6 Ways To Become Mindful

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I look around and I see discontented, distracted and disturbed people all around. Even when I look into myself, I find instability and tensions; overwhelming thoughts of so much work that I need to accomplish during the day, the week, the year or may be my entire lifetime ahead. I hear people talk about only two things – regrets of the past and anticipations for the future. But isn’t there something that we are all losing in our constantly multi-tasking and “running after everything” attitude towards life? Yes, we are!

                          We are losing the “Present Moment”.

Mindfulness is the practice of conscious living in the present moment. It is the practice of purposely focusing your attention on the present moment without any judgements. It helps you to shift away your thoughts from the usual preoccupations towards an appreciation of the present moment and a larger perspective on life.

Practising mindfulness not only improves our mental health but also our physical health and hence, our overall wellbeing. Here are 6 ways to start cultivating mindfulness practice into our daily lives –

  1. Meditate – Take time to meditate. Meditation does not mean sitting under a tree like a monk waiting for enlightenment to strike you. Meditation is all about being quiet and focussing on your natural breathing. Yes, your thoughts may get distracted very easily. However, you must let go of all those thoughts without any judgement and bring yourself back to your focus. Breathe 🙂
  2. Observe – With all your love and gentleness, take time to observe all your bodily sensations, toe to head. Whether it is a slight itch or tingling, observe it and let it go without any judgement.
  3. Use your sensory organs – Notice what you see, hear, smell, touch or taste. Notice them without any judgements. I have personally experienced serenity using this technique. Each time my mind wanders, I focus on the sounds I can hear all around and try to distinguish them without any judgement (whether it is the chirping of birds, water trickling down or the sound of the air around).
  4. Accept your emotions – This is an important skill to be learnt – the art of accepting your emotions each moment and letting go of them without any judgement. Each time an emotion comes to you, notice it, name it (Joy, Sadness, Anger, Frustration, Nervousness or Regret), accept it and then let it go 🙂
  5. Cope with your urges – We all have our individual urges, cravings, obsessions and destructive behavioural patterns. Learn to recognise them, notice how your body feels as the craving enters it and then replace it with knowledge and wiser thoughts that will subside them.
  6. Be gentle and kind – Almost every moment we are judgemental about anything and everything in our lives. Not judging is a big part of mindfulness practice and a key source to happiness and contentment. Being kind, gentle and gracious with ourselves and with everything we experience or everyone around should be the essence of who we are.

Remember, practising these techniques may not seem relaxing in the beginning. But over time, it will not only lead you to a greater sense of physical and emotional wellbeing, but also to a calmer, wiser and a more stable YOU.

After all, we are all made of flesh,blood and bones and we are not going to be here for ever. So, let’s be kind and gentle towards ourselves, towards life and “Be Present” all the time 🙂

       

SLEEP – THE WONDER DRUG

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Let me start by asking you all a question (answer it to yourself or leave your answer in the comment box); “When was the last time that you slept really well?” and by “really well”, I mean :

  1. You went to bed at a reasonable hour in the night,
  2. You did not have to toss and turn around the bed feeling restless,
  3. You woke up feeling really fresh,
  4. You woke up feeling really charged up  and positive looking forward to tackle your day ahead.

If you are not a religious “sleeper”, I bet the answer to this question would be “I do not remember exactly when 😦

Who would not love a good night’s sleep! But then what has went wrong in our lives that relaxed sleeping has become such a difficult task? 

Sleep has a very a intricate relationship with our personal wellbeing. It is the “PAUSE” time of our daily lives, a time to stop thinking, working and just relaxing our bodies and mind. But today’s world and workaholic lifestyles have started to completely overlook the benefits of sleep and at some levels have, in fact, developed abusive sleep behaviours. A major population today considers sleeping less as a way of increasing their productivity, a way to get more work done in the 24 hours of a day.

The science of sleep is very deep and meaningful. Although during sleep your body is in a state of total physical rest, your brain performs several complex processes in this state. A healthy adult should get an average of 8-9 hours of sleep daily.

Let me guide you through the things one must know about sleep and the do’s and don’t that will lead you to a really refreshing sleep.

