Being mindful can be better understood in terms of being present. Our minds are beautiful — yet, sometimes dangerous — thing. It can give you the greatest clarity, and also trick you beyond belief. When you harness the power of mindfulness you’re able to observe your thoughts, rather than sink into them. This gives those with anxiety a sense of calm and control.

As a part of my series about “How To Develop Mindfulness And Serenity During Stressful Or Uncertain Times”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Adina Mahalli (MCT)

As a mental health expert, Adina Mahalli is a huge advocate of holistic health and well-being. Having earned a master’s degree in Crisis and Trauma Therapy, Adina takes great care instilling a sense of security and calmness in all of her clients. This includes her social media platforms, where she spreads love; positivity; and self-awareness, to whomever she can.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share with us the backstory about what brought you to your specific career path?

I have always been passionate about helping people create meaningful relationships; not only with others but also themselves. My initial desire to encourage a holistic approach to mental health and relationships led me to my career path in crisis and trauma therapy. I realized that mental health care wasn’t just for people with diagnosable conditions; we all need to take care of our mental well-being in order to be our best selves. That being said, my career is about much more than the people who I’m able to help in-person. I believe social media can be harnessed as a powerful platform to share positivity and care to a wide range of individuals. To that end, I am working on building my online presence and spreading the concept of mindful posting to the wider community.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?

One of the most memorable moments in my career was learning the basics of Ayurvedic medicine, from a world-renowned master of the practice. Ayurveda is an Indian form of alternative medicine that can be traced back over 3,000 years. I was initially drawn to Ayurveda when I discovered it was based on the principle that the body and mind are inherently connected, and that the mind has the power to heal and transform the body. Ayurveda includes meditative techniques, dietary awareness, transcendentalism, and finding a balance between the mind and body. My journey into the depths of Ayurveda was truly life-changing, and it has been something I carry with me to this very day. Ultimately, it was insightful to see how many trendy practices like mindful eating and breathing exercises trace back thousands of years and yet are still so practical today.

What advice would you give to other leaders about how to create a fantastic work culture?

In order to create a great work culture, it’s important to instill employees with a sense of empowerment. No matter what level of the company they may be on, each and every employee should feel that their contribution matters. When workers feel that their efforts make a difference, they are more likely to push themselves to be better and invest themselves in their jobs. That being the case, it’s essential to find ways to show employees how their work makes a difference, no matter the scale. Everyone wins when employees want to be a part of the success of the business. In this environment, workers collaborate and communicate better with a positive attitude that promotes success. Whether by expressing more gratitude, showing satisfied customers, or describing the value added by their work, the key to a great work culture is invested employees.

Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?

If there is one book that anyone, no matter their background, would benefit from reading, it has to be, The Gifts of Imperfection, by Brene Brown. It’s an eye-opening and inspirational read about how we can embrace our essential goodness in the process of self-discovery. Find out why you’re worthy of acceptance, love, and personal growth in one easy-to-read, super accessible book! Among many insightful quotes, Brown confesses that “Staying real is one of the most courageous battles that we’ll ever have to fight”. It resonates with anyone who is trying their best to just be.

Ok, thank you for all that. Now let’s move to the main focus of our interview. From your experience or research, how would you define and describe the state of being mindful?

Being mindful can be better understood in terms of being present. Our minds are beautiful — yet, sometimes dangerous — thing. It can give you the greatest clarity, and also trick you beyond belief. When you harness the power of mindfulness you’re able to observe your thoughts, rather than sink into them. This gives those with anxiety a sense of calm and control. Mindfulness is also very much about having intent in every action. For instance, mindful eating practices make you question whether you’re eating because you’re hungry, or if the temptation to eat is rooted in something else, such as anxiety. Mindful eating entails focusing on every bite. The sounds, smells, and sight of the food, and how it feels in your stomach. This helps give you a better indication of whether or not you should eat more, or if you are truly satiated. Overall, mindfulness can be employed throughout your daily life and have a tremendous impact on how you feel physically, and emotionally. It imbues a sense of personal responsibility and self-love that can significantly improve your quality of life.

This might be intuitive to you, but it will be instructive to spell this out. Can you share with our readers a few of the physical, mental, and emotional benefits of becoming mindful?

