In your fast-paced, hyper connected daily life, how often do you make time to just be still? Now, I'm not talking about sitting on your butt at the office all day. That's the norm these days. What I'm talking about is stillness of your body AND your mind.
Stay with me here.
I first learned about stillness as part of a meditation masterclass that focused on relaxation for the body and mind, and boy was it an eye opener. Think about how often during the day you make time specifically for the purpose of doing nothing. Literally doing nothing. No phone in hand, no going over your mental to do list, and no reminiscing of the good ol' days. It almost seems ironic that we can be so sedentary as we park our selves in front of a screen all day but not actually experience any of the benefits of stillness because we're missing the other half of the equation: the mind.
Let me explain why stillness is important and actually beneficial.
Calm breathing helps to de-stress
When you're purposely still, your breathing gets a chance to reset. Too often we live in a go-go-go state, and this causes breathing to be very shallow. On the surface that's not a huge issue, except that shallow breathing sends signals to your brain that you're dealing with danger or stress. Healthy breathing has a good balance of inhalation and exhalation so there's enough oxygen coming in and carbon dioxide going out.
When someone is really upset or has experienced a traumatic event, they can hyperventilate. You've seen this in movies where the actor breathes into a paper bag to calm themselves down. That's a real thing, and you've probably experiencing a minor version of it during the course of a stressful work day.
Sitting in stillness and allowing your breath to get back to a normal rhythm will help take your body off high alert, letting your brain know you're not being chased or threatened.
Like a nap but more socially acceptable at the office
Physical stillness signals to your mind that it's time to relax. I'm sure you've noticed that when you sit at your desk for long periods of time, you can feel your eyes glazing over and your focus waning. That's because you're trying really hard to be mentally productive at a time when your body has gone into relaxation mode. If you allow your mind to follow suit and also be still, even for a very short time, you'll see marked improvements in your focus. Seems counter-intuitive, I know, but it's worth trying out to see how much sharper you'll be after a bit of stillness.
Stillness leads to mindfulness
Racing through the day will leave you feeling like everything happened in a blur. Don't believe me? Try to remember what your co-worker wore today or what you had for lunch. Hey, I'm guilty of this as well. Some days I get in my car and by the time I arrive at my destination, I can't recall a single thing about the drive. And this goes to show you how important the mind component is in the stillness equation. When you practice stillness in both body and mind, you'll begin to experience a heightened awareness of your surroundings. This helps pull you out of the blur and starts to slow down the day. You'll be more likely to notice how you feel (are you really hungry or just eating out of habit?) and make changes accordingly.
How to be still
When I talk about stillness it's not a code word for meditation or taking a nap. It's actual stillness of your body and intentional stillness of your mind. Give this a try.
Find a comfortable position, either seated or lying down. The important part is making sure you're ok to not move at all while doing this. Set a timer and set an intention to give your mind a break from any thinking. Close your eyes and you're ready to go. Yes, your mind will likely wander, and that's ok! When you catch yourself thinking, just clear those thoughts away and keep going. I often find myself falling into the state of almost sleep when practicing stillness, and that's when I know I'm in the right place. If you doze off, that's ok too.
Have a go at it and see what stillness does for you!