Our restless mind is constantly busy with thoughts. We plan for the future, recall the past, dream, worry, and model various situations in our heads. In short, we are anywhere but in the present moment. Add the pile of information we consume every day to this (which is about 34 GB), and it becomes clear why it is sometimes so hard to stop our endless flow of thoughts.
To maintain emotional stability in our stressful world, it is important to learn new skills and tools. One of the most effective ways to calm the mind, reduce anxiety, and achieve balance is through mindfulness. It also helps with improving attention span and working more efficiently. Keep reading to learn about all the benefits of mindfulness and find simple tips for developing it.
What is mindfulness?
Mindfulness is the psychological practice of purposely concentrating attention on what is happening here and now. In this state, a person focuses on the present moment without switching to thoughts about the past or the future, and without making any judgment of their experiences. Meditation and other spiritual practices help develop such skills.
Mindfulness has existed for many centuries as part of Buddhist and other Eastern traditions. The term derives from the Indian word ‘sati’, often translated as “bare attention”. In Western psychotherapy, this concept (freed from the religious context) appeared somewhere between 1970-1980. During this period, many therapeutic approaches were developed on its basis to help people with various psychological problems. Many began to use mindfulness to overcome depression, stress, anxiety, addictions, and many other destructive states.
Numerous scientific studies have proven the positive effect of mindfulness on health. For example, scientists have found out how mindfulness meditation affects people who have never meditated before. The experiment was quite simple: for eight weeks, participants practiced 13-minute meditation. The results showed decreased levels of bad mood and anxiety. In addition, the participants in the test group improved their working memory and attention. And all this is due to short daily meditation.
Mindfulness practices have become especially popular amid the challenges that people around the world have had to face in recent years. In particular, the pandemic has given rise to numerous healthcare and meditation apps. They can be easily adapted to the needs of users, and offer many approaches to develop mindfulness as one of the main components of overall well-being.
The benefits of mindfulness
Mindfulness helps people understand and accept their emotions. It teaches you to slow down and take breaks to listen to yourself and your feelings. Thanks to this, we learn how our brains work and have the opportunity to better express our thoughts and feelings. Practicing mindfulness can help with:
1. Controlling emotions
We face a lot of stressors all the time: alarming news, health problems, misunderstandings with our loved ones, constant workload, and much more. Any one of them can knock you off balance, not to mention situations with several stressors at once. Practicing mindfulness helps you learn to control your emotions, not overreact to stressors, and let go of the negative
2. Improving self-awareness
By practicing mindfulness, you can stop your endless stream of chaotic thoughts. It’s an opportunity to get to know yourself better, as well as understand how your mind works and how you respond to different events. Practices like meditation help develop attention, and primarily that’s paying attention to yourself.
3. Strengthening relationships with others
Mindfulness is a great helping tool for building healthy relationships. This practice teaches you to be more present and attentive to yourself and others, and to develop empathy. The ability to really listen and show interest in communicating with your loved ones can strengthen your bond with them. In addition, with the above-mentioned improved self-awareness and self-control, when a negative emotional reaction occurs, you can figure out why and not let it affect you.
4. Overcoming stress
Suffice it to say that mindfulness is used in many therapeutic approaches. In particular, there is a special program called Mindfulness-based stress reduction or MBSR. This technique, developed far back in the 70s, uses a combination of meditation, yoga, and other mindfulness practices. It has proven in practice that mindfulness increases the capacity for self-compassion, which in turn reduces stress.
5. Living a happier life
Mindfulness helps you achieve a more harmonious inner state and feel happier. It supports many attitudes that enhance the overall sense of life satisfaction. By living in the moment, people are less likely to regret the past or worry about the future. In other words, they are really living instead of worrying about things that cannot be changed.
How to practice mindfulness
At first glance, being in the moment may seem like a super easy task that does not require any special skills. But if you’ve never practiced mindfulness, it’s not all that easy. We are constantly dealing with a huge amount of information, and a lot of different things require our attention. To achieve a state of non-judgmental perception of reality, one cannot do without special exercises, and the main one is meditation. Here, we will explore the most common practices:
- Basic Mindful Meditation. Sit on a straight-backed chair, on the floor, or on a cushion with your legs crossed, then close your eyes and focus on your breath. Doing this, don’t try to control it, just observe. If your mind starts wandering, make note of this calmly, without judgment, and gently bring your attention back to the breathing process.
