By Dr. Bryn Hyndman, MD (from Summer issue of LivePure Journal)
Canadians have experienced a drop in emotional satisfaction and a rise in their stress and anxiety levels. That’s pandemic life. But it doesn’t have to be.
Take control and find strength by mastering these 5 simple tools for finding mindfulness in your day.
Mindfulness is the quality or state of being conscious or aware of something. It is also described 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.
To be human is to find ourselves in stormy weather at times in our life, and maybe never more so than now. The ultimate benefit of becoming mindful is that we become able to choose our state our mind and create an internal space of quiet despite what may be happening around us. Living amidst the Covid-19 pandemic, this sounds like a very desirable option, whether we’re in moments of chaos at home, at work, or both!
I have found mindfulness to be a tool that helps me understand the source of my stress, acknowledge my feelings, and clarify my thoughts. I am learning to infuse it into all areas of my life; in my relationships as a physician, a wife, a mother, a daughter, a daughter in law, a sister, and more.
I first ventured into mindfulness around about one year ago. After several years scanning the classified section of my BC Medical Journal and eyeing an ad offering an annual meditation retreat for physicians, I finally took the plunge and registered.
Registering felt courageous on the surface. I thought to myself, I can’t sit still for 30 minutes, let alone all day! And how would I function without doing anything for days on end? On a deeper level I knew it was something that would benefit me. It was an opportunity to learn about myself, and to share my findings.
5 Tools for practicing mindfulness in your day
- A mindful approach to your day might start by being curious about how you are feeling in the morning when you first arise. How does your physical body feel? Is there discomfort or tension? Or maybe you feel groggy like emerging from a deep sleep or a dream? Also be curious about your mental state (your thoughts) and your emotional state (your feelings).
- Try tuning into your breathe whenever you pick up your phone. Take a slow deep breathe in and then out whenever you pick up or put down your phone. Notice if your breathing is deep or shallow when you do this. How do you feel?
- Choose something routine that you do everyday and then do it mindfully. It could just be making your bed. Slow down and notice the textures of the fabric on your hands. How does it feel? Be present in the task.
- Acknowledge your feelings as soon as you are having a physical reaction: for example, an increased heart rate, or maybe you are smiling. Notice why. Be aware of the emotion connected to reactions, such as fear or joy.
- Have a mindful conversation. This means being present and being non judgmental to what you are hearing, and tuning exclusively into the person speaking. We’re so often caught up in our own minds and experiences that we’re not really present to the other person.
This has been the greatest gift of mindfulness in my own life, the ability to be present for my clients, my husband, my children, my family and friends, and even people in my community.
It is fulfilling in a deeper way and brings me appreciation and gratitude for all the people in my life. Those I know and love, and others such as essential front line workers who have vital roles in this current pandemic.
But just like exercising for physical fitness, mindfulness takes consistency and practice and commitment. It doesn’t just happen. Thanks to these tools, I am now more aware and connected to how I am feeling and showing up in any given moment.
And that to me is where the empowerment is; knowing and choosing what I need in any given moment so that I can nurture others. Being mindful is being conscious. It means we are choosing to observe our actions and our feelings and bring awareness to them during the moments of our lives. When we become aware of our thoughts and actions, we can live consciously, we can decide where we want to focus our attention, and we can have our own values guide us.
When nurturing your health, trust and competence are non-negotiable. As an integrated medical doctor, this is the philosophy of Dr. Bryn Hyndman, MD. Dr. Hyndman is board-certified with the Canadian College of Family Physicians (CCFP), and is trained in naturopathic medicine.