Are You A Human Being Or A Human Doing?
Mindfulness. Everybody is doing it from Google, UK Parliament, the US Senate to Price Waterhouse Coopers, Starbucks, Google and Deutsche Bank but what is it and why are they bothering? Mindfulness an introduction is here to guide you!
Mindfulness an Introduction
Dr Jon Kabat-Zinn, Professor of Medicine Emeritus and founder of the Stress Reduction Clinic at the University of Massachusetts describes Mindfulness as ‘The first step on the adventure involved in coming to our senses on any and every level…the cultivation of a particular kind of awareness known as mindfulness’. Put simply, mindfulness is being fully present in the moment, living life in the now instead of in yesterday or in tomorrow or worrying about what might happen, some day soon.
Are you Mindful?
So how do you know if you’re experiencing Mindfulness? Ask yourself a few simple questions;
- Do you compulsively faff with your Blackberry, iPhone or android, constantly responding to emails or compulsively checking to see what’s going on with Facebook?
- Have you found yourself driving or taking the tube, arriving at your destination with no recollection of how you got there?
- Do you frequently realise that your mind has wandered off during a conversation with a colleague or a loved one and you have no idea what has been said but still nod enthusiastically wondering what happened to those huge chunks of conversation?
- Are you increasingly recognising that you ‘zone out’ on a regular basis missing out on huge chunks of your life?
- Have you already rushed to the end of the blog to save time?
Guilty as charged? or Still wondering if you’re Mindful?
If our mindfulness an introduction has sparked your interest, go ahead and take our free mindfulness test here http://positivechangeguru.com/how-mindful-are-you/
If you recognise yourself in these scenarios then you’re probably not practising Mindfulness in your day to day living. To a certain extent it’s the way we’re wired. We all zone out from time to time, it’s who we are as human beings and at least some of the time we couldn’t live without our automatic pilot. The downside of cruising through your life on autopilot is that mind-less-ness can also become a trap, preventing us from truly experiencing and enjoying life. Mindfulness offers us as alternative. And it doesn’t stop at merely preventing you from zoning out.
The Benefits Of Mindfulness
The benefits of mindfulness are many. Here are just a sample (ask us, there’s more!)
- Increased resilience
- Reduced stress
- Improved focus
- More flow moments
- Increased emotional intelligence
- A boosted immune system
- Feeling happier
- Improved performance at work
Research shows that regular Mindfulness practice for as little as ten minutes a day can improve performance, increase focus, improve neuroplasticity, reduce stress and anxiety as well as increasing overall levels of happiness. For ten minutes a day that’s not a bad return. Here’s how in 4 steps.
Introduction to mindfulness in 4 Steps
Begin with Mindful Breathing
Yes, we know that you’re already breathing (truthfully, we’d be worried if you weren’t). This is a way of applying mindfulness to something that you already do, using the breath as an anchor. It’s a strategy for setting the tone of the rest of your day and can be a great way to embed mindfulness as a habit. Think about your morning routine, how do you usually begin your day? Waking, getting out of bed, cleaning your teeth, having your first dose of caffeine?
Is there space for one minute of mindfulness practice? A mindful minute? If you’ve ever decided to run a marathon and followed a running plan you may be familiar with the strategy of run a minute, walk a minute on day 1, run two minutes, walk two minutes on day 2 as a starting point. Surprisingly, training your brain is no different to training your body. And that’s what you’re going to do. Think of it as near training, starting with a mindful breath.
Start with a minute of practice first thing in the morning on week one and build up to two minutes on week two. Start where you are and see how far you can build your morning practice. As you begin to see the benefits, you’ll be surprised at how easy it becomes to incorporate mindfulness into your morning routine.
The STOP practice is deceptively simple. Sometimes mindfulness sounds more complicated than it really is and that can be off-putting (don’t let it be). STOP is an easy win and it’s something that we can all do, at any time during the day for 60 seconds. It will help you to begin to disrupt habitual thinking or patterns of cognitive complacency by bringing you back to the present moment. Here’s how;
(T)ake a breath. Notice the flow of your breath in and out of your body.
(O)bserve your thoughts as you breath in and out, what is in your head, right here? Right now? How are you feeling? your body? What sensations are here? Do you notice tension, aches, or are you relaxed? How is it for you, right now in this moment?
(P)roceed. Once you’ve practice STOP simply keep calm and carry on with your day.
3. The Waiting Practice.
If you drive, you’ve been there. You’re stuck in traffic, the lights are at red refusing to change and you are willing them to switch to green with every fibre of your body. Perhaps you’re in a queue and the friendly conversation between the cashier and the person in front infuriates you as you glance at your watch. Don’t they know you have a schedule? Or perhaps your train is sitting in the station, delayed for some unknown reason. Don’t they know you have somewhere to go? Irritating isn’t it? The annoyance as you wait is an opportunity in disguise. This is your moment to practice mindfulness. Yes. Really it is. Instead of fuming, try this three step waiting practice;
- Bring your focus to your breath. Notice the cool stream of air above your upper lip as you inhale and a warmer sensation in the same area as you exhale.
Move your attention to your body.
- How are you feeling? What sensations are you able to detect? How does your irritation manifest itself in the body? Clenched fists, increased heart rate? What do you notice as you scan your body?
- Notice your thoughts; annoyance? Impatience? Irritation? Recognize them and then allow them to be, just as they are.
4. Stop Multitasking.
Multitasking is a myth. It’s up there with the Loch Ness Monster and the Yeti (but if you have photos of either we’d love to see them). As much as we want to believe that it’s possible we know from research in the field of neuroscience that the ability to focus on several tasks at the same time just isn’t possible. Not only does it increase our error rate it also prevents flow.
Studies by Gloria Mark, Professor of Informatics at the University of California found that when we’re continually distracted we may work faster but we produce less, increasing our error rate. Dr JoAnn Deak author of ‘Your Fantastic Elastic Brain” states that “When you try to multitask, in the short term it doubles the amount of time it takes to do a task and it usually at least double the number of mistakes.” Worse still, researchers at Stanford University found that regular multitaskers are particularly bad at it, suggesting multitaskers are easily distracted. Need we say more? When you think that you’re multitasking, the truth is, you’re not.
Practising mindfulness on a regular basis will improve your focus and help you to get into flow or optimum performance. That’s a great return on investment for the time that you’ll spend on four very simple practices.
Want to know more about Mindfulness?
Listen to our Mindfulness an Introduction podcast or check out our events page to find out about our Mindfulness courses. We offer consultancy and training in bitesize, half day, one day or 8 week mindfulness courses and 8 week mindfulness at work courses. Just ask us at firstname.lastname@example.org we’d love to hear from you.
Images courtesy of the fabulous folk at Unsplash and the very talented Tanja Heffner