  1. Sleep is one of the most important health habits. It gives your body adequate time to rest. Help your skeletal and muscular system to relax.
  2. It is extremely essential for the nervous system. Sleep soothes your nerves and boosts their performance.
  3. Sleep has a very deep impact on your cognitive abilities. The brain performs several complex processes during sleep. Research has shown that it is during sleep that your brain processes the day’s events and restores energy in it’s cells for the day ahead.
  4. A 2013 research has shown that during sleep the brain clears out harmful waste proteins that build up between it’s cells. This may reduce one’s risk of having Alzheimer’s.
  5. Sleep has a direct relationship with one’s stress levels. People with poor sleep habits are at greater risk of heart disease and diabetes.
  6. Healthy sleep boosts your decision making abilities. It helps combat feelings of helplessness, depression and loneliness.
  7. Naps are a very essential part of a healthy lifestyle. They are scientifically proven to boost one’s mental alertness, memory and creativity.
  8. Naps helps our system in preventing burnout. It aids us in returning back to our daily work feeling refreshed.
  9. As mentioned in my previous article on “Understanding Ab Flabs”, getting 8-9 hours of sleep helps us in fighting the stress hormone CORTISOL that has direct relation to our body’s fat accumulation and metabolism.
  10. Most importantly, good sleep improves our mood and helps us to remain positive and fresh. It boosts the production of serotonin, a neurotransmitter that regulates our mood, appetite and feelings of contentment. So you won’t get cranky, anxious, overwhelmed or easily distracted if you sleep well 🙂

Coming to the DO’s that will help you in getting good sleep:

  1.   Keep your bed clean with a neat and tidy light coloured bed-sheet.
  2.   Get a new pillow cover.
  3.   Fix on a pair of comfortable pyjamas or other night wear that makes you sleepy 🙂
  4.   Take a nice warm shower before going to bed.
  5.   Keep your bedroom clean, cool and dark.
  6.   Use aromatic candles and room fresheners with natural fragrances you are fond of.
  7.   Keep a check on your caffeine intake. Limit the consumption of caffeinated drinks to the first half of the day.
  8.   Lead an active lifestyle; walk and exercise daily.
  9.   Practice deep breathing before going to bed (Stop worrying about things and just relax).
  10. Listen to soft meditation music if you need to nap in between work or while travelling in-flight.

Another important point, keep all your electronic gadgets away from your bed. Your mind and body getting adequate rest is much more important than checking your email or FB / Twitter updates or chit-chatting with your friends over a group messenger. All of this can be done the next day. Time is the most precious of all resources and do not waste your bed time in other activities.

I hope, by now, I have helped you all understand the importance of sleep in our daily lives. However busy you might be or whatever are the troubles of your life, REMEMBER, sleep is the wonder drug that will help you live your life to it’s best 🙂

Rebooting Life

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One of the several things that we desperately crave for in life is ‘how to de-stress ourselves’ or rather keep save ourselves from getting stressed. STRESS…Oh, the word itself sounds so stressful! 😦 The Oxford Dictionary defines it as “A state of mental or emotional strain or tension resulting from adverse or demanding circumstances”. Sadly, this word has occupied a major portion of our lives today. We all feel stressed out to different proportions throughout the day. And the even sadder news is that we all have adapted to this tendency (or should I say habit) of ‘being stressed out’.

If we scan our lives carefully, we can easily find that most of these stressors of our life are self-made. We are seriously responsible for a major portion of the stresses that we suffer. Whether it is our inability to manage our time well or it is our perspective towards a particular situation, we are very much responsible for that bad and stressful mood we get into. We often allow situations in life to control us rather than us controlling them.

Life is a very precious gift and the very fact that we are living and breathing in this moment is the greatest of all joys. But why do we forget this so often until the loss of a loved one or a really tragic news hits us? Every single moment is precious. Why let stress get into our lives and divert our focus from living and make us feel miserable!

Let me share with you some thoughts that I want us all to remind ourselves, each time we get stressed and feel burnt-out; thoughts and actions that will help us every time we wish to reboot our lives and refresh our souls 🙂

