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Mindful or Mind Full? Techniques for Staying in the Present Moment

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Mindful or Mind Full? Techniques for Staying in the Present Moment

We often come across articles or passages in books that remind us that peace and tranquility is to be found by being “present”by being mindful and staying in the momentbut rarely are we given techniques about how exactly to do that. Let’s explore a few different methods of doing so.

Breathwork

One great way of staying in the present moment is to focus on your breath. When all of your attention is centered on your breathing, it’s less likely that your mind will wander off into worry-land.

There are a few different ways to focus on your breathing, but we’re going to delve into the ones that combine both physical and mental awareness, as it’s the best way for novices to get into the habit.

1. Diaphragmatic breathing. Known as dirga pranayama in yogic circles, this is a 3-part breathing technique that draws breath deep into your lungs and creates a tranquil state of being. The best way to do this is to place one hand on your belly, and one hand on your upper chest. When you inhale, do so by drawing air into your belly, allowing it to rise out against the hand you’ve placed upon it. As you continue to draw breath, pull it into your diaphragm and let it expand, and finally inhale deep into your chest, letting your upper ribs float into the hand you have placed on them. When you exhale, you’ll reverse the process: release breathe from your chest first, then the diaphragm, and then your belly.

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This practice is a great one for focusing on your breath, since your attention is wholly involved in the movement of air through your body: there’s no room for errant thoughts to slide in.

 

2. Alternate nostril breathing. Known as nadi sodhana or anuloma viloma, this is another pranayama technique that works wonders for grounding and calming you, and for alleviating stress or anxiety. The best part about this one is that it’s a very quick mindfulness technique that you can do just about anywhere: a couple of minutes are all that’s needed to put it into practice, so if you disappear into the restroom at work or close your office door for a quick breather (literally), no-one’s going to miss you.

To do alternate breathing, block off your right nostril and take a slow, deep breath in through your left nostril to the count of 4. Plug your nose and hold your breath to the count of 16, and then exhale solely through your right nostril to the count of 8. Then reverse: inhale with your right nostril to the count of 4, hold breath for 16, exhale with the left nostril to the count of 8. This may sound ridiculously simple, but once again, all of your attention is focused on the one thing you’re currently doing: you’re being present, and mindful.

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5 Senses Awareness

If you find that your mind is very restless and is causing you a fair bit of grief, take a moment to just be still, and to focus on what you can be aware of with each of your senses. Find a quiet place where you can sit in stillness for a few minutes, close your eyes, and take a couple of deep, calming breaths.

Touch: Focus on the things that you can feel physically at the moment. Keep your eyes closed. What is the texture of the floor like beneath your feet? Is there a breeze against your skin? If your hands are on your lap, what does the fabric of your clothing feel like? Are your hands on a cool, smooth tabletop, or on the leathery arms of an old chair? Immerse yourself in physical sensation and really be aware of what everything feels like.

Scent: Can you smell anything right now? With your eyes still closed, bring your awareness to any scents that may be lingering in the air. If you’re at the office, can you smell coffee from the lunchroom or a co-worker’s desk? Did someone microwave popcorn today? What about your own perfume or cologne? Can you smell the shampoo in your hair? If you’re at home or outside, try to pinpoint a few scents that you can recognise.

Hearing: Take a moment to really listen to the world around you. Most of us acclimatize to our living conditions so much that we tune out most of what we hear over the course of the day, so keep your eyes closed and listendon’t just hear. Can you tune into the bubbles fizzing in your drink? The ticking of a clock in another room? Maybe you can hear your pet snoring, or the subtle shifting noises that your house makes over the course of the day. Do you hear traffic? Raindrops? Birds?

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Taste: This one can be a bit more difficult if you haven’t eaten anything recently, so if you don’t have any lingering crumbs around your mouth, it can help to take a sip of your drink or a bite of a snack to aid this one along. When you take a bite or sip of something, give the food your entire attention: notice the textures, the different flavours. Pay attention to the movement your tongue and throat make as you eat, and see if you can focus on the item you’ve swallowed as it makes its way down to your stomach.

Sight: Yes, this one requires you to open your eyes. It’s best to do it last, so you’re already in a relaxed state after focusing on the previous senses. Let your eyes rest on an item near you, and really look at it, even if it’s something that’s in your peripheral vision every day. Is it a plant that you can look at and analyze in detail? Or a favourite teacup? Are there scratches on the cup that you’d never noticed before? What’s written on the bottom, if anything? Take the time to see something in its entirety instead of just observing it without thought.

