Mindfulness: embracing calm in a hectic world

Over the past few years, mindfulness has gone from being an obscure, somewhat radical concept, to being a universally accepted, everyday survival strategy.

“Mindfulness has enjoyed a resurgence in recent times, and has emerged as one of today’s hottest buzzwords – and with good reason,” explains Cami Barausse, head of yoga at Virgin Active

Based on Zen, Vipassanā and Tibetan meditation techniques, the concept is over 2 500 years old and has been practised over countless generations.

Research confirms that this practice of purposeful, present-moment awareness can significantly lower stress, enhance focus and boost overall wellbeing.

“Mindfulness is more than just a practice. It’s a whole mindset shift. For many, it has offered a transformative pathway toward mental clarity and emotional balance. Mindfulness and presence can empower you to navigate through life’s daily pressures with composure, ensuring you view challenges as transient phases,” Barausse explains.

Studies reveal a direct link between mindfulness practices such as meditation, breathwork and yoga, and an array of health benefits. Beyond lowering blood pressure and reducing inflammation, these practices promote better sleep and quicker recovery from stress. Notably, they also positively influence willpower and interpersonal relationships. 

Additionally, mindfulness offers a plethora of performance benefits for sportspeople and fitness enthusiasts. For athletes, the holistic benefits derived from mindfulness practices can be especially pronounced. Personal trainers and coaches often encourage daily mindfulness and meditation to boost their overall performance and recovery.

Physically, mindfulness practices enhance immune functioning and foster greater bodily awareness. 

“With most South Africans facing multiple daily stressors – especially in a toughened economy – practising mindfulness becomes even more important,” Barausse points out.

Psychologically, mindfulness has been shown to alleviate feelings of distress, fortify working memory and build resilience against life’s everyday stresses. It helps diminish time spent procrastinating while sharpening focus, motivation and decision-making.

Mindfulness also encourages healthier lifestyle habits overall. It aids in managing eating behaviours and promoting better nutritional choices, as well as motivation to engage in healthy exercise and physical activity. 

“Incorporating mindfulness into one’s routine can be a game-changer for anyone looking to elevate their wellness journey,” Barausse adds.

So, where do you even start? She says it’s about making mindfulness a natural part of your day. “Dedicate a few minutes each morning, during a break or before sleep. Find a quiet space, focus on your breathing, and gently acknowledge your thoughts before bringing your attention back to your breath. This simple practice can anchor you in the present, enhancing your day or preparing you for restful sleep.”

She also recommends integrating activities like yoga, sound bath and breathwork into your routine for heightened mindfulness. “Practising mindfulness in a group setting, like a weekly yoga or mediation class, tends to exert a multiplier effect. The structured approach lets you formalise it into your routine and helps you keep yourself accountable. The social aspect of mindfulness as a group makes it a validating, often profound experience, which many people find spiritually significant.

“Embracing mindfulness, even briefly each day, cultivates stress resilience and fosters a sense of balance and contentment. It’s a simple yet powerful tool to enhance your quality of life,” suggests Barausse.

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