What Exactly is Mindfulness?
Mindfulness is not a recent concept by any means. It has long been a central tenet of contemplative traditions like Buddhism. In simple terms, mindfulness means being present in the moment, paying attention to one’s surroundings, one’s state of mind, and one’s emotions, not with judgment but with curiosity and compassion.
It may seem simple enough in theory, but putting it into practice takes some time and a bit of work. However, the results are well worth it.
Benefits of Mindfulness
Studies have shown that some of the many advantages of mindfulness include:
Greater Ability to Stay Focused
Those who practice mindfulness are reportedly capable of paying greater attention to the task at hand without succumbing to distractions.
Reduced Stress and Anxiety
Several independent studies have concluded that mindful meditation increases positive affective processes and decreases anxiety and adverse effects.
Rumination is the habit of getting stuck on repetitive thoughts. It can hurt mental health and lead to symptoms of depression.
Improved Cognitive Agility
Mindfulness reduces automated responses that stem from prior experiences to make room for more adaptive responses to the present situation.
Reduced Emotional Reactivity
When exposed to an emotionally upsetting stimulus, those who practice mindful meditation have a greater ability to disengage themselves from it and approach the situation from a rational perspective. These are clearly all attributes that could only enhance anyone’s personal and professional life. It also stands to reason that an enterprise with leaders who espouse qualities like these will without a doubt experience improved performance.
How to Achieve Mindfulness
As you may have guessed, you can’t just decide to be more mindful from now on. It takes practice until it becomes a new habit. There are many mindfulness exercises you can adopt to help you become more mindful and to remain so.
Sample Mindfulness Exercises
Although some mindful exercises can also be done standing up or laying down, preferred position for most mindfulness exercises is in a seated position, with your feet firmly on the ground. Be sure to keep a good posture with your spine upright. Your hands can rest comfortably on your lap. Because this position is so common in the workplace, you can practice mindful right at your desk in the middle of a hectic workday.
Breathing Exercise (Attention Control)
The great thing about this starter exercise is that it can be done almost anywhere at any time. The objective is to remain still and calm bringing your focus solely on your breathing. Breathe in through your nose. Breathe out through your mouth. Let the air flow smoothly in and out of your lungs.
Breathe slowly – a full breath (inspiration and expiration) should last about six seconds. Release your mind. Set aside thoughts about things you need to do or worries you may have. Simply let those thoughts leave your mind as easily as they entered. Remain focused on your breathing.
Within 10 seconds you’re going to notice your mind wandering from your breath. That’s normal. Just gently bring it back to your breath. And when your mind wanders again, again just bring it back to your breathing until the end of your practice.
You can begin doing this exercise for about one minute. Then, gradually increase its duration. It’s a starting point to help to be more aware and mindful of how you were feeling and to remain focused without allowing distractions to interfere and take over.
Being Mindful is being aware of things happening in your life and taking note of how you are feeling about them at the time you are having them. Use this exercise to start practicing this awareness.
Throughout the day, there are countless mundane tasks that we do without giving them any thought. Through this exercise, you can become more aware of your myriad activities and develop a greater appreciation of the innumerable benefits they deliver.
Consider something that you do several times a day that you don’t give much thought to. Perhaps it could be every time you get in your car or get on a bus. Now, at the instant you get in, notice where you are, what you are feeling, and where this vehicle is about to take you. Do this for one week and then change up your cue for the next week. Bringing more awareness to a different part of your daily tasks.
The cues you choose to trigger your awareness exercise don’t have to be physical tasks. They can be every time you feel something in particular. For example, you could choose to pause anytime you feel anxiety and allow yourself to be fully aware of the emotion, recognize how it may not be helpful to you, and to let go of the worry. Or choose every time you get a hug from one of your children, to stop and appreciate the good fortune you have to be surrounded by a loving family. Whatever cues you choose for this awareness exercise, they should be meaningful to you.
Or visit our Ultimate Guide to Mindful Leadership for other helpful articles like this one.
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