A Grounding Item

Some people find that the best way for them to return to the present moment is by carrying a “grounding” item with them. This is something that can be kept in a pocket or worn as jewellery, so when anxieties rise or the outside world gets a bit too harried and distracting, touching and focusing on that item brings them back to the present moment.

This item can be anything at all, as long as it has meaning to you. It could be a stone or crystal that’s kept in your pocket, a mala bracelet, pendant, rosary/prayer beads, or even a ring that’s worn dailyif it’s something that can bring you peace and help to center/ground you when you’re flailing emotionally, it’s perfect.

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To ground yourself with your item, just take a couple of minutes to sit with it and be wholly absorbed in the experience of touching it. If it’s a stone, feel the cool smoothness of it in your hands, and allow yourself to draw strength from it: that stone is likely a million years old. If it’s a crystal that hums with energy, allow it to hum in your hands and imagine yourself filled with light the same colour of the item you’re holding. If you’re using prayer beads, run them through your fingers and draw comfort from their solidity. Let the outside world slip away as you focus your entire being on what you’re holding in your hands, and how it makes you feel.

Staying in the present moment takes practice, but a few minutes each day are all that’s needed to establish your mindfulness practice. Before long, you’ll notice that you’re much more aware and appreciative of things around you, as well as experiences you have and tastes/textures you enjoy. Anxieties about the past or future slip away when you find peace in the now.

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Catherine Winter

Catherine is a wordsmith covering lifestyle tips on Lifehack.

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Last Updated on November 22, 2021

Thanksgiving: It’s About The Simple Things

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Thanksgiving: It’s About The Simple Things

Thanksgiving, a day of pure gluttony, football, and possible uncomfortable situations with family members that you may or may not like. Oh, yeah, and the whole “know and reflect on what it is to be thankful and grateful.”

During the holiday season many people forget what this time of year is bout and are too worried about getting the “early-bird” deals on Black Friday and making sure that they have the perfect gifts for their loved ones. I am sort of a “Grinch” when it comes to the holiday season, mostly because of that mentality by many of the poeple around me.

But instead of being grinch-like this holiday season, I decided to simplify things and get back to what this time of year is actually is about; being thankful for what I have and what I can give.

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Simplify

I’m not a “minimalist” in any real sense, but in the last few months the talks of Patrick Rhone and others have got me to rethink my stance. Can you really have too much stuff?

Absolutely.

And with all that stuff comes the burden and the weight of it on your back.

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If you feel that the things around you are out of control, maybe it’s time to simplify and be thankful and grateful for what you have and use. Here are a few things that you can do to simplify:

  • You know those gadgets in the drawer that you said you were going to sell? Well, time to get the listing on eBay and sell them. Or, send them to a place like Gazelle. Even if they are old and won’t get money, you can at least recycle them.
  • Get rid of things you don’t need. Like old books, clothes, tools, etc. Have something that’s been laying around forever with no use? Donate it to a charity or church. If you aren’t using it, someone else could be.
  • Find your productivity tools and stick with them. Use tools and gadgets that serve multiple purposes so you can simplify your tool set.

Be Mindful

You don’t have to be a master Buddhist or meditator to be mindful (although, it can definitely help). Being mindful comes down to being cognizant of the present and not keeping yourself in the past or future. It’s about living in the moment and being aware of yourself and everything around you. It’s just being.

Without getting too “California” on you, it is super important to be mindful during the holiday rush. Rather than worrying about the things that you forgot at your house on the way to relatives or thinking about the next stop in your endless holiday travels, just breath and think about what you are currently doing.

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Spend the time with your family and friends and don’t crush the moment. Try not to concentrate so hard on getting the perfect photo of the “awesome moment” of the day and actually miss the awesome moment.

Being mindful over the holidays will help you be with your families, friends, and yourself allowing you to enjoy your time.

Reflect

As the year is coming to a close (yes, it really is that close!) it’s a great time to start reflecting on what you have accomplished and what you haven’t. Within the next few weeks we will have a more throrough reflection article here at Lifehack.org, but reflecting every now and then over your holiday break is a great way to see where you have been doing well in your life and where you need to improve.

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Reflection shouldn’t be used to “get down” on yourself. Reflection should be used to take an honset inventory of what you have accomplished, how you handeled situations, and what you can do better. If you journal everyday (a daily form of reflection) it may be a good time to start going over some of the things that you have written and start to put together a year’s end journal entry. I mean, how else will you write your autobiography?

But, seriously, reflecting on yourself makes you aware of your successes and faults and helps you plan and make goals for the coming year. It makes you a better person.

So, while you are stuffing your face with bird, stuffing, and mashed taters’, remember that the holidays are much more than the superficial things. Use this holiday to become a better person.

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Featured photo credit: Libby Penner via unsplash.com

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