ive in the moment is a cliché, but like many clichés it has some truth to it. In today’s world, people live anywhere except in the here and now. Most people live only for their “audience”, forever airbrushing their image in the demanding world of social media. A group of friends gathered around a restaurant table might be hunched over their smartphones uploading images to Instagram with the hashtag #besttimeever, even though they only smile in the pictures and might not even remember to ask each other how they are doing. On the other hand, they have no need to ask, because they can check social media to see what everyone has been up to.
Because people are constantly available and able to access a world full of information, the amount of information reaching the brain has also increased many times over. Normally, the human brain receives information, processes it and stores it in long-term memory to keep it safe. Today, our long-term memories are under too much strain, since there is no time to store anything there properly with all the constant commotion that is going on. At the same time, ordinary people subjected to a ceaseless stream of information are no longer able to work out what is important or what is not. As a result, the most important things will slip away like sand between the fingers.
Luckily, as a counter-reaction to all this, awareness skills and mindfulness have begun to gain more attention. In workplaces, people have also come to realize that mindfulness is a powerful tool when it comes to managing stress, solving sleeping problems and reducing time pressure. Mindfulness helps you focus on the present by concentrating on a certain target, such as your own breathing or thoughts. Studies show that with regular practice, you can learn to adopt an accepting and calm approach to everyday situations.
Conscious presence helps us pause
It’s a common defense to say that “this is just the way I am, and I’m not going to change.” However, people are constantly changing creatures with a lot of influence over how they react to and handle things, how they are present in the moment, and what they focus their resources on. For many, change is difficult. Even the mere thought of change can be negative. However, people who manage to get rid of old, ingrained habits usually experience change as overwhelmingly positive.
The awareness exercises related to mindfulness help people to identify the ways their mind works, and to find a connection with their body. This can have positive effects in relieving depression, anxiety and stress. Regular exercises help you concentrate and calm down, and they facilitate learning.
“The art of pausing and calming oneself is very useful, as it has a beneficial effect on human wellbeing. In the modern age, people are constantly going full steam ahead. As a result, the mind and body may not be at all familiar with the concept of pausing. It’s an important thing to learn,” says Emma Sandström, who runs the blog Hidasta Elämää (Slow Life).
Make relaxing the mind a part of your working day
It’s only a small exaggeration to say that people who are not really in the present remember little, and are half-heartedly engaged in what’s going on around them. Multitasking is the greatest myth of all. Nobody is able to do two things simultaneously with 100% focus on both. Nonetheless multitasking is actually something people aspire to in today’s world, even though it is very burdensome for the mind to have your attention constantly divided.
People do things much more efficiently if they focus on just one thing at a time. Many people feel that they have forgotten how to do this, and feel restless if they have to concentrate on just one thing. Mindfulness helps us relearn this skill, says Sandström.
Regular exercise breaks at work are important for physical wellbeing, as they keep the bodies of employees seated in front of computers in shape. In the same way, the “body” inside your head needs exercise. In addition to exercises targeting stretching, posture and muscles, the break exercise app Cuckoo Workout now includes mindfulness exercises that users can choose according to their own preferences. They help to give a break from work and stress. Many have also started doing the exercises at night before going to bed.
Emma’s mindfulness tips
- Concentrating on your breathing is a good way to shift focus to yourself, away from the world around you.
- Do nothing for a while! Let go of everything you are doing at the moment.
- Turn off the computer and phone for a while. Facing your own thoughts may feel scary, but it’s a good idea to pause every now and then and listen to your own mind.
- Listen to your body – how are you feeling? If you feel tension, focus on relieving it.
- Learn to adopt a more accepting attitude towards the things around you. Observe your daily reactions towards different things, and learn to calm yourself. It is important to notice that some things just are what they are, and you cannot change them. Accept challenging situations as opportunities to practice mindfulness.
- If you always feel that a certain situation, such as leaving for work, is stressful, turn it into a mindfulness exercise. Do things more calmly, and be aware of what you are doing.
- Set up a routine for yourself. For example, getting a cup of coffee at work or going to work can be turned into mindfulness moments. Do it with as much awareness as possible, focusing only on the thing at hand. Don’t try to solve more than one problem at a time.
- Pausing may be difficult without any aids for it. The listening exercises in Cuckoo Workout help you to pause and relax.