Happy Fall! Here’s how Mindfulness can Help

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.

Check out these resources for more information on the benefits of a mindfulness practice:

https://www.psychologytoday.com/ca/blog/feeling-it/201309/20-scientific-reasons-start-meditating-today

https://bschool.pepperdine.edu/about/people/faculty/content/contemplating-mindfulness.pdf

https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/can_mindful_managers_make_happier_employees

https://www.huffingtonpost.com/david-rock/the-neuroscience-of-mindf_b_2908665.html

Happy Fall! Happy Mindfulness! Happy Life!

Deri Latimer is an expert in positive possibilities for people! A TEDx Speaker, Author, and Organizational consultant, Deri works with organizations who want to create happy and healthy workplaces for increased positivity, productivity and prosperity! 

 

Get Creative To Protect Your Organizational ‘Assets’

Awe-inspiring beauty in New Zealand!

Having just returned from a trip to New Zealand, I was impressed with this incredibly beautiful country! Beyond it’s natural physical beauty, New Zealand is a country that seems to model it’s values at every turn. It is indeed one of the cleanest, friendliest and most environmentally responsible countries on the globe. It also seems to have a pretty thriving economy. I think there is a connection between the two!

It got me thinking about how organizations can follow the lead from New Zealand. Are you protecting your assets? Do you – by the way you behave (what you say and do) – tell people what you value … and do your protect what you value? Continue reading “Get Creative To Protect Your Organizational ‘Assets’”

Helpful or Unhelpful: What Thoughts Will You Think Today?

Connect!
Connect!

A young woman approached me after a keynote presentation recently. She liked an exercise we did on reframing negative situations into something more positive. She told me about how she has suffered from anxiety for years; largely related to a sexual assualt she suffered as a teenager. She liked the reframing exercise because it was so easy.

I told her about something even easier that she might try.

When our son was in Grade 2, the Health Sciences Centre Department of Psychiatry came to his school seeking children and parents to volunteer to experience a communication skills program called ‘Best Friends’ (at least, I think that is what it was called…it has been many years and I have since lost track of the manual, the researcher’s name, and the purpose of the study, but I remember the outcome of the learning very clearly!).

Our son did not experience anxiety at the time, and does not to this day. Although the program was targeted at children with anxiety, the pilot group included any child that was interested and willing to participate. We enthusiastically signed up! (Okay, I should say ‘I’ rather than ‘we’ enthusiastically signed up; but everyone was willing to check it out.)

The researchers asked parents (and their child) to complete the program over a number of months. The students received a manual and did some learning and practice at school. The parents did some reading, and both the parents, the child, and the teacher journalled during the experience.

I remember being so excited when I realized what our son was learning. One piece has stuck with me over all of these years.

The children were taught that thoughts are just thoughts; that they are not facts. And, they were taught that they could choose thoughts that help (rather than hurt) them.

For example, let’s say that you are playing on the school ground and a boy – we’ll call Johnny – steals your ball. You might feel angry. You might be thinking that Johnny is mean, or that Johnny is a bully. You might cry, run to tell a teacher, or get into a school-yard fight with Johnny.

Thinking that Johnny is mean or that he is a bully are not very helpful thoughts. They do not help you achieve your outcome of wanting to have fun on the school ground.

Consider that you could have a more helpful thought about Johnny. You could think that Johnny wants to play and does not know how to ask. You might then invite him and say ‘Hey, Johnny…why don’t you join our game?’

I remember us practising with ?all sorts of situation, and in each one we could easily identify an unhelpful thought (often the default) and a helpful thought.

The key is, we can call choose thoughts that help us achieve our outcomes, that help to move us toward what we want, and that help us be smarter and more resourceful, no matter what comes our way.

In 2012, I posted this blog.

http://www.derilatimer.com/out-damned-thought/

Shortly after, I got a message from the father of a 9 year old boy. He was concerned about his son, who was experiencing very high levels of anxiety. The boy was constantly telling himself that no one liked him, that he was dumb, that school was really hard, and that he had no friends.

This father decided that he was going to share some of the post with his son. He said ‘it seems strange to ask a 9 year old to think about his thoughts, but that is exactly what he needs to do’. And he needs to choose different thoughts and then notice what happens.

This article by Elisha Goldstein, ‘Three Common Mind Traps That Sink Happiness’, speaks to this. Goldstein describes how our lives and our minds become routine, and our thinking, interpreting, expecting and relating to people be come habits; they become our auto-pilot. He goes on to describe that often the auto-pilot is getting in the way of our happiness; particularly when we catastrophize, discount the positive and exaggerate the negative, and point blame.

So, connect with yourself (your thoughts) and connect with other people. The young woman who approached me was so glad that she came to the conference and that she connected with others while she was there. She felt better. The reframing exercise was done in small groups. She realized in doing this simple exercise that she could change her thoughts, affect her experience, and that she was not alone in thinking the thoughts she thought. This article in The Guardian by Will Hutton, references the importance of remembering that we are social beings and we need each other. “For happiness can never result from the exercise of choice alone: we are social beings, and the building blocks of happiness lie in looking out for each other, acting together, being in teams and pursuing common goals for the common good.”

Elisha Goldstein’s article reminds us of an old cartoon of a man and woman sitting on a couch in front of a TV, with a caption that reads ‘It’s 12 o’clock, do you know where your mind is?’. He beautifully reminds you that you can cultivate “the ability to be more present to these mind traps” and that the practice of being more present “will help you break free from (the traps) and shift your attention on more effective ways of interacting with life.”

It’s (look at the time) o’clock, do you know where your mind is? Or better yet, it’s (look at the time) o’clock, are your thoughts helping or hurting?

Deri Latimer is an expert in positive possibilities for people! A TEDx Speaker and Author, Deri?s message reinforces that positive habits are the pathway to a happier and healthier life ? at work, at home and at any age!?www.derilatimer.com