It’s that time of year. The lazy, hazy days of summer are over, and you are now becoming fully engaged in work or school.
Busy-ness can be productive; and it can also be exhausting and stifling. A lot of the difference lies in what’s happening between your ears.
Busy-ness is unproductive when repetitive thoughts take over, when you become hijacked by your emotions, and when you find yourself looking for ways to self-medicate your way through the stress in your life.
Contrary to what you might think, ‘doing’ more is not the answer; ‘being’ more is. And ‘being’ is exactly as it sounds…it’s about pausing, stopping, and just noticing where you are.
You’ve likely heard about mindfulness – if you’ve done any reading on well-being, stress management, or resilience in the past few years.
Mindfulness is the practice of paying attention in a particular way, in the present moment, on purpose, and without judgment. It is often credited with developing increased self-awareness, resilience and emotional intelligence. I am sure you can agree that all of these capabilities are important in your every day life at work and at home.
If you are skeptical about what mindfulness can do for you, that is a pretty common reaction to the invitation to give it a try. You might be thinking:
- ‘I am not one of those people who can just sit still’, or
- ‘Being quiet sounds really boring’, or
- ‘I don’t have the time, patience or energy to meditate’.
Here are a few things to consider:
Mindfulness is not about sitting for hour upon hour, in full lotus, without shoes. Even just one minute attending to the present moment is mindfulness. Over time, you can learn to notice incoming thoughts, and gently bring yourself back to your breath, in the present moment.
Being quiet is definitely not boring! You will soon realize that there is a lot of noise (and some of it very interesting!!) occurring in your mind. As stated above, once you begin your practice, you will become very aware of the amount of traffic ‘up there’. I once read that if we could project our thoughts onto a billboard, we would be horrified…most of them are negative…and repetitive!
Finally, rather than taking (consuming) your time, patience and energy…mindfulness ADDS to your time, patience and energy! Your ruminating thoughts are exhausting! Practicing presence, even just a minute at a time, will help you be able to focus on what’s before you and to and feel more calm overall.
In addition to pausing, and focusing on your breath regularly, here are a few other mindfulness strategies you can start using today:
1) Before you enter a room for a one on one meeting, or enter a large staff event, or enter your home at the end of the day, pause and reflect on what you want to bring into the experience. Do you want to bring: Positivity? Vulnerability? Energy? Optimism? What is your outcome? How do you want to impact the people who will be there?
2) When unpleasant emotions arise, pause and acknowledge them rather than ignoring them. Rather than allowing them to pull you down, choose self-compassion, and move toward what you want to achieve in that moment.
3) Notice your repetitive thoughts. Reflect on the thought, and then and reframe it (choose a more positive story), and choose your actions according to the reframed story. Remember, thoughts are not facts; they are just thoughts; so choose the thoughts that work FOR you rather than against you.
4) Be curious and ask questions. Even, of yourself! The more you learn about yourself, the better you’ll be able to assume control over your thoughts (and your experience of life in general). The more you learn about others, the better you are able to build the constructive connections you need to achieve your outcomes.