Is being ‘busy’ making you unwell? The subtle art of slowing down.

“How are you?”
“I’m good, just really busy at the moment.”

How often have you had this conversation? I have definitely been guilty of this.

These days, being busy is almost worn as a badge of honour. It is almost assumed that if you are not ‘busy’, then you aren’t doing much with your life. And yet, being busy doesn’t necessarily correlate with increased efficiency or happiness. Trying to juggle too many social engagements with work, and exercise, family and daily life can create anxiety, because it all becomes overwhelming.

Part of the problem is that we have notifications streaming in on all of our devices constantly and it becomes hard for us to hold a thought for more than a few seconds without interruptions. And because we have our devices on hand, it is an expectation that we reply to a text message or email as soon as we receive it. But this is only an expectation we put on ourselves, we do not have to adhere to this.

Recently I have had some new patients remark after their first session that this is the first time they have laid down to do ‘nothing’, in a very long time. It can be confronting, lying in stillness with nothing to distract us from our thoughts.

That is why meditation is so important. The purpose of meditation is not to clear our mind from thoughts; the purpose is to create an awareness each time a thought enters our mind. Each time a thought enters our consciousness and we notice it, we can let go of it and return to our breath, instead of letting our thoughts spiral out of control.

There are many ways to become more aware and mindful in daily life, in addition to meditation.

Some of my favourite ways to focus in the present moment are:

1) Take a walk around your local neighbourhood, taking the time to stop and smell flowers along the way.
2) Eat your food slowly, tasting each mouthful, and chewing properly. Eat without looking at a device, screen or book, fully submerging yourself in the experience.
3) Slow down your breathing, to ensure you’re breathing deeply from the abdomen. You can do this any time of day, especially if you are at work, it’s great to spend a minute focussing on your breath throughout different points in the day.
4) Walking barefoot on the grass, soil or the sand. This deepens our connection to the earth, and we have a lot of sensory nerve endings at the soles of our feet.
5) Become mindful in the most mundane of tasks. In Eckhardt Tolle’s The Power of Now he discusses being mindful whilst doing the dishes. Be present in feeling the temperature of the water, the feel of the sponge on the dishes.
6) Writing a gratitude journal. Each night open up your journal and write down three great things that happened, and one thing you would like to improve on.
7) Spend time with animals or children. They are always in the present moment!
8) Get outside and surround yourself in nature– the ocean, the forest, the mountains or even just a local park. There is beauty everywhere.
9) Listen to Dr Joe Dispenza’s talks. He speaks a lot about how our thoughts create can either heal us or make us sick.
10) Watch the Ted Talk- 10 mindful minutes.
11) Download the free app Insight Timer to listen to guided meditations.
12) Take a yin yoga class. Yin yoga is very gentle and doesn’t require any previous yoga experience. Periodically I run ‘Yin & Pins’ workshops, which incorporate yoga and acupuncture- stay tuned for more details.

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