The world can be intimidating. In recent years, more people than ever are leaning on themselves for dependence and reliance, constantly fighting to stay original in the workplace, and in their own lives. All of these factors have made it easy to lose sight of living in the present, instead pushing us towards the future or pulling us into the past. So, what if we want to push back? There are many ways that we can actively choose to recenter our focus, clear our minds, and enhance our personal commitment towards utilizing mindfulness.
What really is mindfulness? Jon Kabat-Zinn, the founder of the Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, defines this mental state as “Paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgmentally”. In other words, intentionally embracing the here and the now by taking control of our awareness. Existing in this state of nature requires the direction of our attention to consciously shift, switching out the common negative feelings of self-criticism and anxiety for fulfillment, happiness, and overall peace of mind. Easy enough, right? We’re working on it. Today, the most common response to suggestions towards mindfulness is, “I’m just too busy to be mindful”. So, if this sounds like you, remember these tips the next time you feel the need to recenter your focus- it only takes a few seconds.
Mindfulness is not about being perfectly present ALL the time.
The world would be a different place if everyone did exactly what they were meant to, all the time. We aren’t built like that. Being mindful is about choosing to focus on the present with curiosity and relief, allowing our minds the ability to think openly and free from judgment. It is also about appreciating our faults and recognizing that a wandering mind is natural and creative-it takes time and practice to learn how to make that choice of returning to the present. Through mindful practices, the feelings of stress or anxiety will slowly begin to shrink, being replaced with an increase of clarity, confidence, and resilience.
Mindfulness is about swimming against the tide- we’re going to need some help to do it.
Just like anything new, mindfulness takes practice and a little help from others. Whether you find this assistance in your workplace community, in a yoga class, or simply through reading a new book that centers your focus, practicing transformative thinking requires some support. As humans, we are naturally influenced by those around us. There is a certain simplicity about a conversation with friends that can have lasting results; as a start, surround yourself with others who are mindful and you just might see changes in your own actions as well.
Mindfulness has a whole load of benefits besides sharper focus.
It’s more than just lengthening your attention span. Engaging in mindful practices is shown to actually shrink the brains’ “fight or flight” mentality, resulting in lower levels of hostile emotions, such as stress and anxiety. A new study published by The Journal of Experimental Psychology supports the idea that the practice of meditation as a mindfulness tool for adults can increase levels of compassion and empathy found within relationships. Similarly, in a recently published study organized by University of Oxford professors, patients engaging in monitored thought training were found less likely to have depression relapse versus those patients continuing treatment through antidepressants. As more research is published, business leaders, parents, doctors, and many others are understanding the wide range of benefits found through practicing mindfulness in the workplace and at home. Mindfulness is a way of life, a growing perspective of positivity that provides many benefits- long and short term.
How can I be mindful in my daily life?
There is no right or wrong way to practice mindfulness, however, there are many popular exercises that have proven beneficial to most. Simply catching yourself when your mind begins to wander is a small first step to take on the path towards mindfulness. The next time you find yourself scrolling through your phone by habit, try replacing that time with deep breaths to recenter your focus. At home, practicing a mindful morning routine is a great way to start your day with positive intentions and direction. Instead of building up stress by planning out your daily schedule, take each step slowly, and with pride. Try focusing in on the smaller things that you normally let pass by, like the smell of your shampoo, or the way your dog always makes you smile in the mornings. Practicing yoga, meditating, reading a good book, or exercising are other great ways to find peace in your busy lives.
Remembering that there will constantly be challenges which reach outside of our own control, yet there is empowerment to be found in the ability to create change within yourself. Through just a few simple changes every day, we can concentrate harder, work better, impact more, and create lasting positive change throughout our surroundings- kind of like having a superpower.