Mindfulness is becoming increasingly relevant as our digital appetite grows. Recognising and understanding the here and now has never been more important.
Mindfulness. It’s being tossed around as the newest fad in wellbeing. Daily articles from Huffington Post to Forbes are praising its ability to boost relaxation and productivity. Schools are now integrating it as part of their curriculum. But what is mindfulness and why as a society, are we so desperate for it?
The Buddhists refer to it as sati, a state of being in the present without emphasis on the past or the future. Being mindful is the ability to capture the very essence of the here and now. It is not the absence of intruding thoughts, but recognizing them as such. It’s about focussing on the emotional, physiological and sensory input of that very moment. The first westerner to introduce mindfulness in a therapeutic capacity was Jon Kabat Zinn. He created mindfulness based stress reduction now widely used by hospitals and rehab facilities to help patients with chronic pain, brain injuries, anxiety and other mental health conditions.
Mindfulness has definitely taken off. It’s not hard to see why. Now more than ever we are constantly in sensory overload. We are regularly bombarded by electronic advertisements, breaking news tickers, text messages, emails, snap chat alerts, Facebook notifications, game requests, recommended YouTube videos, suggested links, constant pings and vibrations. All demanding that you check, listen or watch the content immediately. Phew, that’s a lot of stimulation!
As a result of being glued to our multiple devices we may fail to really appreciate the world around us. This also means, that when we come across distressing content online, such as cyberbullying or abusive behaviour; we may allow it to consume us which can increase our emotional distress. Because like anything else we do online, we find it hard to pull away (check out our free cyberbullying and digital abuse downloadable resources)
Mindfulness can help. It can decrease our level of negativity and impulsivity. Such as how quick we may want to verbally or digitally respond to an upsetting comment or message. Overall, mindful people tend to be happier. Empathetic and more patient. I don’t know about you, but that sounds like something I want more of in my life!
So how can we incorporate mindfulness into our daily digital appetite?
One way to start practicing Mindfulness, is to breath. I know it sounds simple right? It really is. Your breath is your own personal ping, alert or notification to remind you to check into the present moment. It doesn’t have to be fancy meditative breathing that appears too difficult or time consuming. We’re not all trained monks or yogi’s who’ve had years of practice. Even just one deep breath can anchor you and bring you back to the present. When you hear someone say just “focus on your breath,” they literally just mean, listen to yourself breathing. Here are two simple breathing techniques I really like to use when I am feeling over stimulated or anxious.
Place your hand just beneath your naval, as this will help you tangibly feel the rise and fall as you breath in deeply. Then pause for a count of three. Breath out. Pause for a count of three. Continue to breath deeply for one minute, pausing for a count of three after each inhalation and exhalation.
Alternate Nostril Breathing
The Buddhists call it Nadi Shodhan Pranayama. There are different ways to do this. But essentially the technique is the same. This is fantastic if you are feeling anxious, angry or in a state of fight or flight. It can be done sitting or lying down. It helps calm the right and left hemispheres of the brain where logic and emotional regulation lie.
- Take your left hand and with your ring finger gently close your right nostril and then take a slow deep breath through your left nostril. Then take your left hand thumb and gently close the left nostril and breath out from your right nostril. Continue inhaling and exhaling from alternate nostrils.
- Complete 5-10 rounds by alternately breathing in and out through both nostrils. After every exhalation, remember to breath in from the same nostril from which you exhaled. Keep your eyes closed throughout and continue taking long, deep, smooth breaths without any force or effort.
I’d like to jump right in and address anger. A common and perhaps one of the most distressing of emotions, so what do I mean by mindful anger? It’s about awareness. It’s about being aware of how we are feeling and also to be kind to our anger, I know that might sound a little odd! Kindness and anger aren’t the happiest of bedfellows. But anger tends to grow in strength when we fight against the emotion to try and avoid it. We have all been at some point, consumed by our anger. It could be as result of an argument with a close friend, family member or even with a stranger. Perhaps we feel angry as a result of receiving really hurtful posts or texts that seems to attack our core values, character or talents. We all handle anger differently. It can come and go or linger for hours or even days. Our past experiences and personalities tend to dictate how we manifest and hold on to anger. But it’s not who we are. We can rewrite how we choose to hold on to anger. Anger can be healthy. It signals to us that we need to acknowledge that we are unhappy about something. But it’s how we choose to use it that counts.
Demonstrating kindness towards our anger is basically saying to ourselves, okay I hear you anger. Now what?
How To Practice Mindful Anger
- Sit with your emotion and really notice the physical sensations your body is going through. Do you feel your heart is racing, your stomach fluttering or heat travelling across your neck and face? Notice whether your jaw or fists are clenched. Really observe the physical sensations your body is going through when angry.
- Breath – You can use the steps offered above or just take a couple of deep breaths and count each breath going in and out. Stay with how you are feeling as much as possible. It’s easy to either release the anger or avoid it. But this is an opportunity to really understand how the feeling affects you. Imagine your breath is cooling your anger. With every exhale imagine it’s coming out of your fingers and toes, releasing the tension you are feeling. This may or may not help, but recognize that as well.
- Observe your thoughts without judgement. What are you thinking when angry? You may have thoughts like “it’s not fair. I am sick of being treated this way!” or “They will pay for speaking to me this way!” really observe the language you are using to describe how you are feeling. If you find it difficult to let go of these thoughts then continue to observe them and how they are linked to your physical sensations. Imagine these thoughts as clouds and you are just observing them from afar. Remember emotion is “motion” with an” e” in front of it. Meaning, your feelings are constantly in motion. Be kind to yourself and know that this will pass. Remember you are not your thoughts.
- Address the anger. Once you have recognized your feelings and have come to a place where you can calmly address them, you may want to talk to someone about how you are feeling. Perhaps you may need some advice or guidance in how to handle with the issue that has caused you to feel angry.
- Compassion – Be compassionate with yourself. This is easier said than done, but learning to be compassionate with ourselves means we are more likely to feel that way towards others. Even towards those that anger or hurt us. That doesn’t mean we condone hurtful behaviour – whether our own or by someone else – It means we recognize and accept how we are feeling without judging ourselves as bad people. The language we use to talk to ourselves is usually the language we will use with others. The more self-compassion and patience we have for ourselves, the more we will have for others. Kindness starts with us.
Mindfulness is not a quick and easy fix all. It’s simply a way of being. It is a way of reminding ourselves that it’s okay to feel and to fully appreciate the present moment. When we feel a strong emotion, we tend to find a way to distract from it instead of facing and acknowledging it. Furthermore, we are more likely as result to face what is causing our discomfort with little thought or reflection and may react impulsively. Mindfulness reminds us of the bigger picture, while still maintaining the present moment. Remember you are more than your thoughts and you can be more than your actions. Stress, fear and anger are not who YOU are. A little self-compassion can go a long way. So step away from the screen, turn the alerts and pings off for a moment and make today the day you add a little mindfulness to your life.
A huge thank you to Cybersmile Forum Moderator Reflective Joy for this amazing article. If you would like to contribute to our blog please email [email protected] for further information. If you have been affected by online abuse please explore our cyberbullying help centre or visit our Total Access Support section and discover the various ways we can help you! For further information about the work we do please explore the following suggestions.
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