Practicing Mindfulness Can Bring Inner Peace During Times of Uncertainty and Beyond
Slowing down can help you stay grounded.
5 May 2020
The coronavirus pandemic has turned the world upside down. As a result, we’re all feeling anxious about the unknown. Our careers might be disrupted. Our social life has become virtual and the work-life balance is now all over the place. Life will be in limbo until the health crisis is brought under control.
While we logically know it’s better to remain calm, at times we might allow panic and stress to overtake our lives by the fear of contracting the disease or losing control. Thankfully, the practice of mindfulness can equip us with tools to take back control and maintain positive mental health.
What is mindfulness?
Mindfulness allows us to see the present and be fully engaged with the present moment. Paying more attention to what is happening enables our thoughts, feelings and sensations to come and go without any judgment.
Living in the moment enables us to express our gratitude. We often take for granted the simple things in life: the scent of the rain; the ivory sand of a luxurious beach that flows like sugar between our toes; the flock of seagulls gliding deathly in the distance or the sound of a loved one's voice. It is sometimes only when all this is taken away do we realize the importance of it all.
Enjoying the present is about making each day meaningful, no matter how routine it can be. Mindfulness is about rediscovering ourselves and feeling alive, as opposed to getting caught up in our thoughts.
The power of our thoughts
Everything starts with our thoughts, feelings and the habits we develop. In other words, what you think is who you become. If you firmly believe that you will get through this lockdown, not only you will but you will also bring success upon you. However, if you have negative thoughts about yourself or the current situation, it will drag you down and make you unproductive. Mindfulness allows us to gain greater self-awareness and focus on what matters most. Putting our thoughts into perspective helps us to quiet our minds.
Our conscious mind is like an inner garden with the most fertile soil: any thought seeded and cultivated in will grow and produce. Similarly, if we do not consciously seed a thought, our mind will seed itself no matter how destructive the thoughts may be, making us feel the victim of our destiny. So, ensure to take the greatest of care and make this garden of yours a botanical masterpiece that will nourish you in the long run.
Over the years I have noticed that practicing acceptance has helped me to work through difficult experiences. The more readily I accept the circumstances of my life as they are at that moment in time the easier my life became.
How can we practice acceptance?
Practicing acceptance helps us to live in these unsettling times. Although it is uneasy to accept COVID-19, we need to learn to identify when it is time to persist and to accept. Constantly trying to defy the odds does not help us mentally.
One thing that makes acceptance easier is to find a purpose behind every challenge we take and embrace it rather than fighting it. I remember it too well when I set off on an Arctic trek in the unexpecting battling blizzards of minus 40 degrees. We found ourselves secluded and cut off from civilization. Immediately we realized that all the diligent rehearsing and fierce training could not have prepared us for the extreme conditions. So, when something unpredictable happens, do not overthink it, choose to live with it.
By practicing acceptance during my Arctic training, I learned to take it one day at a time. On the hardest of days when I caught frostbite on my digits, l learned to break it down and even take it down to one minute at a time. As hard as it can be, choose not to judge what is happening to you, especially when you deeply wish things were. Instead, believe that everything happens for a reason and that better things will always follow. That is the beginning of true acceptance.
Part of the beauty of life is that it is unpredictable. Nothing is permanent. This lockdown is not going to last forever. Everything changes daily. Life will come back to some kind of normality eventually. In the meantime we experience stress, anxiety or grief, the pandemic will make us stronger with how we deal with challenges.
Time to pause
Make a point to include mindful breaks in your schedule – before you need one – as this keeps you productive during the day. As an example, every day of the week at lunchtime my family goes on a walk. This not only breaks the day in two but also enables us to spend quality time together and come back refreshed.
Many of those who have very demanding jobs often forget about the importance of our well-being. Before we know it, we burn out emotionally, physically and spiritually due to prolonged stress. Set aside 15 minutes at the end of each day for a minimum of three weeks. Notice what themes have started to emerge and what were your learning goal.
Do not let your lessons from the day just float away. I find journaling extremely beneficial as I can always go back to review all lessons learned. It enables us to become more mindful of what is happening in our life.
Over the last three years, my family we have been expressing our gratitude daily at dinner time. Name three things for which you are grateful for today. Of course, some days seem harder than others, but life also has many blessings that are worth mentioning and be thankful for.
And as entrepreneur and motivational speaker Zig Ziglar once said: "Gratitude is the healthiest of all human emotions. The more you express gratitude for what you have, the more likely you will have even more to express gratitude for."
While COVID-19 may bring up feelings of instability and concern, there will always be adversity in our lives. Small changes can lead to bigger shifts, and practicing mindfulness in our daily life is one of them. Get lost in the flow of doing things that we love, meditate and grateful for what life brings us.
Although we’re currently distancing ourselves from one another, we are all in this together. Testing times teach us resilience. Let us mindfully grow stronger and be the better for it.