The Department of Psychology at HELP University, Malaysia, brings you our ‘5 Keys Series’ providing five practical tips on five topics to help you stay mentally, emotionally and physically strong. Drawing on evidence-based psychology, you can be sure of getting 5-star quality insight and guidance from HELP University: the university of achievers.

Our second ‘5 Keys Series’ is called “The 5 Keys to Nurturing Your Physical Health”. Be sure to watch this space to get regular insights into the psychology of everyday living.

By Dr LIANNE BRITTEN and KATHLEEN TAN

With a daily bombardment of information about the coronavirus pandemic, what steps can we take to ensure we stay swimming and avoid drowning in the ocean of information? As we experience our day-to-day sameness during the lockdown, how do we make our days count when we find ourselves with an abundance of time?

We focus on the experience within and pair ourselves with the moment.

Mindfulness is a concept that most of us are familiar with, but what is the science and art behind it? Mindfulness is the ability to be fully present and aware of what we are experiencing and what is going on around us. It is not being overly-reactive or overwhelmed by the buzz of everything that is going on.

So with all the buzz in the globe today, NOW is the time for mindfulness, finding that quiet space of mind, and inner peace. Here are five key steps that may be helpful in cultivating a sense of mindfulness:

Breathe in This first exercise is simple! Take a moment to settle in somewhere comfortable and breathe in and breathe out! Inhale … and exhale… This simple act brings your mind home to yourself. In light of the COVID-19 outbreak, remember that each breath you take is a privilege; it is a joy to feel your lungs expand and to draw breath. Know that you are alive and celebrate this miracle of life. Try to extend each breath longer, noticing your breath getting deeper and slower. Remember it’s okay for your mind to wander sometimes. Just notice, flick it away like a balloon on the air, and then gently focus back on your breath. Try out this 10-minute Nourishing Breath Meditation by Mindful.

Start a daily journal A personal favourite of many I know, journaling can bring clarity to your thoughts. It’s helpful to write by hand, because the neurology of the act of writing “slows” our fast brain and helps our neurons connect, thus bringing our mind home to body again. While technology is useful, remember that it pays to return to basics of pen and paper if you can. Be present in that moment, and take joy in the pace at which you unwind your thoughts. Check out these hot tips for journaling here: How To Become More Mindful Using Nothing But A Journal50 Unique Topics And Writing Tips For Beginners.

Focus on the body Extending your awareness beyond your breath, let’s focus on our senses! Try sitting in one spot, or lie down if sitting is not as comfortable — some people even prefer standing and walking body scans. See what works for you. Try this — Walking: How does the floor feel under your feet? Draw your attention to the sensation of standing still and note what is tight and what seems to “niggle”. Sitting: Sit comfortably with your back straight and your feet flat on the floor. Now, imagine that your spine is being pulled upwards like a string, and breathe. On the exhale, relax. On the inhale, feel the invisible string pull your spine up. Picture your skin moving along the spine and come home to the body as you note each “wrinkle, crinkle and pop”.

Let’s raise our hands in thanks to the raisin exercise Here’s a fun one that can be attempted by anyone, even beginners, with any food you can find at home. Do this with your kids, parents or partner! Let’s teach our children mindfulness, and help them achieve peace in their world. Look at your food (snack, lunch, or dinner) and pick one thing up in your fingers — washed of course — a raisin is perfect for this exercise! Now pay close attention to it. Ask yourself and each other aloud:

  1. What does it look like? Think colours, shape, and size.
  2. How does it feel — soft, rough, crinkly — I like that word 😉
  3. What does it smell like — fragrant, tart, spicy, strong?
  4. Now pop it on your tongue and roll it around, squish it between your teeth, and feel what it tastes like (salty, sweet, fishy, saucy, hot, spicy, cold)?

The act of focusing all your attention on a single and small object often allows your mind to hone in on the present moment, blocking everything out for just a small moment. How often do we get used to the things in our lives without taking the time to actually notice them? Try this guided script exercise.

Listen and be present Mindfulness becomes a part of every moment of the day and as we wake to hear new sounds in the early quiet of the morning, we can see that even if we are alone at home the earth is listening and giving us much to listen to. Learning to “listen” mindfully and being truly present with someone is the greatest gift we can give. As you talk with someone, breathe, pause, take note of your emotions and then note your “partner’s” emotions. The sound of their voice, their breathing, the way they look. How are you feeling? What emotions are rising within you? Reflect on what you are hearing and focus on what is being communicated on all levels. The gift of being heard is priceless. So be a mindful listener and be present with yourself and others. Let’s listen to Thich Nhat Hanh and see how the gift of being present can be so meaningful.

You can also watch this inspiring TEDtalk by Zindel Segal on mindful ways to help depression and manage recovery.

The key is to try to live mindfully in the moment. Let’s listen within and let’s give someone we love and care about (or even that stranger we meet) the gift of being present in that moment with them. The art of mindfulness requires practice. Let’s keep each other accountable. So, be mindful and remember that when the outside world is hurtling along, it helps to turn inward to achieve peace.

This is Prof Dr. Lianne signing off with gratitude to Kathleen Tan. Got some questions? Reach out to Lianne at: HELP5keysblog@gmail.com