Mindfulness is an ancient Buddhist meditation ritual, but more recently, research has shown its effectiveness in personal, school and work life.
In essence, mindfulness is “being present”. Most of us don’t take the time to just ‘be’ and to calm our mind. But if you do make the time to practice mindful meditation it will change your world.
I became aware of mindfulness when I was chatting with a colleague and we ended up engaging Dr Craig Hassed from Monash University to come and speak to our staff at one of our health and well-being initiatives. Dr Hassed has been a mindfulness meditation teacher for over 30 years and as a professor at Monash University he developed a mindfulness-based healthy lifestyle course. https://www.monash.edu/medicine/spahc/general-practice/our-people/hassed
Mindfulness is being present, in the moment, paying attention to ourselves, being open to whatever thoughts come our way and just ‘being’ with curiosity and without judgement.
At first, I found it hard to ‘just be’. But as I practiced, I became better at it. Funny that, if you practice you get better at something 😊.
Mindfulness involves training yourself to be quiet, focused and pay attention to the present moment, not the past or the future, just the present moment.
It allows you to be in the moment and to focus on whatever you are doing, being at home, with friends, family, studying or at work. Mindfulness teaches you to be present without judgement or criticism.
You’ve probably experienced being mindful in your life, but you haven’t realised it. Have you ever been ‘caught up in the moment’ and you forgot where you were or what you were doing? If so, you were probably being mindful.
Being present and focusing on what was in front of you, paying deliberate attention to that one thing, person or task. This could happen when you’re cooking, making something, doing craft, playing an instrument, dancing, building a project, exercising, being outside and admiring nature, lying on the grass looking at the clouds, spending time with your kids, parents, grandparents, teaching the kids to ride a bike etc.
The point is, you were fully present and engaged and it was effortless to be ‘caught up in that moment’. That is the point of mindfulness, you activate different parts of the brain when you’re fully focused and attentive to what’s going on around you.
Conversely when we are not being mindful and paying attention then we are normally reacting to what is going on around us. You know those times when you’ve been asked to do something or to help out and you really don’t want to do it?
Your brain kicks in and you start having self-talk, your mind will wander onto other things that you’d prefer to be doing and you may even be worrying about the past or the future.
This all results in your mind being judgemental and critical of what you should be focusing on and has been linked to mental health problems, depression, stress and anxiety. Research has shown that this is our ‘default’ setting – our brain activates areas that make us ‘think’ about what we’re doing instead of experiencing it with our senses. https://www.pnas.org/content/108/50/20254
Mindfulness is about bringing yourself back to the present and feeling the sensation of the task, hearing what’s going on around you, seeing what you’re doing and engaging your senses, not just your thoughts.
In other words, mindfulness is about:
Now admittedly, it’s easier to be fully focused and engaged when you’re doing something you love, rather than having to go through emails, finish a management report, write a university assignment or clean the toilet! However, you can train your brain to look at this work/study/day-to-day task (not so much fun) activities without judgement, criticism or complaint.
Why should I practice mindfulness?
The benefits of mindfulness are well documented with more research and articles being published every week. These techniques allow you to focus on sustaining attention in the ‘now’ and becoming consciously aware of your behaviours. With practice, it helps you to control your self-talk/internal thoughts and feelings.
By practicing mindfulness meditation, you can positively affect your sense of well-being emotionally, physically and spiritually and can lead to inner peace.
Various research papers have shown that when mindfulness is practised regularly the benefits can include:
How Can I Do It?
Easy, follow these three steps.
1. Commit to yourself to do something different
Get a piece of paper and write down on that piece of paper your commitment to yourself to find 10 minutes each day to focus on you.
Go on, do it now. Get that piece of paper and write,
I …………….. commit to myself that I will make time to practice
mindfulness meditation for 10 minutes every day.
You are probably busy, but you need to make time to find that 10 minutes
First thing when you get up? Before you go to bed? On the train/bus? During your lunch break? Stay in the toilet for longer and do it there – whatever it takes, make the time for you!
Now take that piece of paper and put it somewhere where you will see it each morning?
Stick it to the mirror in the bathroom, put it on your bedside table, stick in inside the cover of your phone – use it as a visual reminder of the commitment you’ve made to yourself.
2. Start practicing mindfulness on a daily basis
Yep, I said “daily” basis.
It’s 10 minutes, that’s right you can do it. Make it part of your routine, just like having a shower, brushing your teeth, making the bed, making the kids lunch, buying your coffee each morning – make it part of your daily routine.
3. Make it Not Negotiable
Block it out in your diary or in your daily routine. Just like you do with other things in your life. Think about something you do regularly that is a “not negotiable” eg: getting your coffee every day “don’t even talk to me before I’ve had my coffee”.
So make that “don’t even talk to me before I’ve done my 10 minutes of mindful meditation practice”.
If you had to choose between spending 10 minutes checking social media or practising mindfulness meditation – which one do you think you’re going to benefit from more?
You can do this. You can start to practice mindfulness.
Remember, where our focus goes, energy flows.
There are loads of resources available on the internet, including articles and video tutorials - go online and look them up.
What if I don’t do this?
Well, if nothing changes, nothing changes. You’ll continue to go about life the way you are. You’ll continue to activate those parts of the brain that cause stress, worry and anxiety.
Only you can make this happen, so really, it is up to you.
Do you want to invest 10 minutes a day in yourself, to be a more content person for yourself and your loved ones?
Or do you not value yourself enough to do it?
No matter what your current state, you have what you need within you to achieve your goals if you want to work at it. If you’re still not sure or don’t know what to do, do research – Google it, talk to others, reach out to groups, engage a coach, just do something to help yourself get ‘unstuck’.
Go on, commit to doing it for one week – give it a go and see how you feel.
10 minutes a day for you – that’s definitely something you should be doing.
If you have any hints, tips or suggestions on how to decompress please leave your comments below.
Helen brings a wealth of experience gained over 20 years in Human Resources in Australia and overseas.
Images by JKO
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