Contributor Simi Juriasingani
If you’ve been paying attention to the news, you know that mental health and mindfulness have become hot topics of discussion over the past couple of years. While it’s great that these important subjects are starting to get the attention they deserve, it can be difficult to figure out how they fit into each of our lives. Being involved in the stresses of research and the race to publish papers has taught me the importance of doing just that. Defined as focusing on the present moment or being in acceptance of your thoughts, feelings, and sensations at any moment in time, mindfulness looks different for each person. However, there are some widely-used techniques that can help you achieve a more mindful state. Below is a list of 5 steps you can take today to incorporate mindfulness into your daily routine.
When you think of meditation, you probably think of someone sitting in a cave in the mountains, chanting or existing in silence as they empty their mind. Although this is a stereotypical and powerful view of meditation, if you’ve never tried meditation before, emptying your mind entirely can be exceedingly difficult. Taking a more guided approach to meditation can help with channeling your thoughts in specific directions, such as focusing on the sensations in your body or your surroundings, which can help with mindfulness. Apps such as Calm and Headspace can help with this along with many YouTube videos and podcasts. Regardless of which approach you choose, the goal of meditation is to control your mind to focus on the present moment, which can be a very grounding and rejuvenating experience.
If you find meditation challenging or you feel like it doesn’t help you process unresolved emotions, journaling is a technique that may help you. Taking 5-15 minutes a day to acknowledge your wins and work through any negative or overwhelming emotions on paper can help you manage stress and feel productive. Experts believe that journaling by hand in a notebook can serve as a way to let go of things (literally!). However, plenty of people use apps to journal as well. In addition to helping you process events and emotions, journaling can serve as an important record of what you’ve been through and help you discover patterns in the way you think and act over time. This information can be invaluable if you’re someone who wants to improve and become more conscious about how you react to events and people in your life. The bottom line is that setting aside some time to journal can have major short and long term benefits in terms of improving your mental health.
Physical exercise is just as important for improving mental health as mental exercises like meditation and journaling. In addition to improving clinical parameters of health, a consistent exercise schedule can help manage hormones and provide bursts of serotonin that can boost your sense of well-being. Whether it’s taking long walks or weightlifting in the gym, being active has a plethora of benefits that extend to improving your mental health. Although it can be difficult to adopt regular exercise as a lifestyle habit, successfully doing so can change our lives. Our bodies were made to move and confining ourselves to a sedentary lifestyle is doing a disservice to our own wellbeing. Aiming for 30-60 minutes of physical exercise at least 5 times a week is a guaranteed way to improve our physical and mental health.
A non-traditional approach to mindfulness is setting aside time to pursue your creative hobbies. Doing so not only provides scheduled breaks from the stresses of work, but it also serves as a source of motivation, or something to look forward to, which can boost productivity. The idea that “change of work is rest” is at play here because your mind gets a chance to let go of other things while you focus on your hobby. Additionally, achieving goals related to your creative hobbies can enhance your self-esteem and mental health. Whether it’s writing a poem, learning a dance routine, or playing a musical instrument, spending time on your creative hobbies can help you empty your mind and provide the personal satisfaction that will boost your mental health.
Acts of Self-care
Another non-traditional approach to mindfulness is setting aside time for acts of self-care. This can mean different things for different people. If you value organized spaces, self-care could mean cleaning your house. If you want to be healthier, self-care could mean exercise and meal prep. If you need to de-stress, self-care could be putting on a face mask or buying yourself your favourite drink. The idea here is to tune into what your mind needs and take the time to fulfill those needs. This isn’t very intuitive at first. You have to train yourself to really dig in and figure out why you’re feeling “off” and what needs to be done to ease that pressure. It’s also important to temper your indulgence by focusing on what you need versus what you want. You may want to watch TV all day, but that may not be what your mind needs. If you methodically work through the various types of stress which manifest in your day-to-day life, over time, you’ll begin to understand what types of self-care you need. The point is to stop, tune into your mind, and act accordingly based on what it needs.
Whether you’ve been in pursuit of mindfulness for years or you’re new to the idea of mindfulness, I hope this piece helps you discover new ways to incorporate mindfulness into your daily routine.