  1. Focus on your breathing: There is nothing more relaxing than a few moments spent focusing just on our breath. Whenever you feel stressed out or tensed, pause your mind for a few seconds and simply focus on your breathing. This will help you in realising your own precious existence and the very fact that you are alive.
  2. Sleep well: Sleep has a very big impact on the way we behave towards different life situations. Our cognitive abilities are controlled by our sleep cycles to a large extent. Less or too less sleep impair our decision making abilities, feelings of self-content, self-worth and allows too many mood swings.
  3. Think systematically: Whenever you feel stressed out, sad or depressed, try to find out the root cause behind. Whether it is an unhealthy relationship, a dead end job, troubles in the family or a sudden health crisis; think about it systematically, figure out the best possible solution or the only solution it might have and start working upon it. Trust me, there’s no time in life to be wasted on emotional distress.
  4. Time management is life management: Learn to set your priorities and act accordingly. Effective time management requires constant self-examination. Both ‘a hurrying up all the time’ and ‘a lazing around’ attitude are unhealthy. What we need is a balanced attitude towards time and an ability to practice mindfulness, so that we are always focused on our present.
  5. Stay calm: A noisy mind can never help you figure out a solution. Practice how to stay calm. Always keep your head calm and mind focused.
  6. Change your perspective: When we learn to shift our perspective, we are able to see the silver lining in the darkest situations of life. Even when the worst tragedies hit life, it is only a change of perspective that will help us in overcoming the grief and moving ahead.
  7. Do the ‘positive self-talk’: Learning how to tame that voice in our head that always criticises us and gives us constant negative feedback about our actions and behaviours is a must. Each time negativity pops up it’s ugly head in our minds, we should wipe it out with positive self-talk. Whatever troubles you, do not forget to remind yourself of how amazing and unique you are and that you will definitely be able to make your way through the tough times.
  8. Take time to disconnect from technology and connect with your own self: Our hyper-connectivity with technology is a big stressor in our lives today. Constantly checking your Smart-phone, Email inbox, Facebook notifications, Twitter updates or Whatsapp conversations drains out (slowly but severely) a major portion of your mental energy and productivity. Keep fixed time slots for all these activities and make sure that everyday you get enough time to connect with your own self.
  9. Practice gratitude: Although I have written a complete article on this, I still can not help but mention the power of this practice again and again. Being grateful and practicing gratitude helps us develop a sunny positive attitude towards life.
  10. Listen to your inner voice: Intuition is always more powerful than intellect (if we learn how to listen to it carefully). Whenever your inner voice speaks, shut-up and listen. Never act against your conscience. It is your best mentor.

So, the next time you feel stressed out, try incorporating these thoughts and actions into your life. After all someone has rightly said; “The greatest weapon against stress is our ability to choose one thought after another.” 🙂

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Practice Gratitude! Feed Your Soul.

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I do not know how many of us have read (or at least come across) an article on this topic every now and then, but as someone trying hard to lead ‘the good life’, I have read a lot on this and have tried and inculcated this practice as one of my daily rituals.

GRATITUDE, it is a very beautiful word, isn’t it! It means thankfulness or the feeling/act of being thankful in appreciation of the gifts bestowed upon us. More often than not these gifts are the blessings that have been showered upon our lives. But how often have we reminded ourselves to be grateful to all the visible or invisible, real or abstract gifts that surrounds us all the time? The modern day world uses the word “Thank you” very often (more as an act of courtesy or reflection of good manners). It is almost like a reflex action. It’s good to say so and it’s good to be well mannered, no offence 🙂 But when we are asked to practice gratitude everyday in our daily lives, it has a different meaning altogether. It means everyday we are going to be thankful to life for someone or something that we do not show thankfulness towards generally or often.

Life is full of gifts and blessings. Some of them are bestowed upon us by God, some are given by time,some by our loved ones, some by our own efforts or some by destiny. It is our responsibility to express gratitude to/for all these blessings. And you know what, once you start practicing this, you will realise that the list of people,things,situations or circumstances of life that you need to be grateful towards is endless 🙂 It is a source of endless joy.

Be grateful for this universe, for this planet that supports our lives, for the fresh water down the streams (that eventually reaches our water cooler for us to drink), for the green plants and wilderness that supports human life system, for your fully functioning body cells that keep you alive, to your parents for bringing you into this world, to your family for their endless support, to your friends and co-workers. Be grateful to humanity that binds us all together, for science and arts that are ignited by the human brain. Be grateful for the beautiful night’s sleep you just got, to the food on your plate, for the smile you see on the face of your child, for those n number of times you and your loved ones have reached home safely after work, to the one who has loved you through times of joy and pain or to the mere fact that you are alive and so on so forth.

Very often we let sadness, anger, jealousy and all other forms of negative emotion take control over our daily communications, thoughts and actions. Practicing gratitude helps us channelise all those disturbing energies into the trajectory of positivity. It helps us in achieving a peaceful centre in our heart and lives. I would say that it has therapeutic effects on our soul .

Research has also shown that practicing gratitude changes the pathways of our neurones to help our system relax and fight depressive thoughts especially those of loneliness. Also, it boosts your sense of self-worth or self-esteem, helps you in strengthening your relationships and most importantly forbids you from making distractive and worthless comparisons. And it is very simple to practice. Everyday, whenever possible, just take a few minutes to think, reflect or write down at least one thing that you are grateful towards in your life. I promise you that immediately there will be a smile on your face 🙂

Start practicing gratitude and you will find your “Magical-Peace-Pills” in them 🙂

                     

The Power of Baby Steps :)

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Ever sat down and had those overwhelming thoughts of “Oh my GOD, I have got so many things to do(tasks to be completed, goals to be accomplished). How am I going to manage it all? 😦 ” I bet you have, we all have. Most of the times we get so entangled in the humdrum of daily life that we often put behind “things that we really want to do or should do” in the back burner. It can be anything- going to the gym and actually utilising that gym membership you had once paid for, taking those guitar lessons you have been thinking of,writing that journal that you have been planning to start from a really long time, working on that list of new year resolutions (this one’s universal), starting to work on your grad school application or even visiting the dentist to get a solution to that aching tooth. The “TO-DO LIST” of our life just keeps on lengthening up with each passing day.Seriously, we all have fallen into the trap of PROCRASTINATION. And then when asked about these delays, we all have the same reply, “ I just did not get the time to do it.” How easily and how often do we say that!

