The Art of Mindfulness
In the rapid-paced world we live in, finding stillness and calmness is like searching for the elusive pot of gold at the end of a rainbow. It’s important to remember that mindfulness isn't about banishing all thoughts from your mind. Rather, it's about focusing your awareness and becoming an observer of your thoughts, feelings, and experiences without judgment. Here's a fun fact: Neuroscientists have found that practicing mindfulness can physically change the structure of the brain, and improve cognitive abilities, moods, and overall health.
One useful technique that I've learned is called the “The ABCs of Mindfulness,” which stands for Awareness, Being present, and Compassion. Think about your last meal. Were you fully present at the moment, savouring each bite, or were you multitasking, perhaps watching TV or scrolling through your phone? Using this ABC methodology, you start becoming more aware of your actions and your environment, live in the present moment, and meet each experience with kindness rather than judgment.
Warren, my better half, has always found calmness in painting. He says, "Art is unlike anything else. When I'm wholly engrossed in my canvas, it feels like I've escaped to a different world. It's just me, my thoughts, and my paintbrush." He practices mindfulness throughout his process, which not only improves the quality of his art but also his overall well-being. Remember, mindfulness isn't limited to meditation - it can be a part of any activity you enjoy!
Yoga: A Road to Serenity
Most of us know about the physical benefits of yoga - flexibility, strength, improved posture - but did you know it's an excellent way to find calmness too? The word ‘yoga’ is derived from Sanskrit and means to bind or yoke. It represents the union of body and mind, which in itself is a recipe for calmness. It encourages us to focus on how our bodies feel in the present moment, thus teaching us mindfulness.
One yogic technique that stands out for calmness is the 'Nadi Shodhana’, or alternate nostril breathing. It involves inhaling through one nostril, holding the breath, and then exhaling through the other nostril. This technique is believed to balance the left and right hemispheres of your brain and gives you a sense of peace and calmness. And yes, it may seem a bit silly at first, but trust me, it does wonders.
I remember the first time I tried yoga. My friend challenged me to a month of it, and I agreed - more out of competitive spirit than any drive for inner peace. But as the month unfolded, it wasn't the challenge that kept me going. It was the quietness I discovered within myself that I never knew existed. It was truly transformative, and that’s how my yoga journey began.
Chase Calm through Meditation
Meditation often seems intimidating, with people picturing it as sitting cross-legged for hours, completely devoid of thought. That's a misconception. Like mindfulness, meditation isn't about evacuating your thoughts, but more about noting them and coming back to your focus, whether that be your breath, a mantra, a candle flame, or something else.
My personal favourite is 'Loving-Kindness' (Metta) meditation. This involves repeating phrases like 'May I be happy. May I be peaceful. May I live with ease' and extending the same kind wishes to others. It cultivates compassion and encourages positive attitudes towards ourselves and others.
Warren and I attempted a 10-day silent meditation retreat a couple of years ago. It was one of the most challenging and rewarding experiences I've ever had. There were moments of intense struggle, but the clarity and calmness that emerged were profoundly worth it. It was an episode that strengthened our relationship and taught us profound lessons about our own thoughts and emotions.
Find A Calm Haven in Nature
Immersing ourselves in nature can be a quick ticket to tranquillity. The science behind this is fascinating. Research shows that spending time in nature has measurable benefits on multiple facets of our mental wellbeing. It reduces anxiety, stress and enhances feelings of positivity.
Whether it’s having your morning coffee by the window overlooking trees, taking a daily stroll in the park, or indulging in occasional forest bathing, every interaction with nature takes us one step closer towards calmness. The Japanese practice of Shinrin-yoku, or "forest bathing," involves simply being in the forest and taking in the atmosphere. This practice has found to significantly lower heart rate and blood pressure, reduce stress hormone production, and improve feelings of wellbeing.
Warren and I have an annual tradition of a week-long nature retreat. It's one week with no devices, no appointments, just us and mother nature. It forces us to reconnect not only with ourselves but also with our surroundings. It's something we look forward to every year, and it brings an inexplicable sense of peace and calmness that lasts long after the week is over. So the next time you're feeling restless, I recommend - step outside.
The Power of Gratitude
We often focus on wanting more that we forget to appreciate what we already have. This is where gratitude comes in. By acknowledging the good in our lives, we cultivate positivity, reduce stress, and invite calmness into our lives.
A practical way to start is by maintaining a ‘Gratitude Journal.' Simply jot down three things you are grateful for each day. They can be as big as a promotion at work or as small as a delicious cup of coffee in the morning. Over time, you train your mind to focus on the positive aspects of your life, which makes you more resilient and calm in the face of stress.
Warren and I have a beautiful ritual of sharing our 'gratitude moments' before sleeping. It's a small act, but it has immensely deepened our appreciation for each other and the life we share. And remember, the more grateful you are, the more you have to be grateful for. So pick up a pen and begin your journey towards calmness one gratitude moment at a time.
So here we are, five diverse strategies to help you on your journey towards calmness. Remember, it's your journey, so carve your path and choose what feels right for you. And amidst all the hustle-bustle of life, remember to laugh, to live, and to treasure the moments of peace along the way. Because in the pursuit of calmness, it’s these little moments that count.