Mindfulness. You keep hearing this ‘buzz’ word everywhere. Do you know its true significance though?
Not everyone distinguishes between mindfulness and meditation or appreciates that one does not function without the other.
Meditation is the regular (daily) practice, which leads to the ability to be mindful. Analogy: meditation is like going to the gym and exercising to be stronger and feel better.
Mindfulness is having the ability to pay attention to the present moment purposefully and non -judgementally. Analogy: mindfulness is like having the physical strength and energy to get through the tough days.
MINDFULNESS IS ABOUT OBSERVATION, NOT PREVENTION:
The skill lies in having the ability to catch oneself having negative thoughts, and not to stop them from occurring.
So what are the benefits?
1. Decrease Stress Hormones and Increase Happy Hormones
It’s obvious that the more we engage in relaxation, the more we can control our stress and anxiety.
Researchers have shown that adrenaline and cortisol hormones produced in our bodies (that help us deal with stressful or dangerous situations) can be controlled by regular meditation. Consequently, by slowing down our breath, our blood pressure and heart rate drop, otherwise increased by adrenaline.
Meditation is also responsible for the release of the happy hormones – oxytocin and serotonin. The latter maintains our mood balance whereas oxytocin is responsible for feelings of love and connectivity.
2. Effectiveness, Productivity and Concentration
Multitasking is a myth.
By the sheer nature of meditation we train our brains to focus on only one activity, which is either breathing, mantra or visualisation. That’s how we learn to focus on a single task we engage in.
By not allowing ourselves to get distracted by a text message or an email, and staying focused on what we are currently doing, we complete the task at hand faster and more effectively.
It’s the regular mindfulness practice that gets our brain accustomed to being focused. Such regular practice also teaches us the ability to connect with our breathe or our senses as a distractor from the potential distraction.
3. Ability to truly Listen, Connect and Resolve Conflict
Our ability to connect with others, build trust and relationships depends on our ability to listen to understand, not listen to respond.
Listening attentively allows us to hear what is not being said, which helps in resolving conflict.
To gain others’ respect and trust, we need to first give them our undivided attention and sometimes the benefit of the doubt, especially in situations when we need to understand a conflict or situation we are in.
If we have a million things on our mind and our thoughts distract our attention, it is very difficult to connect with another person.
4. True Happiness and Memories
Our success or happiness does not depend on the amount of money or goods we manage to accumulate, but the amount of joy we can experience in a lifetime.
Often the only thing preventing us from being happy is our inability to relax, our failure to notice joy in front of us - such as in the form of nature, children playing, human interactions, fun and humour.
We usually don’t see what’s around us because of the pressure we put on ourselves: expectations of self or others to be, do or have in a certain way.
All of this boils down to the thoughts we create in our heads. So how much better would our life be if we managed to control those thoughts and could decide when to follow them, and when not?
5. Managing Emotions, Negative Thoughts and Self-Talk
Engaging in a negative thinking process is the usual cause of unhappiness and frustrations, which we endure.
We cannot stop our thoughts from occurring - they will always be present. We can however train our brains to not engage in our thoughts.
Having the ability to observe our thoughts allows us to decide whether to engage and follow them or not.
The skill we need to acquire to enjoy life lies in the ability to observe our thoughts without judgment. Observation is possible when we learn to perceive the thoughts as separate from ourselves, and not identify ourselves with them.
This is the single most important skill, which assists in managing emotions and emotional reactions. By stopping and observing our thoughts, can we decide whether our thought process is driven by momentous emotional reaction or reality?
We can in fact decide if our buttons have been pushed and choose to react, or whether we really feel strongly about something. Only then can our emotional reactions become thought-through responses.
This skill helps in not engaging in endless negative conversations we otherwise have with ourselves.
6. Ability to Listen to the Right Voice
Mindfulness allows us to pay attention to the quiet voice of intuition, hidden beyond other voices in our head – voices of authority, teachers, parents and our own voice of fear we had created once for self-protection. All those voices form the self-talk.
Only by paying close attention can we hear the quiet voice of intuition. That voice will never tell us what we should be doing, but it will open the world of possibilities and quietly whisper what could happen.
I have listened to this voice at the pivotal moments in my life when the most important decisions were made. There were no pros and cons lists or advice or guidance from others. There was only the inner whisper, which led to fundamental changes and grown in my life.
How often do you hear your voice of intuition? And in what situations has it helped in your life?
Do you know or remember what techniques have you used to be able to hear it?
Share your thoughts on that topic and topic of mindfulness.
For specific and easy to implement tasks to start being fully present today, check out the Mindfulness Module here