Have you ever been driving somewhere and arrived at your destination, only to realise you remember nothing about your journey? Or started eating a chocolate bar, taken a couple of bites, then noticed all you had left was an empty wrapper in your hand? Or maybe it is a gorgeous day, but you don’t even see what is right in front of you?
These are common examples of ‘mindlessness’, or ‘going on autopilot’, when we go through our days without really paying attention to much of anything. Nobody else would suspect that we are hardly there; almost nobody notices, probably because they’re on autopilot too.
We are easily distracted
Sometimes it doesn’t seem to matter much. At other times it really does matter, because life begins to feel shallower if you spend too much time being unaware. As humans, we are often ‘not present’ in our own lives.
Human minds are easily distracted, habitually examining past events and trying to anticipate the future, and constantly multi-tasking. It is easy to lose awareness of the present moment as we become lost in our efforts to juggle work, home, finances, and other conflicting demands.
A positive impact
Becoming more aware of our thoughts, emotions and sensations may not sound like an obviously helpful thing to do. However, learning to do this in a way that suspends judgement and self-criticism can have an incredibly positive impact on our lives.
Mindfulness can be described in the following way:
A mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations.
Mindfulness is a way of paying attention to whatever is happening in our lives by being ‘fully in the moment’. It will not eliminate life’s pressures, but it can help us respond to them in a calmer manner that benefits our heart, head and body. It helps us recognise and change habitual emotional and physiological reactions to everyday events. It provides us with a scientifically researched approach to cultivating clarity, insight, and understanding.
“The moment one gives close attention to anything, even a blade of grass, it becomes a mysterious, awesome, indescribably magnificent world in itself.”
Practicing mindfulness allows us to be fully present in our life and work, and improve our quality of life.
Research shows it works
Mark Williams, Professor of clinical psychology at the Oxford Mindfulness Centre, says that mindfulness means knowing directly what is going on inside and outside ourselves, moment by moment. Mindfulness can be an antidote to the ‘tunnel vision’ that can develop in our daily lives, especially when we are busy, stressed or tired.
He says that an important part of mindfulness is reconnecting with our bodies and the sensations they experience. This means waking up to the sights, sounds, smells and tastes of the present moment. That might be something as simple as the feel of a banister as we walk upstairs.
Another important part of mindfulness is an awareness of our thoughts and feelings as they happen, moment to moment. Awareness of this kind doesn’t start by trying to change or fix anything. It’s about allowing ourselves to see the present moment clearly. When we do that, it can positively change the way we see ourselves and our lives.
“Your vision will become clear only when you look into your heart. Who looks outside, dreams. Who looks inside, awakens.”
Benefits of Mindfulness
There have been many studies related to mindfulness, which suggest mindfulness training may:
Improve memory and academic performance.
In one study, students who did attention-building exercises had increased focus, less mind-wandering, better short-term memory and better performance on exams.
Help with losing weight and eating healthier foods.
Mindful eating means paying attention to each bite and eating slowly, at the same time being aware of all your senses. Participants in mindfulness studies ate fewer calories when they were hungrier than the control groups.
Lead to better decision-making.
Some experiments associated mindfulness meditation with being less prone to our tendency to stick with lost causes, because of the time and effort already invested, such as with a bad relationship or a poor job. Studies suggest that mindfulness helps us focus on what is most important.
Lower stress and help cope with chronic health issues.
Studies showed that mindfulness increased both mental and physical well-being in patients with chronic pain, cancer, and heart disease.
Improve immunity and create positive brain changes.
Researchers measured brain activity before and after volunteers were trained in the technique of mindfulness meditation for eight weeks. It was found that it increases the density of grey matter in brain regions linked to learning, memory, emotion regulation and empathy. Studies suggested that mindfulness changes our brains.
“Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away.”
Thoughts for the week:
1. Do you go through your day either thinking about the future or thinking about the past and not being aware of the present?
2. It’s not easy but start to try and capture moments in your day when you just appreciate drinking that cup of tea, eating that meal, breathing fresh air, or feeling that sun on your face.
3. The more you can do this the better you will feel, because when you are in the present, nothing else matters at that very moment.
4. Mindfulness is one of the key elements of Mental Resilience and when combined with the other elements, gives you the ability to perform well under all forms of pressure.
5. Start this exercise right now by being aware of your breathing. Do this for a few seconds. Breathe in and out slowly. Feel your lungs expand and do this a few times right now as your read this. Stop for a few seconds and do this now…………… If you have just done this, then you have experienced Mindfulness. If not go back and do it now.
6. There are great health benefits to practicing mindfulness and I advise you to start this as a daily routine.
7. I practice mindfulness many times each day and it has become a habit
I have a chapter on Mindfulness in my book ‘Off the Wall – How to Develop World Class Mental Resilience’ and you can purchase a copy here https://www.jdmindcoach.com/product/off-the-wall-how-to-develop-world-class-mental-resilience/. It is covered in Chapter 16 of the 18 chapters which together help develop amazing Mental Resilience.
For the next few days I have enabled a special code which when entered not only gives you free postage and packing but also reduces the cost of the book from £11.99 to £10.00. The code that you need to put when prompted is 10POUND. These books will also be individually signed by me.
Well that’s it for this week and remember that you can choose how you respond to almost every negative thing which hits you on a daily basis.
Have a great weekend and stay positive.