Mindfulness is a high-profile topic in Western psychology and is being increasingly recognised as an effective way to reduce stress and increase self-awareness. Although it has only been relatively recently embraced by psychologists in the West, it is an ancient practice found in a wide range of Eastern philosophies.
So what exactly is it? Well, it is really quite simple. Mindfulness involves paying attention ‘on purpose’ and involves bringing your awareness to the ‘here and now’ with interest, openness and receptiveness.
Now you may be wondering as to why the need for an ancient practice to be brought into a modern working culture? Well, the answer to that one is it will help you to ‘be in the moment’ and ‘not somewhere else’. I often say to audiences, ‘when you are in the room, be in the room’ and that is exactly what I am saying here. Cultivating mindfulness will help you focus your mind on what you are doing at any given time, and when your mind is off wandering somewhere else, your increased awareness will bring you right back on track.
Imagine you are sitting down with your children at the dinner table. When you are purposefully aware of eating, you are consciously aware of the process of chewing your food. You are deliberately noticing the taste and smell of it. You are sitting listening to your children and also actively engaging with them. And when your mind begins to wander, you purposefully bring your attention back. While you are sitting there, you may think you are involved and interested in the conversation, but you are probably thinking about a hundred and one other things at the same time together with, maybe answering your cellphone or watching television. So only a very small part of your awareness is absorbed with eating and listening.
The concept of actively being present will therefore ensure that you enjoy each and every moment more fully and, equally important, you will remember and value those moments.
It is always possible to improve your mindfulness and to reduce stressful thoughts. Mindfulness techniques can certainly help you achieve your goals more easily and ultimately to be more productive.
So here are four techniques to help you on your way:
Many of us pride ourselves on being able to do one thing at a time but in essence, we are more productive when we concentrate on just one task at a time. So this is where mindfulness comes in. Be actively present and more conscious of exactly what you are doing so you won’t think at 5pm, ‘what did I do all day’. Make your actions deliberate, focus on the task in hand and don’t just rush it to get it finished.
Add in a time of reflection
‘Back-to-back’ meetings may be great in theory but they don’t work in practice. You will not have given your brain a chance to reflect on one meeting before you attend another. Using mindfulness, you will add in a full stop at the end of your sentence rather than a comma. You will have given yourself some space also some ‘insurance time’ if one meeting takes longer than anticipated.
5 Minutes of ‘You’ Time
So often people say that they don’t have time to do what is in their schedule, let alone give themselves time for themselves. But this is very short-sighted and is a matter of discipline. We can all make the five minutes ‘thinking and reflection’ time and the only question I would ask, is ‘what is stopping you?’ The answer to that question is ‘discipline’.
The practice of mindfulness will enable you to:
• Improve concentration
• Increase self-awareness
• Reduce the intrusion of stressful thoughts and feelings
• Enhance your relationships
And all of this can result in improved performance, reduced stress and greater satisfaction at work and in life. Which employer would not support this age-old philosophy? I think we know the answer to that, so start practising as it won’t happen overnight.
In the words of Mother Teresa “Be happy in the moment, that’s enough. Each moment is all we need, not more.”
1. Mindfulness means being aware of the present
2. Mindfulness requires focus
3. Mindfulness enables you to achieve equanimity