutting out. The worst that has happened to me is when I think back to some great over-stimulating experience and find myself not remembering anything of it. The thought of it is shocking, but it happens. All the time.
This is where mindfulness comes in. I’ve always practiced some form of meditation throughout the years to help lessen anxiety and everyday stress. Truthfully, I haven’t been consistent in any of these practices. I usually end up disappointed in myself and looking for quick fixes. I found that practicing mindfulness and incorporating it into my daily life, I am calmer, more focused and experience things clearer. Mindfulness is described by a Perspectives on Psychological Science study as “the non-judgmental awareness of experiences in the present moment.”
If the idea of deep meditation and going all out zen puts you off, you might find mindfulness a bit more appealing. It’s like taking a mini timeout during the day to focus on you. I’ve also discovered something interesting since starting my practice:
It has changed the way I enjoy my travel experiences. Learning to surrender to my senses but still be fully aware of everything going on around me. Living in the moment.
How to start your practice:
It’s a good idea to set an ideal for yourself. What are you expecting from your practice? Is it to feel less stress, less aggressive, or just to relax?
This is/was my ideal, and I’m still working on it: Experiencing the moment and being more present. Building memories using all my senses.
This is the easiest place to start at and so simple and natural. I’m pretty sure you hear this a lot: just breathe. A deep breath in through the nose and a deep breath out through the mouth. Sounds easy enough? The trick is to find a quiet place to do this for a few minutes with no interruptions (e.g. no checking emails or social media!). The better your breathing becomes, the more oxygen floods your blood and automatically gets carried to your organs and muscles, giving you a natural boost. Even if you just concentrate on breathing 10-20 min a day, especially early in the morning, you’re bound to see an improvement in some area of your life/health.
- Body check
Once you have the breathing done, calmly take a scan through your body starting at the toes and moving up towards the head. Become aware of what you are feeling in each body part like a tingle, ache, stiffness, heat, cold, etc. If you like you can take a few deep breaths and visualize the oxygen flowing to a body part where you are experiencing pain or stiffness. Take note of how your body is feeling, then let it go.
- Mind check
It’s a bit more difficult to do a mind check. This is the part where I struggle the most, getting rid of brain chatter. After you’ve done your body check take note of your mind. Thoughts are most likely zig-zagging all over the place. The trick is to step away from this. Concentrating on your breathing helps a lot. When a though crosses your mind, imagine it drifting away into the abyss, don’t try to force yourself. It can take some time to get the hang of this but I found after a few minutes using my breathing as an aid, I can manage it.
Finding time every day
Is it possible to find 10-20 minutes to yourself in today’s busy world? Between work, preparing dinners, our exercise routines, loved ones and keeping up on social media it might seem impossible. You have to make time for yourself. It can even be when you are taking a bath. Just take ten minutes to breathe and check in with yourself.
Mindful meditation has lowered my stress and anxiety level, let me see my true self clearer, helped my brain process information better instead of it all cluttering about and driving me crazy, helped me to sleep better and I saw an overall improvement to my general health.
Implementing on the road
My favorite time to implement mindfulness on the road is when I’m sitting on the train or discovering a corner of nature that inspires me. I also find the best time is in the morning when I wake up before I start with a busy day of sightseeing and catching buses/trains. If I start off calmly I can handle the little anxieties that comes with travel (especially solo travel) better during the day. I’m also more aware of my senses and how I experience my destination through them.
Even during a museum visit, sitting on one of the benches in front of a painting gives me a moment to explore the present.
A word on distractions
Some days I feel like I just can’t get into it. There’s constant inner and outer distractions which makes the whole practice feel like a waste of time. When this happens I tell myself: Don’t worry, it’s okay, you’re only human and not a meditating Buddhist monk (not that they aren’t human either). Then I stop, have breakfast or a coffee and continue on with my day. I know I’ll try again another time in the day.
Hopefully I have inspired you to find out more about practicing mindfulness.
Do you have any opinions or suggestions to add? Do you practice mindfulness? Feel free to drop me a comment below.