Someone once asked a friend if they would learn to practice mindfulness. Their friend responded with a definitive “no”, claiming they already had enough to think about. Not a very funny joke but does open up the need to define mindfulness for some.
Realizing this week’s blog is being written a little late, I started to reflect on the cause of why some days are more productive than others and landed on the distractions of thinking back and thinking ahead. Worrying about the tasks that have to be done later in the day or tomorrow, whether this or that will turn out the way you hope, or stressing over things that happened yesterday or last week that you just can’t shake. The days where it is easier to get things done are those where we are focused on the task at hand, in other words, we are in the present.
I can’t be the only one that has discovered this pattern, and this fits nicely with the term mindfulness. It is one of those things we hear so much about, but what does it mean to be mindful? Some might think it is like meditating (that can happen as part of practicing mindfulness), or like forgetting about things (depends on what you are thinking about, I suppose), but what it really means is to bring you to the present time and to be present and aware of what you are doing now, at this moment in time.
What is Mindfulness?
According to mindful.com, it is “fully attending to what’s happening, to what you are doing, to the space you are moving through.” That sounds simple but can be challenging in practice.
My colleague shared her own experience in trying to be mindful and said she lasted maybe two minutes before she became distracted. She tried it both as just a re-adjustment of her thought processes to try to concentrate on what she was doing and even tried it through meditation. However, she didn’t give up. She started slowly with one simple process, when she found herself becoming overwhelmed and distracted, she stopped everything she was doing for a moment.
At that moment she decided that she was going to fix this through her thought processes by taking note of what she was thinking about the moment she felt overwhelmed. If it was something in the past or something not yet to take place, she stripped it away and thought to herself, “What am I doing right now?” She would listen to her breathing, acknowledge where she was in her physical location and set her mind to the task at hand. Turning back to what she was trying to accomplish she would attempt to focus on that alone.
Now that’s not saying there haven’t been many times where she tried and still became distracted, but the key was not giving up.
It’s a learning process and takes time and practice.
Why is it so important?
Some of the common benefits of practicing mindfulness include:
- reducing stress;
- better sleep patterns;
- weight management (maybe because we are thinking about what we are eating);
- reduction in automatic negative thought processes;
- assistance in managing anxiety and depression;
- improved general health (physical and mental); and
- improved concentration.
Even therapists that suggest mindfulness to their clients have noticed a change in how they provide therapy by practicing it themselves. As noted by the American Psychological Association in 2012, studies suggest that by practicing mindfulness, therapists not only benefit from the reduction of anxiety and depression but it is found to improve how they care for their clients through more empathy and compassion to their clients with improved skills in counselling.
There we have it! I focused and this blog is now finished! One small victory!
If you’re seeking your one small victory, don’t give up and remember:
“Yesterday is gone. Tomorrow has not yet come. We have only today. Let us begin.” ― Mother Theresa
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