One of the most important benefits of mindfulness is that it doesn’t allow you to become a bystander to your own life. No matter how you utilize mindfulness, you are choosing responsibility and awareness that gives you the mental strength to approach life in a whole new light. Instead of life happening to you, mindfulness allows you to become an equal participant in the process, which can be thrilling and sometimes daunting. However, this ability to process life as an active participant opens the door to countless opportunities as you learn more about yourself and your capabilities. In practice, mindfulness is one of the best ways to learn more about your desires, fears, dreams, and more.

Some of the most profound benefits of mindfulness include emotional regulation, decreased reactivity, alongside a multitude of interpersonal benefits. The physical benefits are almost a natural outcome of living a more mindful lifestyle. It contributes to healthier eating habits, improved sleeping patterns, as well as deeper breathing. The bottom line is that embracing mindfulness reaps an abundance of benefits for both body and mind.

Ok. Here is the main question of our discussion. The past 5 years have been filled with upheaval and political uncertainty. Many people have become anxious from the dramatic jolts of the news cycle. The fears related to the coronavirus pandemic have only heightened a sense of uncertainty, anxiety, fear, and loneliness. From your experience or research what are five steps that each of us can take to develop mindfulness and serenity during such uncertain times? Can you please share a story or example for each.

Stay In The Present — When uncertainty takes over, sometimes the best thing to do is focus on staying present. Instead of drowning in the ‘what ifs’ that the future might hold, make a conscious effort to bring your mind back to where you are right now and how you’re going to live your best life in this very moment. This is actually the first step to cultivating mindfulness. It helps you to move with intent and reduces your sense of anxiety.

Gratitude — If it seems like everything is going wrong, take a timeout to focus on what is going right! In an attempt to cultivate mindfulness, focus on all the little blessings in your life. What do you have in this moment that makes it all worthwhile? This could be as simple as fresh air to breathe or making time to express to your loved ones how much they mean to you. Practicing gratitude not only helps you to develop serenity but it has a multitude of health benefits, both psychological and physical!

Create Positive Habits — More often than not, it’s our response to the situation that shapes our reality. When everything seems like it’s falling apart and uncertainty is taking over, take back control by deciding how you will react. When you notice anxiety creeping in, use it as an opportunity to experiment with various positive coping mechanisms that can become new habits. Healthy, positive habits and reactions to anxiety include deep breathing, yoga, talking with a friend, or prioritizing self-care. Find a positive response that speaks to you and make it into daily practice!

Journaling — It should come as no surprise that journaling is an effective tool for cultivating mindfulness. There is increasing evidence into the validity and power of a daily writing practice. Putting things onto paper gives you a fresh insight into the conversations that have been repeating themselves in your head. When you write something down you force yourself to identify and articulate how you’re feeling. This helps you to ground your esoteric thoughts and create a sense of objectivity to deal with situations that you’re facing. Looking back on your journal pages can also help you pinpoint the source of your worries meaning that you can often develop tools and tactics to avoid triggers and overcome frustrations through this practice.

One Task At A Time — In an attempt to slow things down and stay present, mindfulness can start by handling one task at a time. Once you start doing this, you will be surprised by how many things you’ve been trying to complete at once. Calmness can often stem from creating a sense of order. Doing one thing at a time might sound less efficient, but it’s often much more effective. In fact, every time that you interrupt a task it can take your brain around 20 minutes to refocus on the original task. No wonder we so often feel like we’re moving at 100 miles an hour and not getting anywhere — we’re literally getting in our own way by trying to do too many things in one go. Slow it down, harness mindfulness, and handle one task at a time.

From your experience or research what are five steps that each of us can take to effectively offer support to those around us who are feeling anxious? Can you explain?

Ask — One of the easiest and often overlooked steps that you should be taking in offering support to those around you who are anxious is simply asking them what they need. All too often we rush in with the tools that may very well work for us, without stopping to consider that it might not be what works for those around us. We’ve all experienced this at one time or another. A classic example is when you’ve offered someone a hug, and they rejected you despite their tear-stained face. It might look to you like they need a hug because that’s what you would appreciate in that situation, but it could be that a hug just isn’t what works for them. So instead, take the time to simply ask!

