You’re most probably wondering; mindfulness? What does that even mean?
Well, in short, mindfulness is the new black.
It is a mental technique borrowed from the 2,000 year old Buddhist contemplative practice. Now it has been adapted for non-religious contexts, including board rooms, corporations, hospitals, schools and sports teams.
Mindfulness increases your ability to focus. It is a powerful antidote to the fickle distractible nature of the mind, especially in today’s information-rich digital world. When practised regularly, it can bring more calm and effectiveness into everyday life, reducing stress and enhancing capacity.
That sounds kind of awesome.
It is initially practiced through meditation. However, it can also be applied to daily activities such as eating, walking or working. It is simply the discipline of noticing what you are doing when you are doing it and becoming master rather than slave, to the impulses of the mind.
We are talking some real Sensei stuff here. No chopsticks to snap flies out of the air, like in the Karate Kid, are required for this!
Leading global companies, such as Google, are recognising the powerful benefits of mindfulness meditation in supporting innovation and creativity, having already trained over two thousand of their employees in this skill.
Regular mindfulness practice has been shown to improve focus, concentration, improve physical wellbeing and mental wellbeing including increased levels of compassion and feelings of connectedness. There are impressive biological findings which suggest that mindfulness can actually develop areas of the brain that are required for strategic thinking.
So, if the likes of Google are diving head first into this mindfulness, why don’t you pick a leaf too?
Here are 5 tips for using mindfulness to calm your day.
1. Tune in to your breath
I know it sounds like an irritating cliché but there is scientific rationale for this. Your breath is not only a powerful indicator of your state of mind but also a helpful modulator of stress.
During a busy day, take a few moments to consciously tune in to the breath. Feel three breaths move in and out of the body. Then, slow down the exhalation. This helps to trigger the relaxation response. Extending the breath in this way sends a message to the parasympathetic nervous system, the system that opposes the stress response, to calm down the body.
It’s really that easy to alleviate your stress levels.
2. Use your surroundings as a circuit breaker
Take moments in the day to disconnect from the flurry of to do lists and direct your attention externally by tuning in to your senses.
Listen to the sounds in the room, feel your body in space, see the space you are in, notice the temperature and smells.
By tuning in to your senses, just for a few moments, you give your mind a micro break from the stress of thinking.
3. Use technology with awareness
Are you sitting at a computer all day? Bring awareness to your posture and breath.
It has been noted that email apnea, the temporary absence or suspension of breathing while doing email, means we are inadvertently creating stress in the body. When we breathe irregularly, the body becomes acidic through retention of excess carbon dioxide. This acidity may contribute to stress related diseases.
4. Simplify your to do list
Bring attention to the top three priorities of your day.
Break your work time into smaller blocks for higher levels of efficiency, and take short breaks between blocks. This will help you concentrate much better without running out of steam and piling up tonnes of stress.
5. Use your lunch as a mindful practice
Rather than eating whilst working on the computer, or missing out on lunch altogether, use your lunch as a way of practicing mindfulness.
This means, notice you are eating as you eat, intentionally tasting your food, bringing awareness to the act of chewing. This will give your mind an opportunity to rest from the whirlwind of the day, allowing space for mind and body rejuvenation.
Elise Bialylew is a doctor, wellness innovator and founder of Mindful in May, a one month mindfulness meditation challenge to support people to learn about the benefits of mindfulness and help raise money to bring clean water to the developing world. Creating a clear mind for you and clean water for others.