Mindfulness & Self-Care Archives - Afea

6 Mindfulness Myths

The practise of mindfulness and meditation are getting more and more accepted in everyday life. Large corporations such as Google encourage their staff to practise mindfulness to increase wellbeing and focus. Schools often use it to settle children after breaks, and many medical practitioners recommend its use to treat different conditions. But even so, there are a lot of persistent misconceptions about mindfulness and what it actually is. So here’s 6 myths about mindfulness for you to meditate on.

1. Mindfulness is emptying your mind

Probably the most common misconception about mindfulness, when the in fact, the opposite is true. It is about focusing all of your attention in a purposeful way. Thoughts will pop up, and the aim is to notice them come and go, without attaching any positive or negative feelings to them.

2. Mindfulness is meditation

Although they overlap, they are not the same. Meditation is taking time to focus your awareness, whereas mindfulness is a more broad term, referring to being aware of and focused on anything you’re doing at a particular time.

3. Meditation and mindfulness are spiritual

Although they are both big parts of certain spiritualities and beliefs, they are not inherently spiritual at all. The main ideology that focusing your attention on everything you do, and being present in every moment is about the self and is universal.

4. I have to sit awkwardly

Depending on what you’re trying to achieve, mindfulness and meditation actually works best if you’re comfortable. The more comfortable you are, the better you can start focusing your attention elsewhere. It is best practised in a sitting position or lying down.

5. It’s just taking time to rest and relax

Although the effects of meditation can be very calming, the practice itself it actually quite challenging. But don’t worry, it gets easier with time. It is recommended that beginners start with 5 or 10 minutes at a time. Experienced people can remain in focus for hours!

6. I don’t have time to practise mindfulness

Mindfulness is a way of being, it can be practised anywhere, anytime. The idea behind it is to focus on what you’re doing, in the moment you’re doing it, whole-heartedly.

Next time you brush your teeth, drive a car or eat a meal, try focusing on every movement you make. When other thoughts pop up, tease your mind back to the task at hand attaching positive or negative feelings to them. The better you get at this, the more you’ll be able to live and enjoy the moment, and be able to handle stressful situations level-headedly.

To give it a go, check out our blog explaining mindfulness, it’s benefits, and a little practice you can do anywhere, anytime.

Esha’s Self-Care Strategies

By Esha Oberoi, founder and CEO of Afea Care Services

Founder & CEO
Esha Oberoi

We are living in an incredibly overwhelming world at the moment with a global pandemic that is sweeping over our lives.

It was only 6-8 weeks ago that we had major uncertainties whether it was around will there will be enough canned food and toilet paper in the grocery stores or will I be home schooling my kids whilst managing work projects?

Naturally with the number of professional and personal commitments we all hold, these uncertainties are not just overwhelming but also stressful in our lives.

Before I started Afea Care Services, I was working as a Carer and over time I have developed a number self-care routines that I regularly turn to so I can avoid burnout. They have been invaluable for me in my journey.

As long as we live in this physical body in this human state, we are not immune to stress. Stress surrounds us in our everyday lives and in this sometimes over-stimulated world.

We are always switched on and we are not resting enough.

We are in a state of information overload, so we are constantly reacting, rather than living joyfully in the moment. We simply don’t have time to do so.

We have so many thoughts buzzing through our heads that it is hard to distinguish the meaningful, helpful thoughts.

I believe that positive stress comes from having a defined purpose, feeling empowered and living completely in the moment, with a balance of self-care and care for others. This type of stress is important, it comes from a healthy ego and it motivates us to look after ourselves and our society. It gives us enough pressure to want to expand out of our comfort zones and not so much that we break down.

Negative stress on the other hand is lethal.

Stress where you start to feel intense negative emotions is not healthy. Continued stress can have major impacts on all aspects of our beings. Understanding stress and where it comes from will help us keep the balance tipped towards positive stress rather than negative. Negative stress is when our thoughts and emotions become harmful and get in the way of our growth.

You are no longer making considered choices. We can even start to experience our body’s natural fight or flight response to fear and insecurity.

If you recognise you’re feeling this way give yourself some self-care and take time off.

The first step is recognition. If we let negative stress take over, it becomes a part of us and we may forget what it’s like to live without the mental fog forgetting how good it feels when we are functioning in a healthy way.

Admit that self-care isn’t selfish, it’s essential. Accepting this can be a challenge for a lot of people. My philosophy has always been that I have to care for myself. If I don’t, I am not useful to anyone, I cannot care for anyone. Once you come to terms with this, you can start to practice self-care and self-love which in turn, will open your heart more to those around you.

I look after the different aspects of myself equally: mind, heart, soul/spirit and my physical body. These are my top outlets for reducing burnout, healing and cleansing:

Journaling

I do a lot of journaling. Putting pen to paper helps clearly map out your thoughts and emotions and provides clarity in your situation. Taking this time to sit seriously with your thoughts can have a huge positive impact on your mental health.

