Here in the 21st Century, we are finally coming back to an understanding of something the ancients knew, but we somehow seem to have forgotten- the connection between mental health and physical health. If you develop problems with one, you're likely to experience problems with the other. Although it may sound counter-intuitive, current research shows that of the two, the mind is the strongest, and that maintaining positive mental health is the best way to ensure that our bodies also stay healthy and fit. Paying attention to our mind is key to maintaining our overall health, so today we are going to explore the concept of mindfulness.
The majority of us spend a great deal of our time at work, we have to if we want to live in modern society, work gives us the money we need to purchase food and shelter, and sometimes, to have a little fun! It can be stressful, work-related stress and anxiety are major factors in our mental and physical health. We are fortunate that in these more enlightened times, modern medicine and forward-thinking businesses have realized that, and are proactively working to keep people happy, healthy, and motivated. Many companies are implementing health monitoring programs in New Zealand in order to maintain the well-being of their employees by conducting regular tests of their physical fitness and medical conditions as a means to protect them and promote a safe and positive work environment.
In addition to physical checkups, the value of mental health is also taken into consideration, and counselling is readily available for any who feel like the pressures of day-to-day living are getting to be too much for them to cope with without some professional help. Many companies are also implementing daily optional mindfulness programs, giving employees the opportunity to relax with soothing exercises like yoga and mindfulness meditations.
So, what exactly is mindfulness? Mindfulness is when we slow down and focus on being fully present and aware of what we are sensing and feeling in the moment, without attempting to interpret or judge those sensations. Our minds are just as busy as our daily lives are, always working out problems, thinking about recent and past events, looking forward to, or dreading what's going to happen tomorrow- it can be draining, too much thinking is hard work, and can even make us more likely to experience stress, anxiety and symptoms of depression. Sometimes we just need to let it all go, and give our minds a break! That's where the practice of mindfulness can make a big difference in helping us to feel better and enjoy our lives more.
Some of the benefits of practicing mindfulness include:
- Lowering our propensity to engage in negative thinking and distraction.
- Reducing our stress, anxiety, and depression.
- Providing a tool to help us cope with pain management.
- Improving our overall mood.
Now that we have extolled the virtues of practising mindfulness, just how exactly is it done? Whilst traditional sit-down meditation is certainly an excellent method, there is much more to it than that!
Accept yourself. We spend far too much time being hypercritical of ourselves and nitpicking our every move. Instead of doing that, treat yourself the way you would your own best friend, focus on your many good traits, and compliment yourself!
Pay attention. It can be difficult to slow down and notice what's happening around us things in this hectic, busy world. Take some time to stop and experience your environment with all of your senses — smell, touch, sight, sound, and taste. One example is, when you eat one of your favourite foods, take the time to first view its visual appeal, enjoy its delicious smell, and then delight in its wonderful taste, enjoying it on all levels.
Live in the moment. Make it your intention to adopt an open, accepting, and discerning attention to everything you do and experience. Find joy in life's simple pleasures. The old saying goes, stop and smell the roses, they really are nice if you take the time to do so!
Focus on your breathing. Take a moment to stop thinking, sit down, take a deep breath and close your eyes. Breathe slowly and focus on it for a minute, you will be amazed at how relaxed you will feel!
The New Zealand Ministry of Health is a good resource for more information. So, take a deep breath and stay mindful, your body will thank you!