The stressed, anxious and goal-oriented are constantly looking for ways to manage their lives, respond to technology’s relentless poke and improve their relationships with their minds and bodies. Mindfulness has been the answer to their problems by promising a slowdown in momentum and help to shed the toxicity of everyday life.
As the American professor Jon Kabath-Zinn, who is known as the father of Mindfulness, explains “mindfulness is paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment and non-judgmentally.” In simple terms, mindfulness is the ability to have clarity and freedom from habitual ways of thinking and reacting.
Co-founder of Mumbai-based wellness clinic, Yogazoo, Jasmeet Kaur elucidates the idea of mindfulness, “It essentially means to be aware of each passing moment. A state free of conditioning, so that the mind can rest and go with the flow of life, without the anxiousness to get somewhere or to be something.” The trend has fast caught on in the West with Arianna Huffington, Jeff Weiner, Kate Perry, William Clay Ford, Gwyneth Paltrow, Oprah Winfrey being its popular endorsers. But its roots can be traced to Indian philosophy (Advaita, Buddhist, Jain). Infact, almost all traditions such as Jewish Kabbalah, Sufism or Christianity have recommended methods of self-awareness. “Our attention is hijacked by thinking about the past or future or entangled in some imaginary story. Our mind is always fleeting from one thought to another.
Mindfulness is a way of living in the present moment,” says Sadia Saeed, founder and psychologist of wellness clinic Inner Space in Mumbai. Mindfulness can be self-taught or practiced with the help of trainers and wellness experts. Several workshops that are being conducted across country use techniques such as mindfulness body scan, five sense exercises, breathing exercises, guided imagery, mindful art creation, mindful walk, mindfulness sound relaxation in their courses. Besides these, there are mobile apps such as Inner Hour, Headspace and Calm that can also be easily downloaded. The workshops, however, often serve as a source of therapy for most individuals.
“A psychologist will equip the individual by incorporating advance methods such as mindful body scan, conscious seeing, eating, touching, smelling and hearing. It could also involve activities like a mindful walk or art and has proven to be extremely useful in clinical disorders like anxiety, depression, somatic complaints, trauma and pain management apart from concerns like low self-esteem, over thinking and intolerance to distress,” says Megha Saklani, a counselling psychologist at Karma Center for Counselling & Wellbeing, Delhi.
While mindfulness and meditation can sound similar fundamentally, the former is the larger umbrella and meditation is the practice that helps one be mindful, explains Saeed. “Being mindful is learning to watch things for what they really are without trying to change, solve or fix them. We are used to solving problems that occur in our lives and holding on to the joys that come. And while we do all of this to be happier, approaching our joys and sorrows in this manner actually keeps us chronically dissatisfied,” she further elaborates.
The numerous benefits of this wellness approach are—stress reduction, improvement of brain functioning, a boost in the immune system, improvement in relationships and subjective well-being, enhancement of emotional resilience and many more. Most benefits are said to be result of an alert mind and body, which is allegedly the natural outcome of mindful living. Interestingly, mindfulness has been backed by neuroscience. A study, Mindfulness Meditation Reveals Distinct Neural Modes Of Self Reference, conducted in 2007 by Norman Farb at University of Toronto, claims the practice helps one stay rooted to and be aware of the present.
Sandy Dias Andrade, trainer of mindfulness-based cognitive therapy at Just Being, Pune, emphasises, “Research backs up the effectiveness of mindfulness. The scope is much more than increased attention. It leads to a deep sense of inner knowing and coming in touch with who we are. It touches into this awareness that accompanies all our experiences. Given the wide scope of mindfulness its practice needs care and attention.”
How to practice mindfulness?
❖ Spend some time in silence every day, doing nothing. You can anchor your attention on your breath.
❖ If you exercise, try to do it by staying in the present. Or decide to eat one meal a day while staying fully aware.
❖ Stay non-judgmental as far as possible and instead focus on what’s going on right now instead of thinking about the future or past.
❖ Whenever you overthink, try to ask yourself questions to focus on the present.