For many of us, if not everyone in the world, 2020 has been a chaotic year. It almost feels like we’ve experienced a whole decade worth of events in just this year alone. That can be overwhelming for anyone, which is why it’s more important than ever to embrace change and become one with yourself.
We all know that the world is a busy and complicated place. The rise of social media over the last decade has helped foster a need for “likes” and that can lead to many people feeling stressed out, experiencing FOMO for just about anything and dependency on our devices. It’s also brought hilarious memes. The need for many of us to disconnect from our phones and be in the moment has become more prevalent. That’s easier said than done for many of us, which is why we’ve seen a rise in the idea of mindfulness.
Calming your mind and body using mindfulness can be a useful tool to help manage stress and bring yourself back to the moment. This can be hugely beneficial for your school experience, whether it’s in the classroom or online. That is why this week, we’re focusing our blog on mindfulness and meditation and some exercises that can help you be in the moment and relax.
What is Mindfulness and Meditation?
Before we get into exercises for mindfulness, we should first look to understand the philosophy of the movement.
Mindful.org highlights that “mindfulness is the basic human ability to be fully present, aware of where we are and what we’re doing, and not overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around us.” Simpler put, mindfulness is to be present in your moment, be aware of yourself and be less aware of the things you can’t control. It’s the idea of bringing awareness to what you’re directly experiencing. Whether this be through your senses (sight, touch, smell, taste, hear) or through our state of mind with your thoughts and emotions, you’re being mindful. When you train your brain to be mindful, you’re actually remodeling the physical structure of your brain.
What about meditation, how does this factor into mindfulness? Meditation is the idea that your mind is not attached to the same boundaries as your body. As highlighted by Mindful.org, when we meditate we venture into the workings of our minds: our sensations, our emotions, and our thoughts.” Meditation allows you to detach from your surroundings and embrace your mind.
Benefits to Practicing Mindfulness?
There are not just mental benefits to mindfulness but also medical. According to the Mayo Clinic, meditation has been studied in healthcare and many medical settings and evidence supports the effectiveness of meditation for various conditions, including: stress, anxiety, pain, depression and insomnia. This isn’t to say that meditation is a cure-all solution to some of these challenges (and disclaimer, we recommend you seek health advice from the professionals), but there are obvious and medically proven benefits to meditation and mindfulness.
From a more academic perspective, meditation has also been shown to help with improving attention, decreasing school related burnout, and improving sleep. This is why we like mindfulness and meditation as something to establish as part of your academic habits.
Getting Started With Mindfulness?
Now that you know what mindfulness is, how do you get started? Mindful.org has some great advice and steps to get started in the basics of mindfulness practice. It is very simple in context, but not necessarily easy in practice. So, it is helpful to keep practicing the following steps regularly:
1. Set aside time. You need to set aside time to allow yourself to train your brain and be mindful. Set aside a small portion of your day to do so.
2. Be in the moment and observe it. The aim of mindfulness is not to quiet the mind or achieve some zen-state, but to pay attention to the present moment.
3. No judgments! When being mindful your mind could often wander to negative or judgemental thoughts. Make a mental note of them, and let them pass.
4. Return to the moment. As our minds often get carried away in thought. That’s why mindfulness is the practice of returning to the present moment.
5. Let your mind wander. Don’t judge yourself for the thoughts that may arise, being mindful is meant to let your mind wander and refocus.
With these things in mind, developing a mindfulness practice that works for you can help build your own personal practice. As this You Tube video from Headspace highlights, it’s not easy to let your mind go, so how do we stop ourselves getting caught up with our thoughts? It’s all about perspective.
How to Meditate?
As part of developing your mindfulness practice and gaining better perspective, you can look to meditation.
There are two types of meditation. The one we are going to look to is focused-attention, or mindful meditation. This article from Buffer explains it best. Mindful meditation “is where you focus on one specific thing—it could be your breathing, a sensation in your body or a particular object outside of you. The point of this type of meditation is to focus strongly on one point and continually bring your attention back to that focal point when it wanders.”
So, what are some exercises for doing this?
First, you can look to try some guided meditation. This helpful site provides some audio clips that can help you begin to free your mind. Guided meditation is a great way to get started as it allows someone to take you through a journey and help you in focusing your mind. This can help reduce the friction that can come from other distractions you may have. Again, remember that with meditation, you are free to let your mind wander to those thoughts but you should try to bring them back to the moment you are in. Guided meditation will help guide you back to the moment if your mind has wandered.
If you’re looking to be more in the moment, you can try a simple, self-guided meditation.
1. Find a comfortable seat. Ideally somewhere that is stable and comfortable. This can be a cushion or a chair.
2. Prepare your legs. Ensure your legs are in a comfortable position for where you are sitting. If you’re on a cushion, try crossing them. If you’re on a chair, sit up straight and plant your feet on the ground.
