For a long while, I have been consumed by the unhealthy thought that life is a series of repetitive actions that we cannot avoid. I was dreading anything that implied a routine (e.g. morning routine or doing house chores) or any activities that felt like I had nothing new to learn from them or that they were just a means to an end (e.g. walking/commuting or waiting in line).
As the days were passing by, it was only getting worse. It felt like a vortex and I was falling deeper and deeper into it. Depression started building up and it escalated quicker than expected, until one day I realized that there were very few things I enjoyed a normal, uneventful day. I started pushing myself to do at least one thing I really enjoyed every day or to try something new, but that was exhausting and it wasn’t always possible.
We might think our mind feels the same as yesterday and our bodies look the same, but they both change every second. The changes are not always dramatic, so sometimes we just have to look closer to see them. Here are two basic examples of how I became more aware of my mind and body by integrating mindfulness into my everyday life.
Morning routine – one thing at a time
Old me: I used to wake up and rush out of bed. Jump into the shower and always have a hard time finding the right temperature of the water. Wash while my mind drifted to the next task. Brush my teeth on autopilot. Put some clothes on, grab something to eat from the fridge and rush out the door.
New me: I wake up and take a moment to observe my body waking. Get out of bed while acknowledging how my body and mind feel that morning. Go to the bathroom and set the right temperature for the shower. Enjoy it! Feel the water going down my body, smell the odour of the body wash, listen to the sound of water and stay mindful of the amount of water I use. Then, start brushing my teeth, paying attention to the movement of my hand and what muscles I am using. Be aware of how my mouth interacts with the toothbrush. Feel the texture and taste of my toothpaste and think what sensations it creates. Go to my wardrobe and, based on how I felt when I got up, pick something that will suit my mood. Before putting it on, I feel the fabric and observe how my skin reacts to it. Go to the fridge, prepare my breakfast and take my time to enjoy it.
Old me: I used to wish to be able to teleport and stop wasting time on walking from point A to point B. I would generally put my headphones on and start power-walking to my next destination, oblivious of the environment and people passing by.
New me: I have now turned my need to walk from here to there into a pleasant experience.
After that, I start looking around me. Reading people’s body language, their facial expressions and think about how they impact me. Next, I pay attention to the buildings and nature around me and how being surrounded primarily by concrete made me feel different from when I was surrounded by nature. I move on to the auditory stimuli and think if the noise in traffic, the constant chatting, and other background sounds stress me, distract me or make me feel tired. I analyse how my body reacts to the temperature outside or how the sun and rain feel on my skin.
After doing these exercises the numbness I felt I was drifting into started to slowly fade away. I am not saying it miraculously solved everything, but it has helped me see a few colours among those many shades of grey. It took me a while to get my mind used to it and I am still at the beginning of this journey with loads of things to learn, but I am optimistic.
It is not the easiest of things, and I am aware that in the fast society we live in, it is extremely easy to get distracted. Try and make an effort in the first few weeks to integrate mindfulness into at least one activity and you will soon find you can do it without any effort at all. Also, it is not a must to practice it every day, all day, I know I don’t. Listen to your body. Find your own balance and integrate mindfulness in a way that suits you and that will help you get the most benefits from it.
Stay healthy. Stay happy.
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