For those of us in our 20-somethings, we are living in a much more technological world than the previous generations. Although this has a number of positives, it hasn’t always influenced the way we live our lives for the better.
We have the weight of social media on our shoulders, feeling like our lives are a competition with those who spend their days travelling; laying on beaches, being successful, becoming famous from having these upmarket lifestyles, whilst we go back to our menial customer services jobs in the small hope that we might make it somewhere one day. There is no wonder that a number of us feel succumbed to the external pressures that life puts on us. There is also no wonder that mental ill health is highest amongst the younger generation.
Another element that adds to this stress is the fact that we may think we’re relaxing, but in actual fact we’re not. Do you remember the last time you listened to music and did nothing else, no distractions? Or ran a bubble bath and spent a great deal of time in contentment, rather than just dipping in and out in a hurry? Or went for a walk with no destination and left your phone at home? For many 20-somethings, the idea of ‘relaxing’ is sitting in front of the TV, taking in yet another dose of Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, comparing our lives to others and feeling incapable of achieving what we want to. This is where mindfulness comes in – the new (yet actually really old) concept of true harmony.
“Most of our troubles are due to our passionate desire for an attachment to things that we misapprehend as enduring entities.” – Dalai Lama
For a long time, I wasn’t even sure what it meant to be ‘mindful’. It’s a word I’ve seen all over social media, whether it was an article on how to be mindful, or a Facebook post about a life changing quote. However since discovering the true power of this word and how it really can change your life, I want to share it with the world and get everybody on board.
Mindfulness originates from the philosophy of Buddhism, and it is practiced by thousands of people every day. Although it is perceived as a religious act, anyone can participate in it, whatever the religion they may choose (or not choose) to follow. The main concept of mindfulness is to focus on the present moment, and not be concerned with what has happened in the past, or what may or may not happen in the future. When either of these thought patterns are consistent in an individual’s mind-set, this is what can lead to negative thinking and a generally negative lifestyle as a result. As well as this, there is evidence that these thoughts link to those that are also present in depression: dwelling on the negatives of the past, and anxiety: worrying about the uncertainties of the future. Mindfulness can help you to break out of these negative habits, and become more self-aware.
For myself, I would never be ‘in the moment’ and aware of my surroundings, as I would be too busy living in the world inside my own head. I would worry about the future, about what might happen. Even about what could go wrong. This could be anything from worrying if I’ll be late to work or an appointment, to worrying that I might have a car accident on the way home. I would often let these thoughts control my life and my happiness. I knew the importance of practicing self-care, and truly believed that I was already doing this, and could only be described as a hopeless cause. However since carrying out mindfulness exercises, my life has considerably changed for the better. Here’s a few ways how.
BELIEVING EVERY DAY HAS THE POTENTIAL TO BE AMAZING:
One of the main things that I’ve found to work is finding the true magic in every day. Yes, this sounds simple, but it takes a lot of practice and dedication to master it. Each day I wake up and tell myself that today is going to be great and productive. The initial thought that could jump to mind could be “I hate Mondays”, but being mindful is about turning a negative into a positive, and instead of seeing Monday as a terrible tragedy, its actually the perfect opportunity to start the week off really positively. It’s believing that you have an entire week to set new goals and accomplish them. It’s realising that life is what you make it, and you’re going to make it amazing. If you have a larger appreciation of the world and everything in it, then you will start to radiate positive energy and subsequently experience an enhanced career, better relationships, and a healthier life.
Another milestone to a happier and stress-free life is taking the time to notice nature. This can be anything between taking a 5-minute walk each day, walking to work instead of taking the car, or if these options aren’t suitable for you, unplugging your earphones whilst travelling to really observe your surroundings. Whilst observing, take in the smells of the grass and the flowers around you, pay attention to each step that you take and feel the ground underneath your feet. Watch the way the trees move in the breeze, or how wildlife doesn’t care to get caught up in the life of others. Try to incorporate just 5 minutes each day, and you will see how your life will change for the better.
MEDITATION (AND ITS MYTHS):
Meditating is another crucial part of mindfulness. Many people, especially those in their 20-somethings, are often quite daunted with this prospect, because its’ myths have led us to believe that to practice meditation, you have to sit cross-legged, listen to repetitive, droning music and become ‘in the moment’ through humming. Meditation is often associated with older people who are heavily religious, however this isn’t the case, not unless you want it to be.
The essence of meditation is finding a focal point, and fixating on this focal point so that youthink of nothing else but that. Most people choose their focal point to be their breathing, as this is the easiest way to achieve ‘peace’. With this focal point, the key is to focus on each inward and outward breath, count the seconds of each breath, feel your chest inflate and deflate with each breath. As well as this, take in the smells of what is around you, or listen to slow music to help to set the mood. (I personally prefer to light vanilla-scented candles in the room around me, and put on a meditation playlist on Spotify to help to feel in the present and in control of your surroundings.) Everybody practices meditation differently, and finding how it works for you is the only way to achieve inner peace.
Adopting mindfulness as a way of life is tricky and daunting, and difficult to keep up with at the beginning. However, small amounts of practice each day will ultimately lead to a more positive life for yourself, and those around you.