The Benefits of Mindfulness Practices for Everyday Life
This month I want to talk about the benefits of introducing mindfulness practices into your everyday life.
What is mindfulness? Mindfulness is being grounded in the present moment, being in tune with our senses and being able to focus our attention to the task at hand. In being mindful you know where your attention is at any point in time and are able to choose where to direct it. It is also about taking a non-judgmental approach to one’s experiences in the present moment and adopting an attitude of curiosity, openness and acceptance.
Think of a task on your “To Do” list that is urgent, now imagine you are in a place without distractions, how long will it take you to complete this task? How will you feel doing the task without distractions? How will you feel after the task is completed? Now answer these same questions imagining you are performing this task with ongoing distractions from - people wanting your attention, you checking emails as they arrive on your computer, allowing your attention to move to other tasks you need to complete today or this week and any other events, internal or external that are likely to take your attention.
If you felt more relaxed in the first scenario then read on because I am going to provide you with some mindfulness techniques that you can introduce into your day to help you to manage stress, enhance your performance and your overall wellbeing.
But first some key points about mindfulness (ref. “Mindfulness for Life”
Dr Stephen McKenzie and Dr Craig Hassed, Exile Publishing Pty Ltd, 2012):
• “Emotional states such as stress, anxiety, depression and anger negatively affect executive functions such as working memory, information processing, decision making, emotional regulation and impulse control. A large part of this is because the ‘stress centre’ - the amygdala - can hijack the prefrontal cortex of the brain.
• The practice of mindfulness quietens the amygdala and stabilises the working prefrontal cortex, which improves executive functioning.
• Mindfulness practice improves our ability to receive and process information and enhances memory and executive functioning.
• The zone or flow-state is a low-stress but high performance state. It’s the most mindful state we can have when we’re engaged in action….”
The following 3 Mindfulness practice techniques are easy to include in your day.
1. Breathing Technique - take 3-5 minutes and focus on your breathing. Become aware of the rise and fall of your abdomen and chest as you inhale and exhale. Imagine your lungs filling with air from the base to the top of your lungs. If you can close your eyes this will help you to visualise and to get more from the experience. This can be done as a mini break between meetings or tasks that will enable you to feel refreshed.
2.Walking for 10 minutes or more depending on your situation. Try to get out of the office for a brief period during the day to reenergise. Engaging in even brief physical activities like walking can release tension in your body that builds up when sitting for long periods. While walking, suspend your thinking about things you need to do rather take notice of your surroundings and use your senses - notice the smells, colours, different textures, temperature and weather conditions. Be curious and open to your experience without judging.
3. Do a “what are you thinking?’ check 3-4 times during the day. Often your stress will arise from your thoughts, if you find that you are thinking about a task you need to do, someone you need to speak to or anything else that is not relevant to the current task, write it down to follow up later. Staying mindful and focused on your current task will enable you to accomplish more in a shorter space of time, with a greater sense of achievement.
• Applied Mindfulness in Business and Life - Jon Kabat-Zinn is being interviewed by Melissa Daimler, Head of Learning and Organisational Development at Twitter, about the concept of mindfulness and how we can apply it to our professional and personal life. http://youtu.be/AjqDbJR6mo0
Published on 2/12/2014