Carly Gibbs and Logan Tutty look at the mindful revolution and how we can de-stress in today's frenetic world.
BENDING AND TWISTING was meant to be about preventing further injury for yogi Will Bamford, but now it's also about inner peace.
Wife Chrissie signed him up for yoga after a "myriad of injuries", and while it's keeping his fitness up, it's also helping reduce stress for the 33-year-old dad, who is a senior project manager ;and a masters degree student in construction project management.
"I spend a lot of my time talking on the phone, so having an hour a week where I'm not talking, that's been a bit of a change for me. That kind of grounds you. It's been really good."
He's been practising yoga for a month, having previously done pilates.
In today's busy world, many employees work out in pursuit of physical and mental fitness but now a growing number also practise diaphragmatic breathing, meditation and mindfulness to lower their stress.
It involves keeping still and focusing on your breath, thinking only of the present moment, rather than rehashing the past or projecting to the future. It can be done anywhere — sitting at your desk, or in traffic.
Earlier this year, the Ministry of Health welcomed recommendations in the report "Protecting and promoting mental wellbeing: beyond Covid-19" about the need for additional mental health and wellbeing support through community-led solutions.
Yoga practitioner at Wellb Yoga Studio Mass Dioli has been practising meditation daily for the last 22 years.
"We think of meditation as a formal event and time. The more you understand and navigate through the practices, the more it becomes informal time.
"It almost becomes a lens or an approach to life. I still get grumpy, and lose it, get stressed and worried like everyone else, it's not like you meditate and you safe for life. But you have these tools that can help bring yourself back."
Dioli says mindfulness is word with a lot of depth and different meanings.
"It's a term that is used everywhere, like as if you can buy and sell mindfulness. A more modern term that has come around is down regulating or self-regulate. The technique in a way can help us come back to a central calmness.
"In a way, ideally, the way you approach everything becomes [doing so] in a mindful way. So, you can mindful drive and mindful cook."
Dioli says the key is being able to stay present in the moment and shifting the focus of the mind.
"People say they want to stop thinking. I want to stop my crazy thoughts, they call it the monkey mind, the mind that goes everywhere. It's not about stopping thinking. Maybe it's not possible or possible, but it's the shift in sensitivity.
"We pay attention to something that maybe isn't important at the time."
Everyone has a different way to practise mindfulness even though it may not be in the original sense of the word, says Dioli.
"Working out or going for a walk is a form of mindfulness and self-care."
Spiritual mentor at 396A The Collective Maria Lawless says being able to practise mindfulness in the midst of upheaval isn't easy and an answer depends on who you are.
"A good book, dinner with a friend, dancing in your kitchen, baking, gardening, crafting, music or art are all wonderful ways to practise mindfulness.
"Creativity is a key to unlocking the stuff we can't process. I find that the people that come [to us], think they are coming for the art, but it's a way for them to access their own subconscious and to be able to get their mind to unravel a bit because their hands are busy."
Lawless says being present allows us to be more malleable and respond better to life's challenges.
"Our future is not set in stone and often our plans get changed through circumstances beyond our control. Nothing from our past can be changed, so we must find a way to process it and move forward, even if that means getting help to do so."
Lawless started learning about the mind and its inner workings when she was young and feeling lost, whilst growing up with seven siblings and travelling and moving a lot.
"I just needed to find a way to find an inner peace with all the constant change around me. It just became part of something I had to do for myself."
Lawless says some people strive to be busy so they can ignore some of the things they have been trying to hide.
"Goals are great, but so is flow, and life will ebb and flow regardless of our plans. Being open to new ideas and thoughts allows this to accept that flow.
"Taking a moment to appreciate how far you have come up to this point in your life and being open to flow are both essential to mindfulness.
"As we grow, we change; our ideals and our goals will also change over the years. If we become stuck following an ideal that we had when we were younger, less experienced and perhaps even naive, then we will never be happy.
"To be happy, you must be mindful of who you are now, not who you were, and definitely not who people expect you to be."
