There’s been a lot of buzz about mindfulness recently with books, podcasts and articles being written about its benefits. But what exactly is it? Well, mindfulness is about paying attention, bringing our lives into focus, being present to what is going on around us, responding wisely and not just reacting to our triggers.
In our over-stimulated, technology-driven, instantly-gratified lives our attention is constantly under siege so coming back to the present is incredibly important. Especially when you consider that a regular mindfulness practice has been shown to bring about a whole host of health benefits including improved sleep, better immune systems, increased resilience and decreased anxiety.
So, how easy is it to introduce mindfulness to your life? Very! If you follow these five steps.
Pause every morning
Mindfulness doesn’t have to take up a lot of time to be beneficial. Shawn Achor, one of the world’s leading experts on the connection between happiness and success, gave a talk at Google and told employees to take their hands off their keyboards for just two minutes a day. He encouraged them to go from multitasking, to simply watching their breath go in and out.
Don’t try to meditate for long stretches at first. Start small and take a few minutes at the beginning of each day to reflect, be still and practice gratitude. Try to remember the bigger picture before getting wrapped up in other tasks.
Do one thing at a time
Smartphones, apps, computers and tablets make multitasking seem like a way to be more efficient and get more stuff done. Research shows that we’re just switching from one thing to another and actually depleting our ability to concentrate.
When the workday gets overwhelming and stress starts to creep in, focus on only one thing for a little while. Think about things you can be grateful for like your health, friends and family. You’ll find that taking these small breaks throughout the day will help relieve stress and refresh your mind.
Take time out
With constant emails, endless tasks on the to-do list and fires to put out everywhere, taking breaks seems counter-intuitive. But working through lunch and forgoing all breaks may do more harm than good. Without breaking, the brain never gets time to rest and refresh.
Check in with yourself by checking out at least once in the middle of the day, even if it’s just for a few minutes. Take the time to fully step away from work. Go outside the office, put the phone down and just enjoy the present moment. Think about how the day is going and avoid thinking about what needs to be done next. You could even simply walk from one meeting to the next without checking your phone.
Queuing is a great time and place to be mindful. If you have to queue for something, it’s unlikely you can speed that process up and becoming frustrated is not going to help. Why not view it as time to tune in? Notice your breathing, watch others around you, and observe what’s going on in your body
We have to eat, it’s fuel for our body, so when we do, let’s enjoy our food – whatever it is. Slowing down and really tasting what we’re eating is a way to practice mindfulness.
Turn off the TV, close the laptop, pause Netflix and focus on your food. Enjoy the meal, really taste the flavours in each bite and appreciate the food. Eating is one of our greatest sensual experiences and really savouring our food can not only help us to be mindful but can also make us more aware of how much or how little we eat and how we feel when we do.
Be mindful of others
Although mindfulness is an introspective activity, the practice affects the ways we interact with those around us. Be present when someone is talking to you, actively listen and tune in to what’s going on for them. Be curious and ask them questions about the subject.
Take the time to think about others and do something nice for someone else. Helping and giving to others is perhaps the most refreshing activity we can engage in.
Practicing mindfulness not only benefits us directly but can also bring benefits to colleagues, family, friends and everyone around us. Now that’s a good reason to practice!
Lisa Hughes is a mindfulness teacher, coach and facilitator whose mission and passion is to enable and empower teams and individuals to step up to their best selves. For more information visit arenacoaching.ie