With today’s technological advances we are used to instant gratification and being busy busy in all areas of our lives. There’s nothing wrong with being busy, however to really support our mental well-being it’s also important to take some time to notice things, feel things and be in the now. And this is even more important in the world we are living in now.
You’ve probably heard the story about a schoolteacher who brings in a glass vase to show the students, and fills the glass vase with stones. They ask the class, “is the vase now full?” And with the students reply “yes”, thinking it is. Then, the teacher adds some small pebbles, and these sprinkle down into the little gaps made by the bigger stones. Again they ask if the vase is now full and again the students think it is. They then add some sand, and this slowly eases its way into the gaps made between the stones and the pebbles. And again the class feel that the vase is definitely now full. Finally, the teacher adds some water and now the vase really is full.
If they had filled the vase with the water first, then this would have been a different scenario because there wouldn’t have been any room for the stones and the pebbles and the sand. The vase would become overwhelmed and the water would overflow. If we think of the stones as the really important things in our life like our family, our friends – the people that we love, then the pebbles will be the other things that matter – whatever is personal to us. The water being those elements in our life which shouldn’t be taking priority but which sometimes do.
This tale really highlights how we can often fill up our lives and be busy with things that are really not that important, and we can lose sight of those things which are. As we mark this year’s World Well-being Week with its theme of ‘slowing down’, this is a useful reminder to help us see what is in our vase. Slowing down enables us to really see what is important. And the reason this helps is because we actually take time to feel and to notice what is going on within us as well as around us. However this isn’t necessarily something that comes easily to us in our fast paced, busy world, so it can help to find more intentional ways to slow down each day.
Mindfulness enables us to slow down and it helps us to notice the small things that can actually sometimes be the really important things, such as spending time with those that you love. When we spend time with others mindfully, we are really present. Think about how many times you see people staring at their phones even when they are out and about with their friends or having a meal. Are they really being present, or is there connection more to do with what’s happening on the phone rather than the person that they are with? Being present in the moment enables us to truly connect with people and actually enhances the experience, by enabling us to really feel our emotions because we are noticing and living in that moment in time, rather than thinking about what is happening next or even what’s gone on in the past. So, next time you are in conversation with friends, notice whether you are being mindful and really being present in that moment with them.
Practising mindfulness results in our slowing down and the more we do this, the easier it becomes. In order to keep our minds healthy, we need to learn how to look after them and to be intentional with our actions and our behaviours. Some examples of how we can do this include;
- Starting the day with an affirmation
- Adding a breathing exercise into your day
- When you’re eating, concentrate on what you are eating and enjoy the taste
- Doing something that makes you feel really good
- Practising a 10 minute guided meditation
- Taking a few moments to look out of the window and see what you can notice
The important thing is that you find something that works for you, but this is about intentionally making that time, each and every day. By taking this time to practice behaviours that help us to be in the moment, to slow down, to take a pause and to really notice, all supports us in building regular habits that will, over time result in increased resilience, better relationships, reduce stress and support a healthy mind.