The Strikingly Positive Effects of Mindfulness
On the same day I came across two articles that seemed to go hand in hand. One was on the difficulty people have taking a break from their digital distractions, even for just minutes in some cases. The other was on how practicing mindfulness, even for equally short periods each day, can have strikingly positive benefits on our ability to concentrate.
Mindfulness is especially relevant for anyone who faces stress at work or at home—which is to say, nearly everyone. Mindfulness refers to a state of active, open attention on the present. When you're mindful, you’re able to observe your thoughts and feelings without judging them as good or bad.
Mindfulness a way of living in the moment and awakening to experience. It’s a technique that’s been clinically proven to increase resilience, enabling you to manage your stress and develop or increase self-confidence. And it’s proving very successful in the corporate world.
Though the concept of mindfulness originated in ancient Buddhist, Hindu, and Chinese traditions, in the modern world of experimental psychology, mindfulness is about the ability to quiet your mind, focus your attention on the present, and dismiss distractions.
Research is increasingly demonstrating that mindful thought can lead to improvements in cognitive function, emotion regulation, concentration, and paying attention. And the brain reflects these improvements.
For centuries, meditation has been one of the most popular ways to achieve mindfulness. But it’s not the only way. Deep breathing, in which you focus on the sound and rhythm of your breath, can have a calming effect, especially when you’re upset. Similarly, observing your thoughts (rather than working against the voice in your head) can help quiet your mind and reduce stress.
Sometimes it’s enough just to spend time by yourself. If you’re not sure you can find a way to do that—or even if you are—check out this charming video on how to be alone.
To incorporate mindfulness into your workday, start by making a commitment to practice. This means becoming more aware of being aware. Tell yourself, 'I will become more aware of ___' and then practice placing your attention on that. Start each day with a few minutes of conscious awareness. If your tendency is to start your day at a rapid clip, focus on slowing yourself down.
To help you get started, here’s a list of ten ways to bring mindfulness to your work day.
What have you found most effective for achieving a state of mindfulness?