IF YOU'RE not getting your zen on, you should be, says journalist and wellness coach Rachel Grunwell, who explains that mindfulness and meditation are not buzzwords or "woo-woo" but practices supported by strong science-backed evidence.
Mindfulness' popularity has been strengthened by a body of research showing it reduces stress and anxiety, improves attention and memory, raises productivity and promotes self-regulation.
Grunwell is a qualified meditation and yoga teacher, wellness influencer and Polynesian Spa ambassador — co-leading their Mindful Moments retreats. She also wrote the book Balance, Food, Health + Happiness.
As meditation and mindfulness become more mainstream, minds are opening, and you don't have to spend a lot of money to benefit.
"One of the science-based ideas is 'nature nurtures' or biophilia, which means getting into the Redwood Forest, going for a swim in the lake or the sea. Being in nature resets your wellbeing," Grunwell says.
Feelings of calm are increased further when you find your "flow" through an activity that you're passionate about.
She gives the example of running, and she is a Rotorua Marathon ambassador.
"When I first started running it was really hard, I really didn't enjoy it, I couldn't find flow, but the more I did it, I got better at it and now I've got quite a high skillset and I've run multiple marathons, including Rotorua several times over.
"I can find flow through running. I'm out in nature, I get lost in the moment, you get in the state of being and you get this incredible, chemical release in your body."
High-intensity exercise is also something that gives Dan Arnold mental fuel.
He meditates in the traditional sense, but more regularly through running an hour a day, four to five times a week.
Added to that, he and wife Annaliese Arnold, a mindfulness, mindset and meditation coach, lead couples workshops and a "Sunday Summit" where they plan their week, scheduling in both individual self-care and time together.
The burgeoning trend of creating calmness has huge benefits for men, who he says have come a long way in breaking down the stigma of mental health, but still have a fair way to go compared to women.
"I think a lot of men think of mindfulness as a more feminine pursuit. When in fact we all want to be happy, regardless of gender," he says.
The 39-year-old video producer and dad of three wants to see mindfulness pitched to men as a high-performance fitness regime or "personal trainer for your mind", changing deep-rooted beliefs that seeking to improve yourself and your relationship is an admission of weakness.
"It takes guts to be vulnerable and learn new tools and habits to improve our life."
Annaliese Arnold says her mum clients crave self-care which for her, looks like this.
She rises at 4.45am and does journal writing (intention setting and gratitude), affirmations, visualisation, reading, and some form of movement.
She runs the online community: Kickass Mummas and the Kickass Co, as well as courses and retreats, and meditation group Chill Out, Tune In Meditations, which she began in level 4 lockdown.
At the end of the course, one client wrote a thankful note saying she'd been stressed dealing with her children, her self-worth impacted her confidence, and life in general had "just felt hard".
"Although I didn't show it outwards, I was screaming on the inside," the woman wrote. "I look back now and I wonder how long I could have lasted living like that."
Mindfulness recognises that the mind plays the most important role of "self".
"Master your mind and the rest follows," Annaliese says.
"We're coming into an age of recognising the importance of taking care of our mind and soul, as well as our bodies."
10 tips to manage stress
1. Enjoy a hot bath, pool, or sauna to relax and unwind. Rotorua's Polynesian Spa has 28 pools of different temperatures.
2. Think well. Use science-backed tools like mindfulness to help you to analyse your thoughts with a wiser mind so you can respond more skilfully with others and feel happier.
3. Sleep well (roughly 7-8 hours if you are an adult. Kids need more).
4. Try tai chi or yoga.
5. Meditate. It gives you a powerful reset, helping you to slow down, pause, think sharper, and strengthen.
6. Pat a cat or dog.
7. Learn diaphragmatic breathing to find calm anywhere and anytime you need it.
8. Have 'badass huggability' — hug more. Feel connected, loved and happier.
9. Take time for play, be joyful, goof around, and have fun doing stuff you love to do.
10. Exercise to shake stress, get strong, and look and feel great.
•Source: Rachel Grunwell's wellness book Balance: Food, Health + Happiness (available via inspired health.co.nz)