Start to dissect the stress you’re feeling. Where is it coming from? Is it my own stress? Am taking on someone else’s stress? I find many times when I am speaking to my friends that they will share some aspects of their life that is really stressing them out and when we start to dig deeper, we realise that it isn’t even their stress! It is the stress they are carrying for something their parents, their partner or their child is going through. They feel obliged to accept it as their own stress. This is something I used to do for a long time, because it is how we are programmed.

If we look at this rationally, it doesn’t make any sense. I know it’s really hard to practise this without feeling like you don’t care or aren’t being compassionate. This simply is not true. I have found myself more empathetic, caring and compassionate without the energy of the drain by accepting another’s person’s stress as my own.

Mindfulness

I have been meditating now for 5 years and my daily meditations are an hour long, without compromise. If I’m really pressed for time, I will divide it into 2 sessions of 30 minutes each.

Out of all of the self-care routines, dieting, boot camp, trips to the salon, it is by far the cheapest (it’s free) method self-care that we know of, it’s pure bliss.

One hour might seem daunting to sit alone if you have never tried mindfulness. I started with 3 minutes a day, then 5 minutes a day. Over the months I found the time increased naturally because I loved it so much. I experienced peace. Not borrowed or taken from anyone. It is in us. In our hearts and in our connection with ourselves, our deeper selves.

Not only does mindfulness connect us with our minds, but in the silence, I have been able to also become closer to my hearts desires. In the stillness I get a lot of clarity in my thinking and decision making. It also allows us to connect our hearts and minds and truly feel into what is bringing us peace or hurt.

I think of mindfulness as being like the ocean, when near the shores the water is rough and mixed with sand so it becomes murky. As you go in deeper, the water is still and clearer. When go deeper into ourselves we can access the same clarity and free ourselves from the murkiness left behind. This is from the philosophy and teachings of Buddhism.

Finally, enjoy the little things

During this tragic pandemic we are experiencing, I’ve also found time to be grateful. I’m learning from COVID-19 that is that simplicity is key. We overcomplicate our lives with so many things. Whilst living in lockdown I realise that we can live quite simply without the need for such extravagance. For example, I have replaced going to the gym and yoga studios with discovering the neighbourhood with my family on walks.

We don’t need to travel for hours or push ourselves to make appointments and social gatherings to be fulfilled. I’ve rediscovered living simply and how much peace comes from the release of expectations we place on ourselves. 

Stay safe and take this time to truly get to know yourself and adopt some quick self-care techniques!

Check out our blog Mindfulness 101 for tips on how to start meditating.

Mindfulness 101

This month for Mindful in May, we’re sharing our advice for being more mindful in everyday life. Although ‘mindfulness’ is a bit of a buzzword at moment, it’s not a new phenomenon. The practice itself dates back centuries and is seen in many different cultures. The benefits have been backed up by plenty of modern scientists and medical practitioners too, but if you still need convincing, we’ve broken it all down in this blog.

What is mindfulness?

In a nutshell, mindfulness is paying attention. It’s a widespread misconception of mindfulness or meditation, that they’re about emptying your mind. When in fact, they’re the opposite.

The aim is to use all of your attention and focus purposefully. You may concentrate on a sound, a colour, a place in your mind, or even your own breath.

With our busy minds, it’s inevitable that we lose focus, other thoughts and feelings will pop up. That’s ok, mindfulness teaches our brain to be more aware of its thoughts, rather than not having them at all.

You want to notice these distractions ‘without judgement’. In other words, acknowledge the thoughts, but try to not let them take over, or label them as inherently ‘good’ or ‘bad’. It often helps to think of them as leaves in a stream or clouds in the sky that you’re watching float by.

What are the benefits of mindfulness?

Many studies have shown that mindfulness increases the speed of success in treating some mental health and even heart-related conditions, including high blood pressure.

A study by Dr. Sara Lazar from Harvard University shows a correlation between regular mindfulness and growth of the pre-frontal cortex, a part of the brain that regulates emotion and focuses attention. There are even some studies that suggest mindfulness helps build immune systems and fights age-related decline in the brain!

Practitioners promote mindfulness as a way of getting in touch with yourself. Recognising when thoughts are arising and controlling your reactions to them. Longer-term effects of regular practise can result in more focus, more patience, better decision-making abilities (the ability to use logic, over preconceived judgments) and even better memory.

So how do I do it?

Firstly, there is no one way of practicing mindfulness. There are different approaches depending on what you’re trying to achieve. Sometimes you might want to practise mindfulness to lower your heart rate when feeling nervous, other times it might be to sort through all of the thoughts in your mind to find a clear way forward.

