COLUMN | Mind your mind

Throughout the pandemic many of us have found ourselves less involved with gatherings and daily outings and more invested in our health and home life. These times have been extremely stressful for many people. Maintaining the health of ourselves and our family is a source of anxiety, and there is additional financial stress everywhere. All these pressures make it more difficult to relax and find a true moment of peace. Practicing mindfulness and meditation is a simple activity that can help reduce stress, improve our overall well-being and help us focus on holistic self-care.

The practice of meditation has dated back to around 1500 BCE and is still a prominent resource used by millions around the globe today. It’s no surprise that this method has lasted so long because of the beneficial outcomes for many of its practitioners. Mindfulness and meditation can not only help us through our current worries, but other benefits include a higher ability to focus, the lowering of blood pressure along with many positive health benefits. Many studies claim it can help with cravings, immune responses, and even aging. The concept itself sounds amazingly beneficial, but many can be confused on how to begin this journey or even how to properly meditate.

Meditation is simply an activity of mindfulness and focuses, used to help train awareness or to reach a mentally calm and emotionally stable state. Taking a few minutes out of your day to sit down and reflect on how you are emotionally and mentally can be enough to help empty out the ever-growing bottle of stressors getting ready to overflow in your mind. Taking even 10 minutes to isolate yourself and focus on nothing but your headspace will allow you to easily sort out priorities, manage stressors and become more confident in your decision making and actions moving forward.

This leads to the idea of practicing active mindfulness. Mindfulness is simply the state of being consciously aware of something. When faced with a stressful event, our minds at times tend to shut down logical thinking and can send us into a panic of irrational decision making. Grounding yourself and actively taking time to remain calm during stressful events will allow your mind to become unclouded by fear and false securities. Doing this allows you to think more logically and to become more focused on finding a less destructive solution to problems you are faced with. This practice may also improve memory, concentration, mood and your overall outlook on the world around you.

Anyone can benefit from meditation and mindfulness. Taking the time to practice can arm us with a fresh grounding and mental state to become a better problem solver in work-related issues or in learning new subjects as a student. It can open us to becoming a more empathetic person in relationships and it can increase our overall self-awareness. We move in a fast-paced lifestyle where meditation and sitting still is easier said than done. It is a practice that takes time, discipline, and patience, but is absolutely worth the effort.

If you are worried that you don’t have meditation tools or even a lot of time to dedicate to this, don’t give up. Meditation guides are fairly inexpensive or free and are available through smartphone apps including Headspace and Calm, Alexa skills, YouTube videos, audio and e-books and many other options. There is no “right way” to meditate. It’s a flexible, customizable and individualized practice. Some guided meditations sessions are as brief as 3 minutes. Don’t be afraid to try out different techniques and see what works best for you.

Meditation and mindfulness can help you reshape your everyday life to spend more time focusing on the things you enjoy rather than being consumed by stress. The next time you find yourself overwhelmed or anxious, take a few moments to stop, breathe, and reflect in your space and consciously control your reaction before allowing your mind to panic and spiral out of control. Remember to take some time to meditate and see what’s clouding your mind from becoming a calmer more rational you.

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