What is mindfulness? If you look up the word ‘mindfulness’ in the dictionary, you’ll find it defined as the state or quality of being mindful or aware of something. And under the subtext Psychology, it is defined as a technique in which one focuses one’s full attention only on the present, experiencing thoughts, feelings, and sensations but not judging them; the mental state maintained by the use of this technique.
In current times, mindfulness is also a term that a lot of you would have stumbled across while browsing the internet. And that is probably because mindfulness is said to be an effective tool or strategy to manage anxiety and stress which is something that all of us are dealing with on a daily basis.
The benefits of practising mindfulness are plenty, especially since it can help deal with a variety of physical and mental conditions. Dr Nimisha Rastogi, a psychotherapist and mindfulness coach with several decades of experiences shares reasons to adopt mindfulness as a lifestyle, the benefits and a few exercises. Here are some (edited) excerpts from the Instagram Live conversation that can be accessed directly on Instagram (click here); you can also choose to watch / listen to the conversation using the files shared below.
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What exactly is mindfulness? Could you explain it to us?
If you try to understand mindfulness, you can say it’s a kind of a lifestyle for people who practice it. I discovered mindfulness around 13 years back in my career. And I have been grooming myself, practicing it. So that’s the reason I said if you really understand mindfulness in a deeper sense of living, then you will realize that it’s a very beautiful way of living.
People often say that mindfulness is meditation. Yes, theoretically it is a form of meditation. Wherein your complete being is into something, or in some moment, some part of that time or even your breath, your feelings, your taste, whatever you are trying to process… that is mindfulness. However, if you start practising mindfulness in day to day life, this is a complete set of lifestyle – it’s like you live with it, you breathe with it.
So many times, we are looking into ways and means for dealing with a certain set of areas of challenges in our life – for example, obesity, our eating habits which we are habituated to, anxiety and what processes anxiety in us. All these challenges are very effectively dealt with the help of mindfulness. So, these are the areas I use them for myself as well and most people who know me and most clients of mine who agree, we practice mindfulness sessions together.
What are the benefits of practising mindfulness? Can mindfulness aid us in the current times because all of us are in a constant level of anxiety and stress? Is there an age limit? Can a child start practising mindfulness in some way?
It’s very important for people to know that mindfulness is a simplistic skill yet it is immensely useful to us in very many vast areas of life. For example, one of my clients who has a history of heart disease is using mindfulness for bettering his blood pressure and working on his heart disease. Another client who’s working in the corporate field is working on his area of dealing with stress; being a financial consultant he has been noticing his focusing skills have been affected due to stress. So he’s also finding help in that. Then there’s a lady who has been struggling with her weight due to thyroid. She has seen a lot of change in her own eating habits since the time she started using mindfulness.
So many times you must be seeing people who are extremely varied in their moods. All of a sudden, they have one mood and then they’re jumping to another mood. Their feelings are very difficult to assess or to deal with. So even in these areas, mindfulness is useful when you try to keep a track of your own moods, your own feelings, and that truly helps you understand when you’re taking decisions or talking with people.
The only area I can share with you where I haven’t found very immediate results is severe depression. It helps a lot with anxiety. But in depression, it takes some time, maybe a couple of years to start helping. First, we have to work on the other aspects of anxiety and then depression starts getting some benefits. But otherwise, for all my clients who suffer some amount of stress or anxiety, mindfulness is a daily routine practice which they are into. And I think most of the time when a person is doing it routinely, they are finding a lot of benefits there.
But the condition is to be regular, consistent and stick to the practice. Once we manage to stick to it regularly, there are gem of results there.
Coming to your other question, is there an age or a time to do this mindfulness activities and exercises? I would say, since the time a child starts understanding a little bit of it, we can start – like my son has been practising mindfulness from the age of six. But yes, he is a kid so there is the area of discipline and regularity which gets visited, but he is extremely empathetic and very vigilant in very many things which I don’t see other children… I think there is no age or time. Children can be brought into day by day small habits.
Is mindfulness equal to meditation? Do I need to sit down in one particular place to practice mindfulness or start practising mindfulness?
Yes, it is a form of meditation. But there are various forms of meditation. There are lots of meditations like Aurobindo has walking meditation, we also have transcendental meditation, we have guided meditation. If you understand what meditation is, in a lay perspective, I would say meditation is completely into one place. If I watch a movie, without a distraction, or without my mind running away here, I believe I’ve made data on a movie. It’s even to that extent. When I’m talking to people, and I am completely with them 110%, I am interacting with that mindfulness and meditation. What is that purpose? Perhaps that defines people from understanding meditation…