- Body Scanning Meditation. Direct your attention to different parts of your body and make note of the sensations you’re experiencing in those areas. This can be any subtle sensation, like tingling. Analyze every part of your body from head to toe.
- Mindful Sensory Practice. Focus on what you see, hear, taste, smell, or touch. For example, in the above-mentioned mindfulness-based stress reduction program, participants tasted raisins while fully concentrating on the sensations.
- Emotional Mindfulness Practice. Focus your attention on your emotions. Just identify them as “joy”, “sadness”, “irritation”, etc. Try to accept them without any judgment and let them go easily.
If you are new to mindful meditation, you can start with short 10-minute practices each day.
How to improve your productivity with mindfulness
It may seem like mindfulness and productivity cannot be combined. But in reality, they can. Moreover, there is the concept of mindful productivity. It is a state of constant, minute-by-minute awareness of what is happening inside and around us while we are working. This approach allows you to turn off autopilot mode and be more present, which, in turn, brings clarity and peace. At the same time, while practicing mindful productivity, you can notice signs of stress and neutralize its causes. You don’t have to meditate every day to improve your attention span and work with maximum engagement (although daily practice will only increase your efficiency). Experience the benefits of mindful productivity by following these simple tips in your workflow.
1. Organize your work environment
Find a place where you can concentrate and no one will distract you — at home, in the office, or at a cafe. It is equally important to keep your workplace tidy. Meanwhile, don’t forget that people can work in very different conditions. Some of us need a secluded place and complete silence, while others are bursting with ideas when surrounded by noise and creative mess. The main thing is to listen to yourself and figure out what is best for you.
2. Observe your thoughts
This is one of the mindfulness practices that helps develop attention. Observe your thoughts and emotions at work. Of course, when performing tasks, each of us has a lot of extraneous thoughts. It is important to notice and recognize them without making any judgments. Whenever your mind starts wandering off, simply acknowledge these thoughts and emotions, and calmly bring your attention back to your current work.
3. Immerse yourself in a state of creative flow
The creative flow state implies maximum involvement and a feeling of satisfaction from your work process. To achieve it, you need to find a balance between your skills and your tasks. If done right, you’ll be able to work at peak performance and complete your task with ease.
4. Try single-tasking
Not many people can handle multitasking; it’s rather stressful to work on multiple tasks at the same time and do a good job. This discrepancy between unrealistic expectations and reality can drive many of us into stress. Instead, people who focus on one thing at a time are calmer and more productive. Therefore, try to focus on one task at a time and avoid getting distracted by things that can wait.
5. Find the root of your procrastination
We’re all guilty of putting off important tasks for later. Such situations usually cause feelings of guilt or shame. But actually, procrastination is a defense mechanism that warns us about not wanting to work for certain reasons. For example, for a fear of failure. It is important to figure out what emotions hide behind procrastination to work through them and remove potential obstacles to achieving goals.
6. Take mindful breaks
Try to be attentive to your thoughts at work and during your breaks. For example, try to make note of all your sensations on a walk or pay attention to the different flavors of your lunch and the emotions they evoke. These simple exercises will help you turn mindfulness into a daily habit, and maybe into a life philosophy in the long run.
7. Manage your workload
By focusing on your feelings, you begin to better understand what workload is best for you. If you are already close to your limit, do not take on a new job. And you shouldn’t feel guilty about it, because productivity doesn’t mean being able to do everything. A mindful approach will allow you to realistically assess your potential and choose the amount of work you can do without compromising quality.
Mindfulness teaches us to pay attention to everything that is currently happening on the outside and inside. But this does not mean that we should just observe. Mindfulness practices can be perfectly combined with various activities, including work. By developing mindfulness and the ability to be in the moment, you can improve your attention span and productivity. Use our tips to see for yourself, and learn to turn your workflow from a chore into a fun activity!
Other articles that may interest you:
Depositphotos Blog Digest
Join a community of 160,000 monthly readers who are obsessed with
amazing visuals, useful tips, and great stories