We have somewhere between 60,000 and 890,000 thoughts a day! Most of those thoughts are not useful but rather a distraction. Distraction is our biggest timewaster. It takes us away from focusing on what is most important to us. Thoughts determine our lives. Paraphrasing and slightly changing a well know quote…
Mind your thoughts, as they become words.
Mind your words as they become action.
Mind your actions as they become habits.
Mind your habits as they become character.
Mind your character as it defines you.
Most people are not in control of their thoughts. If you put on a timer for 30 seconds are you able to sit quietly and not have any thoughts? Probably not unless you have practiced some form of mediation or mindfulness practice. Our minds are generally busy thinking forwards and backwards – to the past and to the future, not so often are we just in the present moment.
Modern life can be complex, uncertain and ambiguous. Distraction and busyness produce fluctuations of serotonin which affects our wellbeing. Every time we switch a thought or task we lose focus. Edward Hallowell, in his Harvard Business Review article, Why Smart People Underperform, says that modern office life has produced a now common condition he refers to as ADT – Attention Deficit Trait, a condition of distraction which leads to under performance.
Neuroscience explains distraction and focus. All behaviours, and hence results, come from activating particular neural networks. When we are distracted we have distracted neural networks – neurons firing a bit all over the place, When we are focused we have more focused neural networks. So for example, if I focus on kindness, I will develop a more focused kindness network; if I focus on patience I will develop a more focused patience network; joy – a more focused joy network, etc.
Mindfulness training is about learning to focus the mind – to develop the attention focus of the brain. The benefits, apart from increased focus, improved performance and feeling good are numerous. Research indicated the following benefits from regular mindfulness practice:
- Improved memory
- Improved mood
- Reduced stress (by 25%)
- Reduced depression
- Reduced cellular aging (Telomere activity)
- Improved sleep quality
- Increased vigilance and increased reaction (cortical thickening v cortical thinning)
- Improved immune system
Mindfulness practice is quite simple… and
simple is good! In mindfulness we give ourselves permission for stillness.
There are four basic aspects to mindfulness practice – ABCD. The table below explains the ABCD.
|This is about attention to our body. Sit in a supportive chair, with buttocks deep into the chair, back straight, relaxed head and neck, feet flat on the floor and hands resting easily in the lap. The eyes are shut.
|Breathing is our focus anchor. The breathing for mindfulness is belly breathing that is relaxed and easy – in-and-out. Not forced.
|With each in-out breath count 1, then 2, then 3 etc to 10. Once you have reached 10 you begin the same process again counting from 1 to 10 with each in-out breath.
|Distractions are feedback to let you know how focused you are through the process. With each distraction or thought that arises just acknowledge it, let it go, and return to your breathing beginning at 1 again.
Practicing mindfulness individually is powerful. We only need to practice it for 10 minutes a day to get the benefits. Obviously, the more you practice it the faster and deeper the change. So 20 minutes a day is great, and 30 minutes a day is even better. What is even more beneficial is collaborative mindfulness. When teams or groups practice it together it amplifies the resonance and benefits for all concerned.
Life is a dance. Mindfulness is witnessing that dance.” Amit Ray.