Everyone is telling you to be mindful – but what does that actually mean?
Living in the moment – known as mindfulness – is a mind/body approach to life that helps you relate differently to experiences, by directing your thoughts on the present experience, and not on the past or the future. This practice involves paying attention to your thoughts and feelings in a way that helps you cope with difficult situations and everyday struggles.
In short, it involves pausing to remind yourself to stay in the present moment. It’s easier to manage your life when you’re not thinking about the past, catastrophising about the future and beating yourself up for having unpleasant emotions or reacting in the heat of the moment.
‘Mindfulness is a key element in fighting stress,’ says Cape Town mindfulness coach Sarah Foale. ‘Studies also show it can improve your general health, help regulate emotions, boost executive functioning at work, increase job satisfaction, and lower the risk of burnout.’
RAIN, a helpful acronym invented by psychologist Michele McDonald, makes the practices of mindfulness easy to understand:
Recognise what’s going on. Consciously register what is happening in your life right now. Acknowledge both negative and positive feelings or thoughts that you’re experiencing in the moment. For example, ‘I am feeling very fearful and stressed right now.’
Accept your thoughts. Don’t attempt to change the feelings or add to your difficulties by being hard on yourself. It’s not about self-criticism or beating yourself up – it’s about having compassion for yourself. Yes – even unpleasant thoughts and feelings are valid parts of your experience. For example, ‘I’m concerned about my colleague’s wellbeing during this pandemic and that’s why I snapped at her for not practising physical distancing.’
Investigate with kindness. When you behave in hurtful, reactive ways, it’s because you’re caught in some kind of painful trap. The more you investigate the source of your suffering, the more you can cultivate compassion for yourself and others. Ask yourself what your thoughts and feelings reflect about your beliefs and needs right now. And try to approach your actions with kindness. ‘I snapped, and I’m feeling ashamed because I genuinely respect her. We can work together to clear this up.’
Natural awareness arises when you no longer over-personalise the experience. In other words, you don’t brand yourself as ‘irritable’, ‘impatient’, or ‘nasty’. You understand that feelings, sensations, and stories are part of your experience, but they don’t define who you are.
[WATCH] 3 EASY WAYS TO BE MORE MINDFUL THIS WEEK
By: Melli O’Brien, an internationally accredited mindfulness and meditation teacher, speaker and co-founder of Mindfulness.com
Listen to this short morning intention setting meditation (5 minutes) – this meditation will help you cultivate inner strength, clarity and a calm centre.
If you have a bit more time, listen to this morning intention setting meditation (12 minutes) – this meditation will ground you in the present and help you meet each day with the best of who you are.