Mindfulness is a trendy topic in the wellbeing space right now – and with good reason. But what does it even mean and how can you apply it to improve your life?
Mindfulness is simply being aware and present in the moment. According to a report we spend 47% of our life distracted from the present moment. Almost HALF of our time is spent thinking about something OTHER than what we are doing.
While I may not want to practice being in the moment when I’m stuck in traffic or trapped in a waiting room those are not the normal conditions of my life. And being distracted all the time interferes with our productivity and, according to the above report, our overall happiness.
In fact, the irony is that we have evolved to the point where we are able to think of things other than what is happening, and yet, that is stealing our happiness.
“A human mind is a wandering mind, and a wandering mind is an unhappy mind,” Killingsworth and Gilbert write. “The ability to think about what is not happening is a cognitive achievement that comes at an emotional cost.” [source]
Even though it seems to make sense that our minds our wandering because we are unhappy, it’s apparently the other way around. By not being in the present and allowing your mind to wander, you’re further contributing to your unhappiness.
What’s worse is that if the reason that you’re not being mindful is due to technology – which let’s face it, is highly likely – then you’re actually further draining your ability to focus, pay attention, and be in the present.
I don’t have the time
The struggle with mindfulness, and really a LOT of health practices, is that we see it as important – but maybe not important ENOUGH. Sure we’d like to do it. It’s a nice to have. Or we’d really love to do that but there’s just NOT ENOUGH TIME.
But, as with a lot of those other health practices too, by not practicing mindfulness we’re actually wasting a lot of productivity.
All you need to do is consider how much time you fritter away on your social media or video game of choice to realize that there’s lost productivity there.
Over time 10-15 minute a day practice might give you back hours of focused productivity. Don’t let time be your excuse.
I have to meditate
There are PLENTY of other ways to practice mindfulness that don’t involve sitting on a pillow on the floor, while burning incense and listening to new age music.
Mindfulness practices abound from forest bathing, to walking meditations, focused breathing, and getting into the zone with your favorite activity. There’s truly something for everyone.
However, if the reason you say you can’t meditate is because your brain is too busy that you can’t stop your thoughts, don’t worry. The point of meditation isn’t to have a completely blank mind. It’s simply to help you get some space from your thought so that you’re not so immersed in them.
You are not your thoughts. You can become an objective observer to them which will help with your ability to make rational decisions, increase your working memory, and improve your focus.
Even though it may seem frustrating at first, meditation is a practice. Unless you want to quit it all and become a monk, no one is expecting you to get to expert mode. The whole point is to improve your wellbeing. Take it from someone with ADHD – if I can do it, you certainly can too.
HOW TO PRACTICE MINDFULNESS
As I stated above, there are TONS of ways to practice mindfulness. In fact, if you’d like to learn some of them you can take a Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) class over 8 weeks where you learn many of the techniques.
But it doesn’t have to be that complicated. One of the easiest ways to is to get out in nature. A 10-15 minute walk in the woods where you simply take it all in is a mindfulness exercise.
If you can’t get out into nature like this, simply find some other ways to break up your routine. It should be an activity that you’re interested in, is different from your normal routine, and that you can get immersed in. Any of those hobbies where you get so involved the hours just fly by, is a mindfulness exercise.
Additionally you can just practice being in the here and now. This can happen anywhere – in a meeting, on the subway, out with a friend for drinks.
- Simply immerse yourself in the present moment
- Notice any judgements or thoughts that come up
- Acknowledge them and release yourself of them
- Go back to the present moment
- Do not beat yourself up for any of your thoughts, just keep coming back to the now
If 10-15 minutes at a time still seems like too much to begin find little pockets of time throughout your day to be more aware.
If you’re out to eat and your dinner partner goes to the bathroom, resist the urge to look at your phone or distract yourself. Just take in your environment and the people around you.
Instead of responding to texts or emails in the line at the grocery store stay in the present moment and notice things you haven’t before.
If you normally do something else while you eat, put away the book or phone and just focus on your food.
If you constantly rush around, practice taking a pause before you start a new activity. This pause will eventually become a habit and can help you take time to think if you tend to respond too quickly or make rash decisions.
Just picking a number of breaths to focus can be mindful. Start with 3 deep breaths and go up from there. Before you know it you’ll be able to just breath for 10 to 15 minutes and help clear out your mind.
Mindfulness doesn’t need to be a complicated practice. In fact, the more ways that you can find to make it fit into your life, the easier it will be to do them AND maintain your focus on the present.
Don’t be afraid to start small and build up. No one else is judging your on your mindfulness skills – so you shouldn’t judge yourself either. There’s no award for best meditator.
However, the rewards for mindfulness are increased focus, productivity, and happiness. Now that is a practice worth starting.
If you struggle with you finding enough time in the day to get anything meaningful done, please contact me. Coaching is an incredible way to figure out what’s important to you and how to get it accomplished.