What is mindfulness?
Mindfulness is a practice of being fully aware of the present moment. There are many trainings and practices that can help a person introduce mindfulness into their day-to-day life including meditation, breathing exercises, journals writing, practicing gratitude, etc.
Mindfulness has a deep history in Hinduism and Buddhism. Forms of mindfulness can also be found in other religions, yoga, and non-religious meditation practices. Thich Nhat Hanh is a Buddhist monk who has been named “the father of modern day mindfulness.” He has dedicated his life to the teaching of mindfulness and other Buddhist practices to fit our modern and complicated lives. On the topic of mindfulness, he says “If we start by being gentle with ourselves, giving ourselves time to return to ourselves in the present moment, we can begin to heal.”
For the past 5 or so years I have made an effort to learn about mindfulness and practice it in my everyday life. Studies have shown mindfulness attributes to stress reduction. I have seen it make a difference in my ability to enjoy the present moment more and more. The mindful habits I implicated before moving abroad helped me navigate the pressures that come with adjusting to a new environment.
When moving abroad you are met with new challenges. It can be difficult to manage each new challenge and balance it all. I have written about homesickness and culture shock in the past. These will become part of your new normal. Even regular life stressors can seem overwhelming while trying to adjust to a new environment. On top of all of that, some of you may be learning and are completely immersed in a new language.
Here are a few exercises and habits I have clung to in the past 2 years living overseas:
- Mindful Movement
From yoga to dancing to walks- movement allows any stagnate feeling in your body to flow. While participating in any type of movement you focus on your body’s actions, how it is feeling and how it is reacting. This creates a meditative state that brings out an inner calm.
- Guided Meditation
Apps such as Headspace and Calm have become popular in recent times. These provide a variety of guided meditations that range anywhere from 5 minutes to an hour. YouTube also has high quality guided meditations from various creators.
- Breathing Exercises
There are many different exercises that one can follow. A quick Google search will produce enough techniques to try for an entire lifetime. My go-to is a simple one: sitting or lying down, I focus on my diaphragm and breath in for 5 counts and out for another 5 counts. I do this for a few minutes and only focus on my breathing.
- Practicing Gratitude
If I am being completely honest- I am not the best at keeping up with a gratitude journal. Part of mindfulness is accepting what works for you. Practicing gratitude is an important part of my persona. Even though I don’t keep a gratitude journal I make it a point of setting aside part of my meditation time to focus on a few things I am grateful for from that day, week or certain moment.
- Give yourself space and time to just be
The title of this exercise is very vague. As I started adding some of these small exercises to my everyday life, I noticed I was paying attention to myself more. I was taking the time to check in with myself mindfully and consciously and see how I was doing throughout the day. These moments allowed This is so simple but so incredibly powerful and has become an essential part of my overall wellness journey.
Putting in the effort to start this practice has added significant value to my time in the UK. The memories that have been produced because of it will be cherished for a long time. It has also allowed me to continuously develop the coping skills needed to battle the stress that comes from living abroad.
I do have to add that everyone’s mindful practice looks different. Taking care of indoor plants has become part of my mindful practice. I think it is important to find what grounds you and what makes you feel most present and make it part of your routine.
Below I have included some resources I have used over the years to learn more about mindfulness.
Calm Meditation App: www.calm.com
Headspace Meditation App: http://www.headspace.com
Guided Meditation from Lavendarie on YouTube: https://youtu.be/86m4RC_ADEY
“Mindfulness, Concentration, and Insight” by Thich Nhat Hanh: https://youtu.be/keuG9QpjJ3k
Neuroscience of Mindfulness Meditation: https://youtu.be/GszmHs8qPFE