As I continue my journey as a psychologist, I have realised that many of us struggle with knowing what our body is feeling. I am not talking about emotions that we think we feel cognitively. I am talking about the physical sensations within our body.
Many of us go about our lives without fully being present and that can be detrimental to our mental health and physical health. We just go by each day not recognising that we are tired, angry, sad, anxious, that we might need to take a break.
When was the last time that you asked yourself how your body was feeling? When you notice the physical sensations do you actually know what it is trying to tell you? If your answer is “I can’t remember” or “I have never tried that before”. Don’t worry, you are not alone. Majority of people do not sit and pay attention to their bodies.
Why? Throughout our growing years, we have been taught to constantly be striving for something, doing something, not “wasting time”. We have learned to be busy all the time. Be it watching Netflix, scrolling through social media, listening to music, talking to people. We are ALWAYS doing something. When was the last time you actually sat down and did nothing? When I say nothing, I mean just sitting and breathing and existing. Again, if you answered “I don’t remember” or “Never”. That’s normal. Most of us don’t.
So you might ask, how does that hurt me?
When we are not present, we are either living in the past, or the future. If we live in the past too much, it can lead to us feeling sad or depressed. If we live in the future too much, we might feel worried or anxious. Also, if we go about our day on autopilot mode, we don’t know what we might miss out in life, or what we might do that affects ourselves or others that might potentially be harmful.
When I first heard about the term “mindfulness” I thought that it was a whole load of nonsense. I emailed my professor and told him, I don’t know why we need to learn about this and I was very against the whole concept. “Why do I need to slow down?” “Multitasking is one of my talents!!” “I don’t believe in the need to be present”. However, over the years, I have learned to slowly embrace it. I have watched it change the lives of my clients, and I have watched it change my life too.
Mindfulness is about learning to be aware of what’s happening in the present moment, without judgment and with acceptance.
How do you cultivate mindfulness?
There are many ways to do so. However, what I have noticed so far is that many who are unfamiliar with it, find it easier to start off with some simple daily practices such as:
- Ask yourself how your body is feeling at different points of the day
- Notice your 5 senses – What is 1 thing you can see, touch, taste, smell, hear?
- Try catching yourself when you are in autopilot mode (e.g. Try brushing your teeth with your left hand or try paying attention to what’s happening around you when you are on public transport)
- Practice yoga/tai chi/qigong – try to fully concentrate on the activity and focus on your body + breath
- Notice your breath. Watch yourself breathe for just 1 min and see how that feels like
There are many benefits to practicing mindfulness and would love to hear if you tried it out or have any experiences with it!