For most of us, we are either thinking about the past (depression, which we can’t change) or thinking about the future (anxiety, which hasn’t arrived yet) much too often. We feel overwhelmed by thinking about things we haven’t done instead of celebrating things we have completed, or we stress about the things we have to do in the future instead of reflecting on how far we have come. In short, we focus on the negative.
We take on more work than we have the capacity for. We falsely think we can do it all in the limited time that we have, and we overestimate how much we can do in the short term. By doing all of this, we are being reactive, which is ineffective and unsustainable. We forget to stay in touch with ourselves. All this to say that we are only fooling ourselves. We are spreading ourselves thin, and instead of doing a few things better, we end up doing many things poorly. We are trying to do it all and it is undermining our effectiveness and efficiency. We forget to be completely present in the moment.
We find our attention being pulled in a million directions away from what is happening right now.
The undeniable truth is that life is only lived in the present moment. Mindfulness is a way of being present in that moment. Be aware of what’s going on by being fully present mentally. Simply “be” without thinking of the past or worrying about the future. The more we can practice mindfulness, the more present we can be, and the better we can engage with ourselves and others. In fact, when we live mindfully, living with constant distractions and/or interruptions can seem alien. Conversely, when we live with non-stop distractions and interruptions, being mindful can seem alien.
Living a mindful life has so many benefits that outweigh a life laden with distractions and interruptions. It’s a night-and-day difference between living mindfully and living reactively. Not to mention that it’s immensely satisfying, intrinsically thrilling, and relaxing at the same time.
Here are some of the benefits of practicing mindfulness every day:
Being mindful helps us be awake and aware to what is happening in the moment.
At any moment, we are either a king or a slave to our minds. Practicing mindfulness by way of meditation increases our mental “power reserve” so we can be a “king” more of the time.
Practicing mindfulness through meditation can do wonders for our minds. It has the power to increase our immune function, positively change the structure and function of our brains, and protect ourselves from the damaging effects of genetic aging. It can also help us manage our stress, depression, pain, anxiety, and sleep disorders, enhance our cognitive ability, and even change our DNA.
We learn to pause more before making decisions so we are less impulsive and thereby make better decisions. We make better choices because we’re more intentional, purpose-driven, and compassionate with our actions. In short, we are proactive.
Even a few minutes of daily practice of mindfulness will improve our attention, focus, and creativity for giving things our undivided attention. We end up more in tune with our environment and surroundings so we’re able to listen more, which helps us discern the signal from the noise.
Being mindful helps us slow down so we can speed up. It lets us build our focus by giving things our undivided attention.
It helps us build our ability to monitor our emotions, which allows us to view our situations more objectively. It helps us react less especially in high-pressure situations and to be more proactive. We free ourselves from the compulsion to act on every feeling that comes up.
When we are more mindful, we are teaching others through our actions and helping others change in the process. Bringing mindfulness in organizations helps us find meaning and satisfaction in our work, which improves our health, happiness, and performance. It allows us to truly empathize and build connections with our colleagues, customers, and partners. This results in increased team performance, reduced employee stress, and improved collaboration for better business results and outcomes.
Meditation is the process of learning about ourselves through our emotions and thought patterns. It the practice of paying attention to what is happening from moment to moment without judgement. It is a way to separate our thoughts from the emotions associated with them and to see the things for what they truly are. And while it may be simple, it’s not easy.
Building a practice of meditating for 25 minutes every morning is a great way to practice mindfulness.
Start small (2 minutes) and focus on being consistent. Work out a comfortable spot and time in your morning routine and do it every day. Assuming you’re doing it every day in a given week, increase your practice by one minute every week. Work your way slowly to 25 minutes of daily practice, and only increase your meditation time when you didn’t miss a day in the previous week.
While meditating, focus on your breath. Take deep, long breaths. You will likely have lots of things come up in your mind, which is normal. Every time something comes to your mind, bring your attention back to your breath. You might find it hard to get through it initially, and that’s okay. Remember, the goal here isn’t to control your thoughts but to be aware of them and let them pass by without controlling us. Don’t worry about “doing it right” because if you’re doing it, you are doing it right.
Twice a day, pause and take some time to focus on your breathing. Be aware of what’s on your mind and let it pass. Learn to observe yourself as it helps you be more mindful.
According to Michael Apollo, a mindfulness expert, there are a few key attitudes that make mindfulness work:
- letting go: letting things be just as they are.
- acceptance: taking an open stance to the experience just as it is.
- nonstriving: letting your practice happen rather than trying to force it.
- patience: letting things unfold in their own time.
- nonjudging: not getting caught up in your own likes and dislikes.
- trust: trusting in yourself and your choices.
- having a beginner’s mind: taking a fresh stance to each experience.
Writing morning pages is another way to practice mindfulness. By doing this practice, we find out what has our attention by capturing it, identifying things that might be potentially meaningful, and then later deciding what to do with it — all this so you can take it out of your mind and move on with your day without trying to keep it all in your head.
I suggest meditating first and then writing morning pages because it’s easier to write after meditation. The thoughts come more readily.
While both practices let you focus on what has your attention, in the case of meditation, we are letting go of the thoughts and bringing our attention back to our breath. With morning pages, we capture those thoughts on paper and decide what to do with them later so we can move on with our day without worry.
When we practice daily mindfulness, here is how it might play out in everyday situations:
While waiting in a queue (movies, grocery checkout counter, etc.), instead of just whipping out our phone mindlessly, we take a moment to be with ourselves and do nothing.
When we are having a meeting (personal or work-related), we give our undivided attention to others and expect the same from them.
We can be mindful in the different activities we do such as eating, walking, speaking, etc.
In these situations, we have accepted it (and learned to be patient) and we are enjoying every moment of it.
If you want to raise your game, improve your performance, stop undermining your effectiveness, and stop spreading yourself thin, being in the present by staying mindful of things can make all the difference in the world. The attention you have is your best friend. Preserve it.