by Jackie Johnson
“You can't stop the waves, but you can learn to surf.” –Jon Kabat-Zinn
Recent research says that most of us spend up to 50 percent of our time caught up in thoughts, usually replaying events of the past or worrying about an imagined future, both contributing to stress and unhappiness.
Mindfulness is a way of bringing awareness to the present moment with a sense of openness and curiosity. With consistent practice and by bringing mindfulness to the simple tasks of daily life, we discover more about ourselves: our thought patterns, emotions and response to our experiences. We become more attuned to others and our environment. We move in a calmer, less hurried way yet often accomplish more.
Neuroscience research conducted by pioneers like Richard Davidson at the University of Wisconsin’s Center for Investigating Healthy Minds confirms that the practice of mindfulness increases the brain’s ability to function more effectively and to change itself. Daily practice, even of short duration, is shown to improve focus and clarity, reduce stress, expand awareness, and improve overall wellbeing.
Mindfulness training may or may not involve meditating on a cushion. Regular practice of yoga, mindful walking or other spiritual and creative practices help to build a sort of mindful muscle, much like strength training does. Consistent exercise supports the ability to bring mindful pauses into the day.
Some Simple Daily Mindfulness Tips
- Notice your first waking breath as a way of starting your day rather than having the day start you.
- Choose to “mono task.” Be aware of the temptation to multitask (such as emailing while on a phone call). Choose one activity and devote your full attention to it.
- Purposefully pause and take a breath before picking up the phone or beginning a conversation that you imagine may be challenging. A simple slow and deep breath activates the parasympathetic nervous system, helping to calm the body and mind.
- Take a break and try a new lens. Go for a brief walk between tasks, particularly those requiring concentration, and open your awareness to discover three things you have not noticed before.
- Choose one or two days a week to drive to or from work or errands without the radio or phone. Simply experiencing the nuances of driving your car.
- Develop simple cues and reminders to pause during the day. Notice body sensations, sounds, or the “climate” of your thoughts and emotions. By adding momentary spaces, we can cultivate the ability to respond more thoughtfully, clearly and compassionately to whatever circumstances we meet in life.