How does one navigate life in the age of COVID-19? These are uncharted waters and it is safe to say that absolutely no one in the world has ever experienced this before — a truly global pandemic.
No matter where you live, what your religion, gender, or age is, whether you are wealthy or not, single or married, people are scrambling to find ways to stay grounded and positive in this new reality.
In these tumultuous times filled with stress, anxiety, and panic, mindfulness is more necessary than ever. Practicing mindfulness techniques can help you achieve inner peace and contribute the ultimate success of your Paleo lifestyle.
Mindfulness is the practice of being fully present and having an awareness of what you’re experiencing, right at that moment.
Mindfulness can be defined as "a mental state achieved by focusing one's awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one's feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations."
You might wonder why, when surrounded by fear, uncertainty, and chaos, you would want to be fully present to all of that. You might think that mindfulness would heighten your state of fear because you focus your awareness on your emotions. Contrarily, you can rely on mindfulness during this unprecedented time to ease the panic. By being aware of how worried and afraid you are, you can actually dampen your fear.
The answer lies in choosing what you’re mindful of.
In any given moment right now, you can turn on your T.V., open your emails, or pull up any social media platform and spiral into panic mode based on the latest news or warnings. The first thing to do is to step back from all of that external input and create an intention for a different kind of mindfulness — the kind that you dictate.
Set your phone alarm to go off several times a day. You can search through the sounds available on your device and find one that has a calming effect on you. When you hear that sound, take a moment to check in with your body.
What are you feeling right now? What mental state are you in?
If you are in front of a screen and getting agitated, simply close your eyes, be still, and breathe. Focus on each inhale and exhale. Allow yourself to feel whatever comes up, then breathe it out.
When you can string a bunch of those moments together over the course of a day, you will begin to feel more relaxed overall.
Living in a culture where idleness is frowned upon has one forget how to be still and do nothing at all. A mentality that screams, do, do, do and go, go, go has been ingrained. The idea of sitting and doing nothing can be so foreign that even the thought may cause feelings of discomfort, even guilt.
Schedule some nothing time each day, even a short 5 minutes to sit and do… nothing.
Sit silently in a favourite chair or in a sunny spot outside, if possible without mobile phones, beepers or other distractions near you. Become still. Bring your full awareness into the present moment and to your sensory perceptions. All that exists for you is the here and now.
You may be amazed at how pleasurable and satisfying it is just to ‘be’. Taking five minutes from your day will give back immeasurably to how you navigate the endless mental busy-ness.
Connect With Nature
Work in your garden or sit against a tree in a park, making sure you’re six feet away from any nearby walkers or runners, of course. However, if you find yourself quarantined or in a lockdown, you may have to get more creative.
If the option of easily stepping outside is not one you have, you can focus on a plant you may be tending, or play recordings of nature sounds like birds and rustling leaves.
If you can’t get outside, bring the outside in!
Use Your Hands
No, endlessly typing on your keyboard or your device does not count!
Have you always wanted to learn to knit? Or have you been waiting to try out your new paint set? Maybe you used to be into carpentry or have been looking for the right time to experiment with a few new Paleo recipes.
Now is the time to do it all!
Turn your chores into mindfulness sessions. Housework, shopping, preparing, cooking and cleaning take up a good portion of your time. Instead of thinking of these as tiresome or boring chores, the tasks can become mindfulness rituals.
When preparing a meal or doing the dishes, focus all of your awareness on the task at hand, in the present moment. Aim to be fully engaged in what you are doing and not caught up in mind chatter or just rushing to the end of your task.
Rather than rushing through it, notice the feel and textures, the looks and the smells of what you are touching. Pay attention to patterns and colours and the way they are affected by the light in the room.
In this way, every little act becomes a ritual. It keeps you in tune with the moment, with yourself, your space and even the world around you.
The idea is to pick something that requires some concentration so you can focus your attention on a specific thing.
Remember, mindfulness requires you to be fully present. Whatever you choose, make it a full sensory experience. Savor the tastes and smells, feel the yarn, wood, or paints in your hands, put some great music on, and really get into your project.
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Meditate In Motion
Personally, yoga is probably my favorite way to practice mindfulness. When practicing, if you are not fully present, you risk hurting yourself doing a pose or simply falling over!
Yoga also embodies that quintessential element of mindfulness — focusing on your breath irregardless of whether you practice hatha, vinyasa, bikram, or any other style.
When you sync your inhales and exhales with each movement, you come into full awareness of your body, and your thoughts are solely focused on maintaining that mind, body, or spiritual connection.
Another practice you may not know about is Authentic Movement. With your eyes closed and no music, you explore spontaneous gestures, movement, and stillness, while being "witnessed" by someone else. Your witness can be live or even holding the space for you through Zoom! It really is a powerful experience for both the Mover and the Witness and requires both of you to be fully present.
Walking can give you a chance to spend time being mindful without taking any extra time from your day. Whether you are walking around your neighborhood, from the car to the store or simply in your home, you can turn it into a meditative exercise.
Before beginning, create the intention to walk mindfully. Allow yourself to become aware of the sensation of standing. Put your attention on your body. Pause, take one conscious breath.
Begin to move your feet. If possible, you can walk slowly and deliberately to aid you in your practice. Notice how the floor feels under your feet, how your clothes feel swishing around your body. Pay attention to the details in your surroundings such as the architecture of the building, the plants you are passing, and the birds singing in the trees.
Be present and aim to remain there for every step.
“Walk as if you are kissing the Earth with your feet.” ― Thich Nhat Hanh
Listen With Awareness
When listening to another person people are often there in body, but not fully present. The focus is not on listening but rather on the internal mental chatter. You might judge what they are saying, mentally agreeing or disagreeing, or be thinking about what you want to say next.
Humans have a need for connection. When you find yourself with a friend or loved-one, be it in-person or virtually, try using this as an opportunity to exercise mindfulness. Focus on really listening to what they are saying rather than simply hearing words.
Place all of your attention on the other person. You will be amazed at the power of listening; it is a true act of love and kindness. People appreciate it deeply and feel a deeper connection with you when you take the time listen. You may also find that they begin to listen to you more fully when you speak.
Through self-observation, mindfulness can automatically stream into your life. The moment you realize you are not being mindful – you are mindful! The essence of mindfulness is the ability to let go of the mind’s noisy compulsive chatter and to touch deeply the stillness that lies underneath.
The purpose of practising mindfulness during this chaotic time (and beyond) is to focus on the one thing in life that you can truly control – your thoughts. You probably have no control over the state of the planet right now, but you can control how you respond to this situation.
However you decide to practice mindfulness, the key is to start with the intention of being fully present. Pay attention to all the sensory input coming in from around you, as well as the emotions and thoughts that bubble up from within.
Accept the presence of every aspect of your experience without judgment, then let it go. Even in the best of times, that can be hard to do. But, especially in the midst of challenging times, it can be a real game-changer and help you feel more calm, peaceful, and grounded.