Mindfulness is simply defined as ‘a state of mind to be conscious and aware of one’s surroundings. It is about being able to focus in the here and now’. Easier said than done, mindfulness defies the basic human ability to be fully present without being overwhelmed by what’s going on around us. It is not an inborn trait, it has to be cultivated from an early age. It is achieving that state of mind that minimizes anxiety and increases happiness. Alternative medicine uses mindfulness as a supplement therapy for smoking, chronic pain and depression.
Why mindfulness in 2020
The reason why mindfulness today is so important is because most of us are fearful of the future. The 2020 coronavirus pandemic and the resulting lockdown have given rise to a world of chaos filled with negative news, job losses, insecurity, and a global feeling of gloom and despair. Children are out of school and grownups literally out of their minds trying to cope. Everyone is finding it difficult to handle with the situation. Mindfulness may not be the magic pill but it can certainly help us to veer the mind away from any future insecurities and guide it to cope in the immediate present. It is the miracle to living and loving 2020 and beyond.
Here are the ten reasons why Mindfulness is so important
i. Teaches us to be attentive in the present moment and stops us from overthinking.
ii. Improves memory, concentration, and performance.
iii. Creates happier relationships.
iv. Reduces anxiety and improves sleep.
v. Helps us be objective than judgmental.
vi. Reduces pain and slows down the progression of neurodegenerative diseases.
vii. Calmly connects us with one’s inner emotions reducing any feeling of loneliness.
viii. Shows us how to accept more fully and directly what life throws at us.
ix. Helps to see more clearly through our perceptions of what is happening rather than be being distorted by bias, habits, fears, or desires.
x. Helps lower incidences of burnout and depression.
An early start
India, launched the “Happiness Curriculum” in New Delhi, in July 2018. In February 2019, 370 British schools introduced Mindfulness in their curriculum, as part of a study to improve youth mental health. In the same year, in June, Gov. Kate Brown from Oregon, USA, signed legislation that allows school students to have an excused absence if they miss school because of their mental or behavioral health.
Schools started to understand the need to educate children on ‘mindfulness’ as it was becoming more clear that it directly la-di-da one’s mental health and mental well-being in later years. Schools in New Delhi, London, Wales, New York, and Chicago started to teach exercises in mindfulness to enable a child to become ‘mindful’ and ‘emotionally intelligent’.
How can mindfulness help children?
The three main goals aimed in teaching mindfulness at school are:-
- Helping the children/students to become more self-aware by focusing on the here and now.
- Teaching children/students with the help of various exercises, how to bring the mind back to focus especially when it is disturbed. How to stay balanced in life.
- Increasing the empathy quotient.
In fact, when children are taught intentional mindfulness exercises it helps to-
1. Improve their attention span
2. Control negative behavior
3. Face and accept various mixed emotions without judging
4. Increase academic performance
5. Develop emotional intelligence
6. Increases coping mechanisms by controlling anxiety and stress and rejection
7. Improve social skills
8 Increase positive thinking and reduce negative thoughts
9. Lower the rates of depression
10. Improves overall health
In mindfulness, a child is taught relaxation techniques and breathing exercises. Some of the common exercises taught are
- Mindful Breathing exercise
- Body Scan exercise
- Heartbeat rhythm exercise
- Mindful steps exercise
- Bell Listening Exercise
- Breathing Buddies exercise
- Smell & Tell exercise
- The Art of Touch exercise
- The Mindful jar exercise
Can mindfulness be taught at any age?
Yes, of course, mindfulness can be taught at any age. In recent years with the rising levels of anxiety and depression affecting the mental health of the youth that the current education system recognized it best to be introduced from the age of 5-19 years. In the present lockdown scenario, join the kids to practice some mindfulness exercises.
Mindfulness and Meditation
Mindfulness is the most active part of meditation. The process and philosophy of mindfulness stem from our ancient practice of yoga and meditation. Mindfulness is being able to achieve synchronicity in our mental, emotional, and physical self. Recent research shows that when we train our brain to be mindful, it does alter the physical structure of the brain.
How to practice mindfulness and meditation?
One can be mindful even without meditating but meditation can help us become more mindful. As a learner, here are a few steps to start the habit:-
- Find a quiet place to sit. Get into a crossed leg posture or any that is both alert and relaxed at the same time. Try and maintain a straight spine, without being uncomfortable or too rigid.
- Close your eyes. Breathe in and out slowly. As you get more aware of your breath slowly loosen the body from your head to your toes.
- Begin to notice the sensations throughout your body. Is the body feeling warm and calm, is there any pain or discomfort.
- Concentrate and focus on your breathing. Feel the breath going in and out — and devote your attention to it.
- Every time your mind wanders (and it will), bring your attention back to your breathing.
- At the beginning you may not be able to sit in one position or concentrate on your breathing and nothing else for more than a minute. But that’s okay. Eventually, you will be able to do it for longer bringing more calm to your mind.
- Open your eyes. You have just introduced yourself to newfound mindfulness. Whenever the mind is agitated, get into this state.
Mindfulness shows us simple ways to live more intentionally. It is beyond a buzz word for when you master your mind, you master your life. According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine while there were 70 studies published in 2007 that included the word “mindfulness,” today over 7000 studies are showing the benefits of mindfulness training. Mindfulness-Based Attention Training (MBAT) is also used by front-line soldiers to reduce stress and build resilience.
Age, color, creed, profession don’t matter in 2020. Mind and mindfulness MATTER!