An increasing amount of research is legitimizing the practice as an immensely effective intervention for a wide range of physical and mental health problems.
But beyond the buzz, what does mindfulness really mean, and how can we live mindfully in a hustle-bustle city like Singapore?
We talked to Singapore-based mindfulness expert Mei Lee. Mei is a mother, innovator, and passionate educator who made it her life’s purpose to help people feel present, mindful and balanced in their lives. We couldn’t think of a better person to have this conversation with.
Today’s culture is much of a “go-go-go” mentality. It’s a busy world where multi-tasking has become the norm. We spend time with our kids while sending a “quick” work email. Sometimes, we eat our food so fast without noticing or enjoying what it tastes like.
So in all this fast-paced living, mindfulness gives us that much-needed pause button in our lives. It means focusing our awareness on the present moment, and being in tune with our sights, sounds, bodily sensations, thoughts, emotions, and treating them all kindly without judgment.
This is how you’ll realize that happiness is already all around you and right in front of you, but the main problem is our minds are not here to experience it.
Anyone can try it. In my opinion, the world would be a better and happier place if we all practiced mindfulness.
Think about the happiest moments of your life or any happy moment. I bet you remember even the little things about it, like scents and smiles! This is because you were present in that moment and cherishing every detail of it.
“Happiness is already all around you and right in front of you, but the main problem is our minds are not here to experience it.”
Mindfulness can improve well-being, physical health, mental health and beyond!
After practicing mindfulness, I noticed that I was way more engaged, less distracted, and more observant. More than anything, I feel a lot more connected to the world. I feel more alive than ever.
I always describe mindfulness like a muscle. It takes regular practice and dedication for the mindfulness muscle to get stronger, then you start to integrate it into your daily routine until it naturally becomes a way of life.
Along with mindfulness, meditation is another practice that can help you unleash these benefits.
I always tell people that the first step is to set aside some time and space to just observe the present moment. If the mind wanders, acknowledge the thoughts. Then, let them roll by without judgment or criticism, and bring your mind back to the present.
For example, one of my favorite meditation spots was a park near my house. I would sit on my favorite park bench and close my eyes for 5 minutes to notice the smells, sounds, and sensations of the air against my skin. It became part of my morning ritual.
The stress level in Singapore can get really high; just slightly behind Japan and Korea, and on par with Hong Kong. This is because Singapore is a highly competitive and expensive city with very high expectations. Living in a society with a focus on financial status can affect our self-esteem. We might make the mistake of equating our self-worth with our socio-economic status.
Mindfulness is a great way to stop you from being reactive to every negative experience, thought, or emotion. It can help prevent you from feeling overwhelmed by pressure and stress.
As parents, the most valuable thing we can give our children is the gift of our full presence, and taking an active role in their life.
Childhood stress is real, and sadly, it’s steadily increasing. Kids in Singapore are dealing with busy schedules, making friends, and pressures to excel in school and extracurricular activities.
If parents are also feeling stressed and pressured, they might have less bonding time with kids, which can affect emotional well-being—of both the parents AND kids!
As parents, the most valuable thing we can give our children is the gift of our full presence, and taking an active role in their life. Sure, it’s the fifth consecutive time they’ve asked you to watch them jump around or throw a ball, but do it anyway! Give them your attention, encourage and praise them…they appreciate this more than you know.
Singapore is a busy, market-competitive city, so it’s no surprise that long working hours are common. But this doesn’t mean you have to let work take over your life! I think a real biggie is to delete work-related apps on your phone and leave your work laptop at the office as well. Without the distraction of work emails and app notifications, you can stay more engaged in the present with your loved ones and have more time for activities you enjoy.
There are so many ways to live mindfully in Singapore. The first step is to acknowledge the importance of self-care. If you don’t take care of yourself, how are you supposed to manage everyday life and face its challenges head-on? There are tons of fitness centers, nature reserves, parks, meditation and yoga classes in Singapore!
Mindful awareness can really help us make wise and healthy choices up front, instead of chasing them down and treating problems later. It can also help us transition us into healthier eating.
Mei Lee is an educator, mindfulness coach, and mother from Austin,Texas, who has made it her life’s purpose to help others feel present, mindful, and balanced in their lives. She started her journey by studying child and developmental psychology at the University of Texas at Austin. Mei Lee became passionate about working closely with children and became an educator at top international schools in six different countries. She was a classroom teacher for 20 years and held trainings to help schools incorporate mindfulness education into curriculums. Mei Lee is currently working on Mindful Us, a guide for parents to help families foster self-awareness, curiosity, empathy, and techniques to calm the mind. She believes practicing mindfulness will lead to a happier, balanced life and create a path of success for children.
Did you know?
This article is part of The Mindful Living Guide to Singapore – your guide to happy, healthy, and mindful living in the red dot. Click here to discover places and mindful activities that you and your whole family can enjoy.