3. Straighten your upper body. Sit up straight, but not uncomfortably so. Ensure your spine feels natural.
4. Prepare your arms. Notice what your arms are doing. Ensure your upper arms parallel to your upper body. Rest the palms of your hands on your legs wherever it feels natural
5. Soften your gaze. Drop your chin a little and let your gaze fall gently downward. YOu don’t need to close your eyes, but you can simply let what appears before your eyes be there without focusing on it.
6. Feel your breath. Bring your attention to the physical feeling that comes from your breathing. Think about the air moving through your nose or mouth, your chest or belly rising and falling as you breathe.
7. Notice when your mind wanders from your breath. Your attention will naturally leave your breath and wander to other places. When you notice your mind wandering gently return your attention to your breath.
8. Don’t stress about your mind wandering. Don’t try and wrestle your thoughts, practice observing them without reacting. Just sit and pay attention, then come back to your breath over and over again. No judgement or stress.
9. Lift your gaze. To complete this exercise, lift your gaze and open your eyes (if they are closed. Take a moment and notice any sounds in the environment. Notice how your body feels in the moment and notice your thoughts and emotions.
This easy exercise can be done virtually anywhere you can have some privacy, so it’s a great exercise to try at home. What about if you’re not at home? If you’re at school or work or somewhere else and you just need to let your mind free for a little while?
Mindfulness In Your Everyday Life
There are a number of exercises you can do to help train your mind and release in your every day life. As this article titled How to Become More Mindful in Your Everyday Life from Very Well Mind highlights, there are a number of things you already do every day that you can turn into a mindfulness practice.
- Practice Mindful Eating. Try to be more aware of your eating. No we don’t mean what you’re eating, but how you’re eating. Pay attention to each bite that you’re taking. Chew your food slowly and savor the taste.
- Be Mindful in Your Interactions. Every day you interact with people. This could be your parents, your siblings, your friends. Mindfulness in human relationships is about observing what the other person is doing in a non-judgmental way. It’s also about staying present in the moment during your conversations.
- Engage in Activities Mindfully. Whether you are walking down the street, sitting on a park bench, or at home on the couch, try focusing on the present moment. You can do this by tuning into physical sensations, being fully aware of everything you do, and letting go of thoughts of the future or anxiety over the past.
- Pause Throughout The Day. Although you may try to practice mindfulness during your activities through the day, you might make it a habit to spend a few minutes being mindful at certain times of the day. Or, you may also like to schedule time for meditation or yoga. Still try to take some time to practice mindfulness daily.
1. Stand up straight with your back upright but not stiff. Feel your feet touching the ground and let your weight distribute evenly.
2. Curl the thumb of your left hand in and wrap your fingers around it. Place it just above your belly button. Wrap your right hand around it, resting your right thumb in the crevice formed between your left thumb and index finger.
3. Drop your gaze slightly. This helps you maintain focus.
4. Step out with your left foot. Feel it swing, feel the heel hit the ground, now the ball, now the toes.
5. Feel the same as the right foot comes forward.
6. Walk at a steady pace, slightly slower than in daily life but not funereal. When your attention wanders, bring it back to the sensations of your feet touching the ground.
No matter what your experience, or how much time you have there are many ways to fit mindfulness into your everyday life.
Mindfulness Via Online Learning
Our course if you want some more training on mindfulness techniques, there are some options out there. For example, our course PPZ3U – Grade 11 – Health For Life promotes and teaches mental health and wellness as part of our lessons. This course focuses on your personal health, giving students the opportunity to examine the factors that influence their own health practices and behaviours as well as those factors that contribute to the development of healthy communities. It emphasizes the concept of wellness, which addresses all aspects of well-being – physical, cognitive, emotional, spiritual, and social – and promotes healthy eating, physical activity, and building and maintaining a positive sense of self. What a great way to develop mindfulness skills, while earning an Ontario high school credit!
OES is a purpose built online high school. Our instructors are experienced in teaching students online and our courses are structured in a clear and concise manner to make it easier for you to guide your learning. As an accredited Ontario online high school, we structure our courses per the Ontario Ministry of Education standards and break up our lessons into very intentional and digestible content that ensures our courses are consistent for all students and creates a positive and streamlined experience so you can earn Ontario high school credits online.
If you’re currently attending high school in Ontario, or if you’re looking for an adult high school in order to upgrade your marks as an international student, OES has a wide range of courses available. From SBI4U to MHF4U, the amazing teachers at OES are ready to support you and help you meet your goals all over the world.
The Ontario eSecondary School has been inspected and accredited by the Ontario Ministry of Education. What does this mean? As a virtual school, all of our courses are recognized by and can be used toward an Ontario Secondary School Diploma (OSSD) and are also recognized as part of your OUAC application. This makes OES a great partner for upgrading Ontario high school credits online and is also perfect for adult students or international students looking to earn credits for post-secondary.
Learn more about our courses at oeshighschool.com