Mindfulness is the state of being conscious and aware of our surroundings. It is our ability of staying conscious of our environment as well as our own thoughts and feelings. This may sound like multi-tasking, but is in fact, a completely different skill. A multi-tasking person is engaged in multiple activities, splitting his/her attention between all of these. A mindful person, on the other hand, focuses on the present, while staying aware of his/surroundings.
There are two important components here — attention and awareness. They often accompany each other and are interdependent. Attention is the focus we bring and awareness is the conscious effort we make to keep that focus. So, a mindful person will focus on the task and when distracted, will bring back their awareness to the same.
The idea of being fully and completely in the present is, interestingly, both simple and complex. Here we acknowledge our surroundings, but also have the ability to pay full attention to what we are doing. The trick lies in seeing this as a balance and not as a contradiction.
The ability to focus is a skill and the good news is that attentiveness can be easily learnt. Simple exercises, as mentioned below, can allow the mind to relax as only a relaxed mind is capable of being fully present. So, we must train it to stay alert and pointed on single experience.
- Build your focusing ability gradually: At start it is not easy to focus even on light tasks for any length of time. This can become better with diligent practice on building focus and undertaking concentration exercises..
- Focus for longer intervals: Start your practice by focusing on tasks in incrementally long intervals. You can initially keep these intervals small, say 5 minutes, and can then gradually increase their time span. You can also decide how you will take breaks in between, how many breaks you will take and how you can shorten these break lengths.
- List all the distractive things: Make a list of all the things that you believe can distract you. Social media is one of the biggest culprits and distracts almost everyone. Then there are other things like channel web pages, sports websites, online games and gaming websites, and more. Apart from digital distractions there are physical distractions as well. Being aware of them goes a long way in countering them. To be forewarned in this case if surely to be forearmed.
- Meditation: Close you eyes and turn your attention inwards. Many people often visualise a symbol or a word and focus all their attention towards it. You can chant a word repeatedly to ensure that all your senses are attuned to it. This technique helps you relax and sharpens your ability to focus.
- Exercise regularly: Without mental health you will not be able to derive much from physical exercise. This stands true in reverse too. You must exercise daily to fill your lungs with fresh air and waking up your body jolts your mind towards focus too.
- Object exercise: Place an object on your palm and bring your focus to it. Now keep focus on that object. Eventually your mind will wander. Acknowledge that and bring it swiftly back to the object. With some repetition, you will find that your mind wanders less and you can sustain your focus for a longer stretch of time on that object.
- Music/Movie exercise: While watching a movie or music, focus on the experience at hand. How does it make you feel? Does it trigger other thoughts and emotions and where do these take you? Make a note of your mental dalliances.