What is Mindfulness?
Mindfulness is a process of purposefully cultivating non-judgemental attention to experiences in the present moment which can be achieved through many different practices including meditation.
Professor Mark Williams from the Oxford Mindfulness Centre says that “it’s easy to stop noticing the world around us. It’s also easy to lose touch with the way our bodies are feeling and to end up living ‘in our heads’.” Living ‘in our heads’ can often lead to rumination and worries about the future – a common factor in the onset of mental health problems. As such, mindfulness techniques are commonly used in areas of mental health treatment (e.g. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) to detract people’s attention away from the future, instead, bringing their attention firmly into the present (NHS, 2019). It is time to get started, our minds are phenomenal parts of us. You keep your body fit, so let’s get our minds fit too.
Awareness of this kind helps us spot signs of anxiety and stress earlier on and deal with them more effectively. Uncertainty about the future and the lack of control that comes with it can often provoke a great deal of anxiety, especially in young people whose brains are still underdeveloped in many areas of emotion regulation. As such, focusing on the present has a wide range of benefits and an increasing number of applications, beyond mental wellbeing.
Modern applications of mindfulness and its benefits
Jon Kabat-Zinn founded the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program at the University of Massachusetts in 1979 to treat the chronically ill. Since then, the application of similar mindfulness programs has extended into medicine, schools, prisons, hospitals and other government and business environments. Evidence from numerous meta-analyses indicates that mindfulness-based interventions (MBIs) can have a significantly positive impact on reducing stress, anxiety and depressive symptomology (Kabat-Zinn, University of Sussex, 2003).
Some of the best athletes in the world turn to meditation to increase their focus, calm their nerves and reduce distractions, including NBA basketball players LeBron James and Kobe Bryant. Meditation can generate “flow” or a state of total focus on the current task (Aherne, Moran, & Lonsdale, 2011; Kee & Wang, 2008) and often enhance performance. You don’t have to be a pro-athlete to reap the benefits of mindfulness; these techniques are widely applicable to your business world; key business leaders and advocates of mindfulness include Bill Ford, the executive chairman of Ford Motor Company and Jeff Weiner, CEO of LinkedIn.
The American Psychological Association (APA) has aggregated some empirically supported benefits of mindfulness including improved stress management, emotional intelligence (EQ), improved working memory, greater emotional control and higher relationship satisfaction. Sound interested? Here’s how you can get started with mindfulness:
How can we more mindful?
- Sitting peacefully and breathing through the nose and out of the mouth to regulate breathing. If you feel your mind drifting, touch the floor or look at the room around you to bring yourself back into the present moment.
- Try mindful colouring or mindful exercises such as walking and running.
- We would recommend downloading the Headspace app or visiting their website which will help guide you through mindful meditation and help you get started.
Trying these techniques for just 10 minutes a day for a month or so, to vastly improve your wellbeing, mood and performance, for your work life, staying fit and well and for your relationships – helping you feel your best and perform your best!
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