In a series of articles on resilience Liggy Webb urges us to be more mindful.
The term ‘mindfulness’ is now being mainstreamed through a great deal of management thinking in many organisations. Despite some skepticism and even cynicism there are some excellent examples of where mindfulness techniques have been very effective.
So what is Mindfulness?
The term comes from Eastern spiritual and religious traditions. It is a very old concept and is a key part of Buddhism and also appears in Hindu writings. In the 1970’s Jon Kabat-Zinn established the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Programme and since then other programmes such as Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy, have been developed.
It is becoming clear that the mindful approach to stress, anxiety and mental health is becoming increasingly helpful and a popular approach. The concept is spreading its wings and certainly a mindful attitude can improve the quality of many people’s lives.
Mindfulness refers to being completely in touch with and aware of the present moment, as well as taking a non-evaluative and non-judgmental approach to your inner experience. It is essentially about being present and noticing what is around you. So often, if we are not careful, we can find ourselves racing through life in a mad dash and not taking time to stop and smell the roses.
Research by Daniel Stern, who was a prominent American psychiatrist and psychoanalytic theorist, found that present moments now last an average of three to four seconds. Our ability to stay focused and present is certainly challenged by the sensory overload that we are bombarded with.
My father has a great expression “If you want to go a bit faster, slow down!”
Whilst this may seem somewhat paradoxical, when you really think about it, it does make perfect sense. We now find ourselves living in a world where everyone seems to be rushing around and multi-tasking at breakneck speed. Too often, I hear people say how stressed, busy and overwhelmed they are, with no time to spare. Our ability to find balance in our lives seems to be the eternal challenge. We are fast becoming ‘human doings’ as opposed to ‘human beings’.
Mindfulness is not all about sitting in the lotus position and mediating and sometimes it can get bad press, if it is taken out of context. Adopting a mindful approach to life is more about improving your appreciation. It is about slowing down so that you can improve the quality of your responses and actions.
There are so many ways that you can live more mindfully. Here are a few suggestions that will help you to weave the art of mindfulness into the fabric of your day-to-day life.
Begin each day with a beginners mind
Before you jump out of bed just take some time to scan the sensations in your body and breath slowly and deliberately. Clear your mind of any anxiety from the past or the future. You can choose the day you want by clearing your mind, consciously letting go of any negativity and baggage and beginning each day with a fresh outlook and an open and uncluttered mind.
Catch AP – ASAP
Ninety percent of our thoughts are habitual so we need to raise our conscious awareness of what those thoughts are. This is about catching your autopilot as soon as possible. The autopilot is pervasive – as our minds are more away from our present. The first step is to be aware that your mind is wandering off and catch it and retrain it to the present moment. Each thought you have will trigger emotions and actions. Here is some food for thought:
Mindfully eat your food rather than gobbling it down at your desk or in front of a TV really embrace the flavour, the texture, the colour the smell. Savour and treat each and every meal as a glorious feast. This is also a good habit to adopt and will help you to be more aware of what and how much you are actually consuming and will support emotional and physical wellbeing.
Walk and exercise mindfully
How many people do you see racing to their destination in a mad rush, oblivious of what is around them? Put your mobile away! Look up, feel your feet on the ground, the air on your skin, the wonderment of your environment. Engaging with nature is an excellent tonic and will make you feel happier and more relaxed too.
Be present when you are with others and really attend to listening to them with your undivided attention. Acknowledge people when you walk past them. In a world where social media is rife and real face-to-face communication is sometimes compromised, it is so important to connect. Never underestimate how a simple smile can make someone else’s day.
Learn more about mindfulness
If you would like to learn more about mindfulness it is worth exploring some of the excellent books that are available. Other resources include The Oxford Mindfulness Centre which is an international centre of excellence and work with partners from all around the world to prevent depression and enhance human potential through the therapeutic use of mindfulness.
We can, if we are not mindful, miss so many of the simple pleasures in life. In today’s rush we can find ourselves thinking too much, wanting too much and almost forgetting the joy of simply enjoying the present experience rather than being somewhere else. Living mindfully will heighten your enjoyment of whatever activity you are involved in, as well as positively reducing stress and anxiety.
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