We learn to be consciously in “here and now”
Scientists at the Australian National University recently showed that mindfulness and thoughtful living in every moment can help improve mental health and combat stress. Mindfulness practice is not difficult to learn – and you don’t have to meditate. Here are five simple exercises for focusing on the here and now.
Technique 1. Morning Scanner
This exercise is borrowed from yoga – with its help one can enter one of the most important asanas “shavasana”, the posture of complete relaxation. But if you perform it in the morning, just waking up, you can achieve the opposite effect – to activate all parts of the body, mentally walking over them with a kind of scanner. The exercise can be done while sitting or lying in bed. Start by breathing: inhale deeply and exhale three times, paying attention to how the air enters the body through the nose, enters the lungs, and then exits them. Then breathe normally. Bring your attention to your toes. Try to track sensations in this part of the body: they are relaxed or tense, whether they feel the temperature of the surrounding air, whether they are touching the floor or bedding. Gradually shift your attention from one part of the body to another, moving from the bottom up: from toes to feet, legs, calves, knees, hips, and so on – without missing a single part of the body. This is a great way to “make friends” the body with the mind. In addition, by scanning your body and listening to your feelings, you can notice possible “alarm bells”: heaviness in the neck, pain in the lower back or muscle tension, which you would not normally pay attention to.
Technique 2. Slowing down the mind
German writer Eckhart Tolle, author of the bestselling The Power of the Now, recommends this practice for people suffering from anxiety and obsessive thoughts. In order to make your consciousness more stable and balanced, you need to learn to slow down, calm your mind. Pick any object in your field of vision – a cup, a pen, a table (most importantly, not a smartphone – a lit screen can distract you from exercise) – and examine it visually. Release the tension in your head: fully focus on the object, studying its texture, shape, size. Look for possible cracks and cracks, notice shades of color, glare of the sun on the surface. Do not try to analyze an object, give it characteristics like “beautiful” or “ugly”, “good” or “bad”, but just observe it. Your task is to disconnect “thinking” from perception. Let the subject be what it is. After a while – it will take you about five minutes at first – a subtle, gradually increasing feeling of peace will appear.
Technique 3. Description of the moment
Not only psychologists and life coaches speak about the important ability to live in the present, but also the classics of Russian literature. For example, Leo Tolstoy wrote in his book The Way of Life: “There is no time, there is only a moment. And in him, in this moment, our whole life. And that is why in this one instant all one’s strength must be put in. ” Lev Tolstoy would definitely like the next exercise, because you can perform it at any time, regardless of what exactly you are doing. First, look around and mentally greet the space around you. And then consciously observe the moment “here and now”, mentally fixing everything that is happening around you and with you. Try to leisurely describe the results of the observation in your head. For this, use phrases that begin with the words “this minute”, “this moment”, “now”, “here”. For example, like this: “Now I am washing dishes. At this moment, my hands touch the warm water. The sponge in my hand is damp and warm, it foams. ” Or like this: “Right now I’m walking in the park. My breathing in this second is even and deep. I can hear the birds chirping. The air is moist and fresh here. ” The story can be very short, the main thing is that it convey why your “here and now” is a pleasant moment, worth living.
Technique 4. Concentration on Action
But what if you can’t focus on the moment at all? If a swarm of thoughts in your head constantly draws attention to itself? A simple handy tool will come to the rescue – chewing gum. The fact is that chewing people increase their concentration, which greatly simplifies the practice of mindfulness. When chewing, micromassage of the facial muscles associated with the brain activates at least eight different brain zones, and improves blood flow to the brain. This is evidenced, for example, by a study by Japanese scientists published in the journal BioMed Research International. Try not to chew automatically, but to get involved as much as possible in the chewing process: fix the taste of gum, the feeling of saliva in your mouth, the movement of your tongue, jaws. Every time, being distracted by extraneous thoughts, do not scold yourself – but noticing that you are distracted, return to concentration on chewing. Gradually, this practice will help you effortlessly keep your attention on any action and, in particular, relieve anxiety in stressful situations, replacing anxiety with thoughtful calmness.
Technique 5. Breaking patterns
Try to live for at least an hour as a child who does not know how to correctly perform certain simple actions. Change the sequence in which you usually do something familiar and everyday: for example, when drying with a towel in the shower, start with your hands, not your head. When putting on clothes, start with your socks, not your underwear. Brush your molars (back teeth) first and then your front teeth. If you’re right-handed, write yourself a note with your left hand and stick it on the refrigerator. Eat a breakfast dish you’ve never tasted before. Grab a coffee from a coffee shop you’ve never visited. The unusual order of actions will wake up your brain: it will have to intensely control every moment, and not work by inertia, as usual. This means that you can completely immerse yourself in the present – and live, being aware of every moment.