A great way to start is by looking online. There are a free online guided meditations for specific purposes. Different approaches work for different people, try a few different resources, and see what works best for you. It’s like anything else we do, the more you practise it, the better you’ll be.

A super quick meditation for anytime, anywhere

This really simple method of mindfulness helps to calm yourself and reset a busy brain. It can be done with your eyes open anywhere.

Firstly take three deep, purposeful breaths, then silently think of three things you can see. With another three breaths, silently say to yourself with each “I can see thing 1”, “I can see thing 2”, and “I can see thing 3”. With another three breaths, silently name three things you can hear. Finally, name three things you feel. These can be physical, i.e. “I feel the chair against my back”, or they can be emotional “I can feel some butterflies in my stomach”. Take a further three breaths and you should feel calmer. This can be repeated for deeper effects.

This meditation acts as a ‘reset’ button for your brain. It allows you to pause all of the thoughts that are buzzing around your head, and focus on one thing at a time. The slow, purposeful breathing, will lower your heart rate, giving you a sense of calm.

In our next blog, we talk to our CEO Esha Oberoi about how she uses mindfulness to run a business, parent two young children and find time for everything else.

What Does a Successful 2020 Look Like?

Another silly season has wrapped up and society is starting to get back into their normal routine. As always, there is a lot of talk around new year, new me, but what does the new year mean to you? What did 2019 mean for you? We thought we would share this reflection and goal setting exercise with you to encourage you to make the most out of 2020. No new you needed!

Instead of getting to December 2020 and asking “where did the year go?”, we want you to proclaim “what a year of accomplishment!”. Ask yourself the following questions and see check in from time-to-time to see how you are progressing.

What made 2019 unforgettable?

This can be anything, whether it be positive, negative, or simply something that impacted you. This will help you think about what you value most and therefore what to prioritise this year.

What was my biggest win in 2019?

What are you most proud of? Think not just about the best outcomes you achieved, but also when you felt you worked particularly hard for something.

How did I grow / what did I learn?

Think about areas in which you may have matured, lessons learned, or areas in your life that evolved because of the actions you took.  

How will I use my talents in 2020?

Think about how to put your skills to use. This may be to help yourself, others or to progress in your professional life. Thinking about this will help you frame your next answer.

How do I want to grow / what do I want to learn in 2020?

Are there any skills that would benefit your day-to-day life? Is there any natural talent you would like to refine? This might be learning a new language, taking up art / dance classes or learning skills that may help you enhance your career.

What does a successful 2020 look like?

This may take a little more time than the others. Really think about it, and don’t hold back. When setting goals, it is best to be realistic yes, but throw something in there that may seem a little idealistic now, that may push you to actually achieve it. An example might be saving up for a big holiday, being promoted or reading 40 books in the year.

You don’t need to change yourself to be better, and you don’t need to stress about what you should and shouldn’t be doing. You only need to know what you want, and little planning goes a long way.

Give Presence, not Presents

We all have things. Most of us have a lot of things, way more than we need. Do we really need more? Coming into the festive season, we encourage you to reconsider what giving means. Presents have a price tag, but your time and attention are priceless. Instead of giving presents, we recommend being generous with your presence these holidays.

For some, the holiday period is a time of loneliness and isolation, sometimes even a reminder of lost loved ones. Human connection is for most an invaluable source of belonging, comfort and meaning. Knowing someone cared enough to drop in, pick up the phone or even send a heart-felt card can have a significant impact.

We are all guilty of taking things for granted. The word need in our culture is used excessively, and rarely genuinely; “I need a new outfit”, “I need that coffee table”, “I need a drink”. If we stopped and thought for a moment about all of the people in the world who have less than us, some next to nothing, would we still think we need these things? Does it add value to your life? What are our true needs? Other than shelter and sustenance what we need is company. Connections. Love.

How often do children open a present and immediately put it aside to open the next, or have already lost toy parts by dinnertime on Boxing Day. Don’t even get us started on the landfill we could prevent as a society if we all offered presence not presents!

We’re not suggesting you don’t enjoy yourself and spoil your loved ones with gifts if that’s what you want to do. Just that sparing a little time for someone who could use it would make you both feel good. As they say, time is precious.

If you have loved ones in another part of the world, give them or call, or if you feel a bit lonely yourself, how about volunteering to make friends and give something back? If you know someone else whose family is overseas, you could celebrate together. This is a great way to get to know people beyond the surface level that we often struggle to get passed.

Although the holidays are about giving, there’s room for some taking too. Take some time for yourself and be present in the moment. Treat each like it’s precious. Do something for yourself, reach out to an old friend, tick that persistent item off your to-do list. Appreciate what you have, and make it known that you are grateful for those who positively impact your life.

These holidays give the most precious gift of all, your time and company, (although, maybe a box of chocolates to share isn’t a bad idea).

If you or someone you know is experiencing difficulty, you can call Lifeline at any time on 13 11 14.