4 MIN READ
The Roman thinker Athenodorus Cananites, a mentor to Julius Caesar, once famously said, “More haste, less speed”. But slowing down can be seen as an antithetical action to many, especially in today’s fast-paced, capitalist world. However, oftentimes, slowing down deliberately is an essential and mindful action that is crucial for our mental health and even our productivity.
In recent times, the concept of mindfulness has been popularized in the West and remarketed to the world, but its roots take us to the East, in age-old Hindu and Buddhist religious practices. While mindfulness was a religious exercise practiced mostly by priests and monks, today, with the advent of social media, these practices (albeit molded to suit the needs for the ‘modern’ man) are easily accessible for everyone, with various gurus in different traditions sharing their traditional wisdom and teaching mindfulness to the masses through various platforms. For example, Mingyur Rinpoche is a Buddhist monk whose videos are watched by millions all over the globe.
The practice of mindfulness holds particular significance since the COVID-19 pandemic. The stress of a changing world is putting pressure on our ability to act mindfully. However, one’s inability to act mindfully means we make mistakes that can harm us, as Cananites suggested. Mindfulness can be a useful practice in a time where rising mental health concerns are increasing hospital visits. By acting mindfully, we make decisions that are good for ourselves, our families, community, and nation. And there are several ways to be mindful that we can incorporate in our daily practice.
Taking a pause is a simple yet effective practice that we can do. Many of our activities are conducted on autopilot. Mindfulness is deliberate. It’s slow and active. Yoga and meditation are easily learnable for mindful practice. Moreover, observing ourselves and our behaviors help us to remove our triggers and act in a non-reactive way.
Similarly, eating is an activity where we can act mindfully. We eat several times a day, but mostly mindlessly. By slowing down our eating and habituating that action, we can eat in a mindful manner. Putting away our phone while eating allows us to focus on our food while eating. Moreover, mindfully focusing on our body and everything that happens in it while eating helps us to prioritize our nutrition and enjoy our food.
Breathing is another activity where mindfulness is applicable. Breathing mindfully all the time can be difficult, however, breathing mindfully by setting up a specific period in the day can energize us. To start practicing, one can lay down on the bed and relax the body before starting to breathe for a count of 5 ins and 5 outs.
Likewise, waking up is an activity that can be done mindfully in order to prepare us for the day. Waking up by slowly rising from the bed and sitting on a chair mindfully is important for us. We can set our intention for the day in order to be purposeful. Our intentions could be to have a healthy diet, proper rest, exercise, and balance at work.
Mindfully walking is also an activity that can be easily done to reduce stress. We walk without thinking too much about its action or benefits. However, we can walk slowly focusing on the experience. Thich Nhat Hanh, a Buddhist monk who was known as the ‘father of mindfulness’, advised: “Walk as if you’re kissing the Earth with your feet”. Negative thinking affects us all at some point during our day and mindfulness can be applied to our thoughts by becoming aware of what and how we think. Reducing negative thinking can enhance our work performance.
Multitasking is an activity that is habitual for many people these days. Our phones allow us to multitask and conduct many actions simultaneously. However, that also puts stress on our brain and it necessitates us to release stress via activity. Rather than multitasking, we can single-task mindfully. This helps us to get a lot done in a lot less time, because we are focused on one task wholeheartedly.
Mindfulness has interpersonal benefits as well. Research by Hayes and Davis has mentioned evidence that mindfulness predicts satisfactory relationships, empathy, emotional skills, and level of conflict. Moreover, mindful meditation has health benefits in immune function, improved well-being, and reduced distress. In addition, increased understanding and attention helps to work in a distraction-free manner.
Mindfulness also helps cultivate empathy and compassion. A 2006 qualitative study has shown that even therapists who did mindfulness meditation developed empathy toward clients. Moreover, another 2007 study that used a different research design shows that therapists who meditated on a regular basis had higher self-reported empathy than those who did not. In addition, compassion also increases with mindfulness. Components of mindfulness like non-judging and non- reacting are correlated with self-compassion.
Another 2019 research paper has shown that different stages of mindfulness training have different effects on emotion regulation. For example, focused attention meditation could improve mood, anxiety, and depression while open monitoring meditation could maintain a positive mood. The same research also mentioned meditating participants having high anti-interference ability.
Nurturing a mindfulness practice can seem like a colossal task at first, however, benefits can be availed through regular practice. Practice should ideally be set up in the morning in a way that enables us to reap rewards throughout the day. The benefits of mindfulness warrant us to learn, and also share with our friends and family.
Rubin Ghimire Rubin Ghimire is an economist and artist. He is the country founder at the Center for Humane Technology that advocates for humane tech ecosystems.
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