Well, nature has given us all 24 hours a day, not a second more or less. And all that needs to be done has to be managed in this fixed time slot. If something is really important to us, then we have to do it within this time. No, Ifs and Buts. I know some of you are still going to disagree with me and say “That’s not possible, I am really busy (hence,not at all lazy) and at times I just cannot help but procrastinate.”

 Ok, I got it. In that case there’s a solution that I wish to offer. “TAKE BABY STEPS.” It’s simple 🙂 Each day take one tiny step towards accomplishing that task you have been pending or habit you have been wishing to develop. And it’s ok if your steps falter,your efforts fail. Really, it’s 100% ok. Do not feel guilty about it or start to panic. What goes wrong with most of us is that we either panic,jump into the task planned,mess it up completely and feel guilty later on or we silently keep on delaying it. After a certain threshold of time, we might even completely quit the idea of doing it.

Remember, this is just one LIFE that we all have. Each one of us have both the time and the potential to complete all those tasks and accomplish all those goals of our LIST. The only thing to be done is to continuously move forward, take at least one little step everyday towards them. For example, if you want to get real fit and go to the gym, start it these Baby Steps-  go for a light jog or a 20 minutes brisk walk everyday. Once you spirits start getting lifted up and you build endurance, start exercising with a friend or join the nearby gym so that your body won’t get freaked out and beg you to quit “the idea of getting fit” completely.

Start taking these BABY STEPS forward- one thing at a time, one day at a time. And then one day when you look back you will happily realise with a great sense of “Self-Pride” how you have accomplished all the tasks efficiently and lived a life far ahead of your own expectations. I promise, you are going to feel great, TRY IT 🙂

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I Love Me

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Ah, the name suggests it all 🙂  It’s all about loving yourself. Seems so obvious and easy, doesn’t it? But how many times have we actually put real food into this thought. “Do we really love ourselves?Do we really take good care of ourselves? “ Let’s not confine this ‘taking good care of me’ just to our physical selves i.e. just taking good care of our health. Of course, HEALTH COMES FIRST, but isn’t ‘loving me also about the way we take care of our overall being. Also, doesn’t our love for self depend on the way we look at our “inner-self”, our self-image?

If you think carefully, you’ll find how most of the time our self-image depends on how we have been described by the people around us. Our family, friends, colleagues and other peers, every body describes us in a particular way and with time, unconsciously, we develop our self-image at par with their description and expectations. This eventually leads us to become someone we might not actually be. Over due course of time, our life becomes the result of a handful of vague decisions that we make based on this self- image (which is not so self because we have been allowing someone else to create that in our heads). Henceforth, everything that continues in the name of LIFE sums up to create a self-image filled up with a lot of fear and self-doubt.

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ENOUGH! Let’s cut this all out. Let’s wipe out all fears and doubts and create a new self-image just like the one we have always wished to have. Imagination is the strongest weapon and the swiftest magic wand that we possess as humans. So let’s start imagining our self the way we have always wished it to be. Ok, so everyone calls you fat and somewhere in your head you have created this image of a bulky you who is totally incapable of being healthy and staying in the perfect shape? Throw it out; start imagining yourself as this super healthy person. If everyone thinks you are weak and meek, imagine yourself to be this person with a real strong persona. Whatever negative self-image you have in your head, wipe it out. Create this new image that is completely based on how u would like to see yourself. Once you do this, you will fall 100% sincerely in LOVE with yourself. This new image is going to make you take real-life actions that will ultimately carve out this image into reality. And hey, do not think this is too much of moral science that has nothing to do with real life. This is actually how the universe works. “First you need to imagine and believe that imagination sincerely. Real life actions to convert that imagination into a reality will continue immediately.” And if you feel, you already have the perfect self-image and the reality, well, that’s great, Cheers to you!

So let’s stop anticipating the future, craving for that perfect job or that perfect relationship, the perfect house or the dream car. Yes, I know all of that is important (and why not, it should be). But nothing is above you. YOU are the one who is the most precious and worthy of true unfaltering love, care and respect. Love yourself, love that self-image you have created all by yourself and show up for yourself. There is too much going on too fast all around your life, it’s not easy to handle, you have got too much to do in an unknown span of your life. So the first and the most important responsibility is to truly value your own existence.

Because just like the L’OREAL Ad says “You’re worth it” 🙂

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