Listen — Many times when someone is experiencing anxiety or worry, their minds are playing a repeated loop and catastrophic thinking tends to take over. With this in mind, it can be helpful to support those around you who are feeling anxious by just listening to them. Having a nonjudgmental person to talk to can do wonders for those who are anxious because it lets them get out of their head, even if it’s only for a few moments. Be patient and try not to point out the faults in their thinking, but depending on the relationship you might be able to offer some insight. Prompts like “I see” or “I hear that” can be effective in keeping them talking and allowing them to get it all off their chest.

Encourage Self-Help — An effective way to offer support to those around you who are feeling anxious is by encouraging them to embrace self-help. Although it’s not a long term fix, many people find that exercise, getting an early night’s sleep, or doing some breathing exercises, can really help them to achieve a sense of serenity. In an attempt to support those around you, encourage them to find what works for them and help them to make time for it. This can do wonders in creating effective coping tools for your loved ones to use in the future when faced with similar feelings of uncertainty.

Distractions — In an attempt to support your loved ones who are feeling anxious, sometimes a temporary fix is all you can offer in the moment and that’s okay. Come up with some distractions of fun things to do to help get their mind off their constant anxious thoughts. They may push against going out but that doesn’t mean you can’t bring the distractions to them. Sometimes just playing a game, baking goodies, coloring adult coloring books, or binge-watching a good TV show can do wonders in helping them escape. Another great way to distract someone is to make them feel useful so find a way they can help you and give them a reason to feel needed.

Don’t Forget About You — Although many of us want to be there for others, a crucial step in doing so is to make sure you don’t forget about yourself in the process. Take some time for a little self-care or to allow yourself to process any emotions that may have come up. This helps you to make sure that you’re not burning yourself out in an attempt to be there for those around you who are struggling. Continually check in with yourself so that you can show up as the best support you can be.

What are the best resources you would suggest for someone to learn how to be more mindful and serene in their everyday life?

There’s a wide array of apps and resources available for anyone looking to embrace mindfulness and serenity in their everyday life. Popular apps include Headspace or Calm. Both of these apps work to guide you through the basics of meditation and encourage you to stay in the present moment, observing your thoughts rather than getting caught up in their tangled web. There are also many books on how to achieve an inner sense of calm including “The Chemistry Of Calm” by Henry Emmons M.D. Another resource that is often overlooked when it comes to mindfulness is a daily yoga practice. Yoga not only helps with anxiety thanks to its endorphin-releasing qualities, but it encourages you to move with intent, focus on your breathing, and create a sense of serenity.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life?

If there was one life lesson I would put on a bumper sticker it would have to be “Don’t just go through it, grow through it.” Despite the fact that it sounds like a cliche, there is a lot of truth to it. We can rarely control the situation that we’re in. Sometimes circumstances are beyond our control. But what we can control is our reactions to those circumstances. Whether we come out of the challenges that life throws at us being exactly the same person we were before or a better person than before, is totally up to us. It might seem like a crushing weight to shoulder, and the challenge might feel impossible, but how you choose to face what life throws your way is completely in your hands! Another reason why this quote is so profound is because it symbolizes a flower being sown. Seeds are sown in dirt. Sometimes it feels like you’re being buried, and maybe you really are, but the power is in your hands to shift your mindset. You have to get dirty to grow. Next time you feel like you’re being buried, remind yourself that it’s your choice to grow. “Don’t just go through it, grow through it” takes the power back into your hands.

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

Thank you! Although health class is a requirement in almost every American public school, many of these programs don’t adequately teach kids about mental health. An insufficient health curriculum means that kids are left with a major gap in their understanding about mental health, which can lead to stigmas and bullying. If I could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, it would be a movement that helps and encourages kids of all ages to learn about mental health. This movement would hopefully prevent tragedies and encourage a culture of understanding. This is especially true for teenagers who are at the age when many mental health issues first present themselves.

What is the best way our readers can follow you online?

I’d love to connect and share my adventures and experiences! Please follow me @adinamahalli to stay up-to-date!

Thank you for these fantastic insights. We wish you only continued success in your great work!