The practice of mindfulness
When you have lunch at work, do you sit in front of your computer catching up on emails while eating your sandwich? When your child shows you their homework, are you busy preparing supper at the same time? When you sit with friends or family at a restaurant, are you checking your phone for messages? When you drive to work in the morning, are you worrying about your “to-do” list for the day? Do you get to the office feeling like you forgot how you got there? In our fast-paced lives, we have been reinforced to believe that this is “multi-tasking” and that it makes us more efficient and successful. However, it contributes to stress levels and also impacts negatively on our relationships.
Mindfulness is the practice of living in the present moment. It’s becoming an important component of therapy, particularly for cognitive therapists, in the treatment of anxiety. Mindfulness stems from meditation, but what makes it universally accessible is that the goal is to focus your attention on what you are doing in the present moment.
The fact that we are digitally overwhelmed with being “connected” (and available) all the time via smartphones, makes living present and fully in the moment more important than ever. We live in a world where if we haven’t checked-in, updated our status or uploaded a photo, the experience never happened! Remember when work colleagues or clients could only get hold of you during office hours on a landline?!
- Make it a habit to have your lunch break away from your desk. Go outdoors, find a bench and savour each bite of your sandwich in the fresh air.
- Take a moment to sit with your child, ask them about their homework and give them praise for the work done.
- Leave your phone on silent at a restaurant. Let the important people know where you are (they can phone the restaurant if there’s an emergency). Connect with the people around the table.
- On your way to work in the mornings, prepare for the day by being more present. If you live in Cape Town, look at the mountain and beautiful surroundings. Don’t get caught up with bad drivers – let them pass you. Rushing to work probably saves you five minutes.
When we have countless demands each day (at work and at home) we need to recognise that we cannot always change our situation, but we can change the way we think about our situation. When you feel stressed and overwhelmed, make it a a habit to bring yourself into the present moment. Focus on one task at a time. Recognise that you need to put in as much effort to relax and be happy as you do to be stressed and worried!