“Life is short, so make every moment count.” We’ve all heard this cliché countless times, but how many of us know what this actually means in a practical sense?
We may or may not notice, but the majority of us spend our days alternating between living in the past and the future. Hands up if you’re prone to replaying memories while taking a shower, or worrying about what the future holds?
Here’s the trap. When we get caught up in feelings of nostalgia (living in the past) or feelings of worry or anxiety (living in the future), we miss out on the experience of the now, and end up in a state of suffering instead!
In fact, the Charaka Samhita, one of the primary Ayurvedic textbooks, teaches that the prevention of suffering comes by “avoiding intellectual errors, by calming the senses, and by being mindful.”
Mindfulness is the quality of being present and fully engaged with whatever you are doing or whatever is happening in the present moment. With mindfulness, we get to experience a much fuller life.
But that is far from being the only benefit of mindfulness. Studies have shown that practising mindfulness reduces anxiety, helps with depression and chronic pain and improves cognition.
Learning to keep your mind’s attention on the present moment does take a bit of practice, but here are a few things that can help you stay mindful whenever you catch yourself drifting off mentally.
Use Your Five Senses
The whole idea here is to expand your physical awareness, paying attention to what’s going on around you. Think of it as becoming more curious about your environment.
First expand your visual awareness. You don’t need to fix your gaze on anything in particular – you just need to become more aware of what you can see. Observe the people walking by, notice how the wind makes the trees sway or maybe even the small details like the subtle smile on someone’s face.
Next tune in to your sense of sound. Register all the different sounds and noises. Some will be close, others will be distant. Simply let them stream by.
Lastly, scan your body from head to toe – and go slow. Notice how your feet feel against the floor or how your spine feels. Right now, I’m realising I’m feeling pretty sore in my upper back, but I didn’t register it until I took a moment to pay attention.
This exercise can be done anytime, anywhere, whether on the bus to work, while having your lunch or during your evening run. Using your physical senses is one of the simplest ways to stay anchored in the present moment, which is why mindfulness meditation, which does exactly that, is the easiest to pick up.
Put Your Phone Away
How often do you walk into a restaurant and notice a table of friends or family with their heads buried in their mobile phones? Actually, how often do you notice your party doing just that?
In today’s digitally connected world, we are losing the ability to connect with people face-to-face. The more connected we are online, the more disconnected we become from our immediate surroundings, which includes the people who may not be in our lives forever.
This is not to say you should avoid social media completely, but perhaps take a step back and ask yourself if you’re spending more time looking at your screen than being immersed in the rare, precious and fleeting moments of your life.
Keep a Gratitude Journal
A gratitude journal reminds us of the value of the present moment as it gives us insight on what is important to us right now. It helps us focus on what we truly appreciate in life, even when things are looking down. You may just have had a terrible day, or you may have just come out of a five-year long relationship, but with gratitude, you can readjust your attitude and refocus your thoughts on positive events.
It doesn’t matter what time of the day you do it, and whether you use a physical notebook or a gratitude journal app, as long as you make it a habit. I now like writing in a notebook, but some useful apps are Gratitude365 and 5 Minute Journal – they both do the job.
Incorporate a Tea Ritual into Your Morning Routine
Mornings are the best time to set the tone for the day. Instead of snoozing five times and rushing through your mornings, consider waking up a little earlier, making time for activities that encourage mindfulness and gratitude.
One beautiful way to slow down your mornings is through a tea ritual. More than simply pouring and drinking tea, this meditative practice allows you to connect mindfully with yourself, your five senses and your surroundings.
Here are a few tips for creating your tea ritual:
- Choose a tea you love. Our pick for the morning is Tulsi Wellness – an energising blend of the four giants of Ayurvedic medicine – Tulsi, Brahmi (Gotu Kola), Ashwagandha and Moringa.
- Fill your cup slowly and enjoy the warmth of the steam against your skin.
- As your tea steeps, take a few deep breaths, smelling the aroma of your tea, and watch as the colour of your tea changes.
- Say a quiet “thank you” to the people who grew and harvested your tea, as well as to Mother Earth for providing all the elements of your tea.
By incorporating these mindfulness practices into your day, you are giving each moment your full, undivided attention,. You might soon find yourself picking up on beautiful little details you may have never noticed before, or finding enjoyment even in the most mundane of activities!
About Author: Yong Xian is an international yoga teacher who spent her first 29 years of life in Singapore, London and Shanghai before settling in the Northern Beaches of Sydney. When she’s not spreading her passion for yoga and wellness through teaching and writing, you’ll probably find her camping in the middle of nowhere.