It can be easy to get caught up in a web of anxious thoughts. This can negatively impact our productivity and our health and well-being, and lead to more reasons to worry.
One way of stopping this pattern is to practice mindfulness – concentrating your attention exclusively on the present in order to focus the mind and avoid distractions.
What is mindfulness?
Mindfulness is when you are fully aware of your thoughts, emotions, and actions, but equally, you don’t get caught up in them.
There are fives steps to start getting into mindfulness:
Find somewhere comfortable to sit in a relaxed upright position and focus on your breathing. Don’t get frustrated with yourself if distracting thoughts arise. Instead, just be aware that you are getting distracted and gently bring yourself back to focusing all your attention on your breathing. Aim to do this for at least one minute.
Observe your environment
With how busy life can get now, it is hard to keep focused. Regain your concentration by paying more attention to what’s going on around you right now.
You don’t have to meditate to do this, you can practice this at work, on your commute, or even at home.
Concentrate on completing one task at a time to the best of your ability. The pace and demands of work can fracture our attention, and leave us feeling excessively hurried or overwhelmed, which can reduce the quality of our work.
If you still get distracted, don’t feel guilty. Notice the distraction and bring your attention back to the task at hand.
Pay attention to routine tasks
Another way to cultivate mindfulness is to think differently about an activity that you do routinely. Pay attention to the detail of the task. This prevents your mind from getting distracted by other anxieties or worries. Try to focus your mind like this for at least five minutes. You might find that you enjoy the activity more and you may feel more positive once you have completed it.
Accept your feelings
Being mindful means not judging your thoughts and feelings as ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ as this can lead to low self-esteem. So, next time this happens, remember that these thoughts and feelings will pass. These thoughts do not define you, they don’t have to mean anything, and as long as you are aware of them, you have the choice of whether to act on them or not.
The benefits of mindfulness
Many big organisations in recent years have begun to invest heavily in mindfulness. Google and Nike for example provide meditation rooms and classes for employees.
The advantages of mindfulness include:
Mindfulness helps you stay in the moment so that you can devote your full attention to what you are doing right now and minimize the impact of distractions. But it is not a quick fix.
Improved mental and physical health
Scientific studies have shown that mindfulness can change the structure of our brains so that we respond to stress in a healthier way and retain information for longer. It lowers the production of cortisol which is a stress hormone and helps us to regulate our emotions.
When we are not busy worrying about the past or future, we can approach day-to-day challenges more calmly. This will likely reduce our negative self-talk and boost our self-confidence.
Mindfulness can be particularly effective in reducing the negative effects of mental health issues such as depression and anxiety.
Mindfulness can encourage divergent thinking, enabling you to generate more innovative solutions to business problems. Researchers found that subjects who practised mindfulness meditation for just 10 minutes prior to a brainstorming session produced ideas in nine different categories, compared to just five for the control group.