MINDFULNESS – THE KEY TO A MORE BALANCED LIFE
We’re all busy with life and there is often so much crammed into our day, work, family, kids, social lives – it is often difficult to sit back and take notice of where we are, how we are feeling and more importantly, are we ok?
With the ever-present knowledge of increasing work expectations, skyrocketing car payments, crippling mortgages and cost of living, we are challenged to do more, often with less which places a tremendous amount of stress on our minds and bodies. This ever-present stress and worry affects both our ability to perform but can have long-lasting, mental and physical implications for our health and wellbeing.
Searching for a sense of calm helps to reduce stress and can prevent burnout in the workplace, at home or in general. Chronic stress is one of the most common health issues in the workplace, with one in five Australians suffering from mental health and depression & anxiety being the most prevalent in the country. Alarmingly, a staggering 54% of people with a mental illness do not access any treatment.
Mental health is a serious problem. Just as you would check under the hood of your car to ensure everything is running smoothly to ensure it is serviced regularly to avoid issues that could start to occur, giving yourself a ‘tune-up’ from time to time is essential for your mental & physical health.
What is Mindfulness?
Mindfulness is the basic human ability to be fully present, aware of where we are and what we’re doing, and not overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around us. This can be gained through such practices as meditation, merely taking some ‘me time’ to have a walk on the beach or engaging in practising techniques to improve your ability to understand where you are, what you are doing, and reset for your new task. Not always easy with little ones around, but something we should all prioritise in our lives!
The concept is less about creating new doorways in our homes and is more metaphorical, opening doorways into your mindfulness; your state of being and being present in the moment that is ‘right now’ is the goal. Avoid the temptation to bring work home, or if you do, separate it by playing a song in the car loudly, going to the gym or walking the dog – to reset, realign and get present in the moment.
Mindfulness for Metabolism and Weight Management
When it comes to metabolism and weight management, we all have our demons – from a lack of time to go to the gym, through to eating food because it is easy and not necessarily a healthy option for our body.
Interestingly, a University of California study found that a diet and exercise program that included mindfulness training resulted in participants having lower metabolic risk factors compared to those who underwent the same program without the training.
Although mindfulness may not be a weight loss cure in itself, there is a growing body of research that suggests a slower, more thoughtful way of eating could help with weight issues and steer individuals away from processed food and unhealthy choices towards healthier, beneficial food options. When applied to eating, mindfulness can help to enhance awareness of the colours, smells, flavours, and textures of your food, slow down chewing, get rid of distractions like TV or reading and help individuals to cope with guilt and anxiety about food.
As meditation can assist in your mindfulness in relation to your stress and anxiety, mindfulness in eating can assist your weight loss goals and allow you to enjoy your food more. We tried it out in the Life On The Inside clinic – being more focused on each mouthful, chewing slower and thinking about our food as we ate. The results? We felt less bloated and even lost a little weight after a week.
A great deal of ‘mindfulness’ in weight loss & metabolism has been lost thanks to societies fixation with fast food, fast eating and a fast lifestyle. Eating on the run, eating at our desks and trying to get more done in less time. Gone are the days for most people of sitting down together with others, sharing food and enjoying the process of eating, not simply rushing through it as a ‘task’ to tick off the list.
Exploring Meditation in Your Quest for Mindfulness
Meditation is moving out of the monasteries and into the mainstream, thanks to pop-culture icons, athletes and celebrities embracing the practice and showing the myriad of benefits to meditation and mindfulness bringing the health benefits front and centre and bringing attention to the science.
In short, meditation is “a state of thoughtless awareness, it’s not an act of doing, it is a state of awareness. It is about clearing your mind of thoughts, focusing on your breathing and resetting yourself, being present, being mindful.
While monks may have meditated for centuries to find their inner peace, merely 10 to 15 minutes per day of meditation can have a profound effect on an individual’s life. Don’t think that meditation is solely for the monks or those not living on the grid – it is beneficial to each and every one of us.
Thanks to technology, there are dozens of fantastic applications such as ‘Simply Being’ that assist to guide users through meditation for as long or as little time as you have. With running streams or waves playing in the background, a voice guides users through beneficial techniques to relax, become present, be mindful and reset.
How Can We Become More Mindful In Our Daily Lives?
With so much going on around us in our busy lives, speaking with a medical professional such as a counsellor, psychologist or a mindfulness specialist is always a good start.
Not everyone will have the time or resources to seek professional help though, so there’s something you can practice right now. One of the core tenants of mindfulness is your breathing. Breathe deep, right from your diaphragm so your elongating each lungful of air. This is opposite to the shallow breathing we experience when we are under stress and in a ‘fight or flight’ mode. At the end of your day, lie on the ground on your back for some long deep breaths, this will make breathing with your diaphragm more easy. This manoeuvre, as with good posture will help lower your cortisol loosen your muscles and relax, which also helps your spinal alignment. As a result of lowering cortisol, you will drop your insulin production and therefore reduce your fat storage, firing up your metabolism. When you’re playing with your kids at home, take the time to look at them in their eyes and pay careful attention to what they are expressing and be present, you will all feel better for it and reap the benefits as well as knowing that they are being validated as a byproduct, and the household is being kept calmer as a result.
When we’re conscious of these things and being mindful it allows us to listen to the whispers in our body and in our own mind. Your body will tell you what it feels is best for it, for example resting, you just have to listen closely! You have all of these clues that you body constantly tells you, like pain and discomfort, feeling anxious or in need of activity which you won’t hear if you’re rushing around in a ‘fight or flight’ state. Making better choices, embracing a clear mind and listening to what our body is trying to tell you will make you healthier and avoid falling back into a sabotaging lifestyle when you’re running on autopilot. Embracing mindfulness will allow you to really see things for what they are.
In addition to these steps, some ways to start you on your path to being mindful each and every day:
Download an app like ‘Simply Being’ or Headspace
Pick up a book such as the very popular The Third Space by Dr. Adam Fraser
Try out a ‘Guided Breathing Session’ on a FitBit
Grab an Adult Colouring Book and draw along with your kids
Becoming more mindful is not something that can be achieved overnight, it is something we need to do for our entire lives, and it’s something personal that’s just for you. The first step is always the hardest, however, stepping into a world of ‘mindfulness’ will not only benefit you, but all of those around you as you become happier in yourself, more productive and more aware.