18 February 2022
Mindfulness Practices That Help Maintain Balance in Mind, Body, and Soul
Do you remember how you left the house in the morning? What did you eat last night? Do you remember the first thought that goes through your mind when you wake up in the morning? Are their moments when you go from one room to another and don't remember why? Do any of these sound familiar to you? In everyday life, you are lucky if your mind is focused on what you are doing moment to moment.
If your awareness and focus are always in the past or future, rather than in the present, your mind, body, and soul are thrown into imbalance. This can manifest in outbursts of anger, pessimistic thoughts, negativity, and other unhealthy coping strategies, which may turn into unwanted habits. With mindfulness practices like intentionally pausing your mind at intervals during the day, or slowing down to focus on the present moment, you can achieve a sense of balance. Here are some effective mindfulness practices that will make you more aware of the present.
Intention Setting Exercise
Intention refers to the motivation that underlies everything we think, say, or do. In the nervous system, overreaction and other undesirable behaviours, come up due to discrepancies between the unconscious impulses of the lower brain centres and conscious processes performed by advanced centres such as the anterior cortex. Starting the day with an intention, that is, setting a goal for yourself, can serve as a balance between your primitive impulses and your conscious behaviours.
Setting an intention can help make core motivations, such as success and self-confidence, rewarding, tangible and observable. Thus, you can keep your focus on the big picture instead of getting lost in the details, which can lead to unnecessary stress. You become more likely to improve situations that previously may have produced less than optimal solutions into more positive outcomes. Let us look at how the intention setting exercise is applied:
- As soon as you wake up, get into a comfortable sitting position with your spine straight, whether that be on top of your bed, on a comfortable sofa or chair, or even on the floor. Remove distractions such as your computer or phone. Close your eyes and focus on the sensations of your body. Feel the sensation of your hips and legs touching, and the support of your back.
- Take a deep and full breath through your nose and exhale slowly through your mouth. Do this until your breath finds its own rhythm. Keep track of your breathing, paying attention to the movement of your abdomen and chest. Just observe, without interference or control.
- After several deep, relaxing breaths, ask yourself, “What is my intention for today?” Think about who you will meet during the day and what you may need to accomplish, as you set your intentions.
- Repeat your intention aloud multiple times in a clear and understandable sentence. For example, you can create an intention statement that focuses on the things that are important to you, such as; "Today I intend to be kinder to myself, and more patient with others around me”, “ I intend to share what I have generously”, “I intend to be more in the moment”, or even “I intend to eat healthily, today”.
- Check in with your body and mind frequently throughout the day. You can keep your intention in mind or write it down on a piece of paper displaying it in a prominent place. Take regular moments to stop, breathe, and remember your intention.
Once mindfulness practice has become a daily habit, you will find that your balanced mood improves the way you feel.
Mindful Eating Exercise
Reducing eating to the simple elements of feeling of biting, chewing and swallowing can turn a routine activity into one of the most pleasant and relaxing moments of the day. Often, we neither remember nor taste what we eat because we do not pay attention to the actual process leading to satiety. Mindful eating can make your meal a richer experience. It becomes a way of helping you satisfy not only just the need for nutrition, but also contributes to holistically balancing your emotional needs.
- During the day, we often go from one task to another, without pausing or breathing. So, to begin, take deep breaths before you initiate eating. Taking a deep breath before you start will help you slow down as it also marks time between tasks. This can provide a calmer transition to the actual activity of eating. Bring your attention into your body by closing your eyes, and then breathe eight to ten deep slow breaths.
- After you breathe, listen to your body by bringing your awareness to the physical sensations in your stomach. Ask yourself how hungry you feel on a scale of one to ten (a one means you do not feel any physical hunger, and ten indicates an intense sense of hunger). What physical sensations indicate hunger and fullness to you (emptiness in the stomach, tremors, cravings, stomach rumbling, etc.)? Try not to think about what time it was when you last ate. Just listen to the signals coming from your body.
- Now that you are more in touch with how hungry you are, you can choose more carefully what to eat, and eat only according to your current hunger level. Slow down as much as possible and engage your senses. Examine the appearance, texture, and colours of the food on your plate. Pay attention to the taste of every bite you take into your mouth, be alert to the sensation of your food passing leaving your mouth all the way down until it enters your stomach.
- Do not force yourself to eat a food that you do not like the taste, texture or smell of.
- Trust your intuition and stop eating the moment you are satiated. Do not force yourself to finish your meal.
Mindfulness meditation is a very effective mindfulness practice. It is used to bring the mind to the present moment, with the focus entirely on breathing. The breath creates an ongoing sensation in the body, and in this way acts as an anchor to the present moment promoting mindfulness. The most basic practice and, the only thing you really need to do during mindfulness meditation is to focus on your breath. the moment you notice that your focus has shifted to distractions, you stop, refocus on your breath and start again. You can practice this exercise any time during the day when you feel stressed, overwhelmed, tired, nervous, or exhausted, or if you just want to take a moment to yourself.
- Sit in a comfortable position. You can sit in a comfortable armchair or a chair that supports your hips and back, allowing your feet to touch the floor. If you are sitting on a cushion or on the floor, you can sit cross-legged which helps maintain your balance and promotes a comfortable position for your shoulders and spine. If you are sitting in a chair or armchair, place the soles of your feet firmly on the floor.
- Notice your legs and arms. Keep your upper parallel to your upper body. Your hands can be placed on your legs, knees or even the arms of your seat. Notice where your legs meet the seat or floor.
- Soften your gaze. Slowly bring your chin closer to your upper body and tilt your head slightly forward. If you wish, you can close your eyes or look at a specific point of reference.
- Feel your breath. Once you are comfortable, bring your attention only to the physical sensation created by your breath. Feel each inhalation and exhalation; in through your nostrils, and out through your mouth. Again, notice the rising and falling of your abdomen and chest.
- Attention may wander away from your breathing, after a while, if it shifts to your thoughts, don't worry, do not judge and blame yourself. You do not need to attempt to stop your thoughts. The moment you notice this distraction, simply bring your attention back to your breath.
- Neutrally observe your thoughts by remaining unjudgmental. There is no need to try to escape or fight your thoughts, just resume observation.
- When you feel ready, raise your head slightly. and open closed eyes. Wait a few seconds and focus on the surrounding sounds as they emerge back into your consciousness. Notice how your body is feeling as you become consciously aware of your thoughts and emotions.
These mindfulness practices will help you stay in the moment, improving your self- awareness. Strengthen your ability to focus. It should reduce stress and anxiety created in your nervous system, rejuvenate your mind, and produce feelings that are much more balanced, consistent, and in-the-flow.