Over 2500 Years
Mindfulness is not the latest fad or new-age fashion. It’s been around for thousands of years. The scope of this article is not to explore origins, rather, how mindfulness works and what can be done to maintain positive mindful practice. It’s like a perfect diet in some senses but, if you don’t take care of it, there won’t be any benefits. It’s easy to do, easy not to do.
I noticed considerable argument about a UK television programme on social media recently, regarding how mindfulness can be used to alleviate problems associated with Attention Deficit / Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Some say it can, others say not. Several of those in the “not” camp appear to reside in the pharmaceuticals’ industry, according to some thinkers and commentators. This is just one set of arguments for, or against mindfulness.
What about the current situation with COVID-19? The president of France announced extended lock-down measures yesterday evening and as far as we know, nothing will relax or change before May 11th to enable the regular interactions we all rely on socially and for our livelihoods or the formal education of our children. Some argue that this is a positive; indeed, an opportunity for change because the world needs to change. One person in our household sees the new restrictions as nothing more than added gloom that bring nothing positive despite the declared good intentions of the state.
It’s so easy to become embroiled or lost in the arguments yet in doing that, we lose any sense of grounding and mindfulness we may hope to have as we drift into territory that for the present at least, we cannot change.
That’s a challenge with most children, young adults and adults alike. Most of us are brought up not living mindfully. For the greater part of our lives, we react to events. Worrying about what we did or didn’t do in the past and about what the future will bring, or not. Doing that we lose our attachment to the present moment. One of my favorite sayings is, “life is right now, in this moment.” This is where mindfulness resides.
It’s about noticing what is happening right now in this moment.
It is not about reacting.
Having awareness of what your body senses. Feeling emotions in your body, through positive or negative sensations. Noticing what’s happening in your mind with a sense of curiosity, not judgment.
What happens when you start noticing these experiences?
Awareness of what’s happening around you will enable deeper focus, and attention to your own senses will develop improvement in many aspects of life.
Improved focus can advance sports, educational or musical achievements for example. Any high-achiever will tell you that. Read about how great athletes prepare for a race. It’s not just about being physically fit. Mindfulness can help reach higher examination grades too. We always do better when we pay direct attention to our life-activities.
Noticing what’s happening around you, can help you to calm down when you’re sad, angry or frustrated. Mindfulness helps you deal with difficult emotions and can lift a dark mood. It can even assist recovery from chronic illnesses or addiction. I have my own evidence for that through personal experience which you can read about or listen to elsewhere.
Humans are good at judging and reacting too. Think about it. How often have you seen somebody dive in and take apart a person or group because of something they’ve said or done? Here’s another aspect of mindfulness; without judgment and staying neutral yet maintaining curiosity.
That sounds tricky doesn’t it? It’s not as tough as it sounds but we may be carrying some baggage from our lives that makes it seem difficult at first. Once we parcel that baggage and learn to put it into our experience boxes and move on, it’s not so difficult.
So, if I could show you the space where mindfulness resides, I would point to this great quote from Stephen R. Covey’s bestseller, “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.”
Covey talked about Viktor Frankl, a famous psychiatrist imprisoned in a Nazi concentration camp during WW II
“They could control his entire environment, they could do what they wanted to his body, but Victor Frankl himself was a self-aware being who could look as an observer at his very involvement. His basic identity was intact. He could decide within himself how all of this was going to affect him. Between what happened to him, or the stimulus, and his response to it, was his freedom or power to choose that response.”
We all have that freedom or power to choose how we respond to any situation the moment it arises. It’s how we respond that matters.
How does mindfulness work?
When someone says something we don’t like to hear, we react. Sometimes we say something and wish to retract it as soon as it’s spoken. Or we are knocked down by the emotion we feel and experience because of an event.
Mindfulness helps us create space between emotions and actions. We learn to deal with positive and negative experiences more calmly and by making better decisions.
If we are mindful of our thoughts and feelings, we respond positively and, without hurting our own or the feelings of others. Sometimes life packs hard punches. Practicing mindfulness gives us the ability to recover faster and move on.
So, mindfulness works with the daily ups and downs of life and can also lead to outstanding results with major events such as chronic illness as I have proved to myself along with countless others.
It wouldn’t be fair to leave you hanging on a statement like that, but I will for now and until I get back to you, I encourage you to seek more information with an open mind. Ask questions, leave comments below, request a free 20-minute consult. Mindfulness really can make a difference.
Here’s a simple exercise you can try. This one is particularly good with helping improve how we manage our time.
Mindful Time Management
Learning how to effectively manage your time is important during normal times. During this time of social-distancing, it is particularly useful skill. This method can help you assess how well you are managing your time and offers suggestions for improving your time management skills.
Before you start these exercises, think mindfully. We are interested in you, in this moment, not what an outside source thinks.
Think about your current time management skills. What do you do to manage your time? Do you have a system or just work through as much as you can on any given day? Try to look at how you get things done as an alien visitor looking in curiously. Make a few notes but don’t analyze, just write them down. Now write a list of what you want to achieve in the next 24-hours and prioritize your list.
- Can some of it be delegated?
- How will you eliminate distractions?
- Is it possible to say no to any of the things on your list?
Choose a starting point. It could be right now or your next start of a day. Track, in fifteen-minute intervals, for the next 24-hours, how you spend your time. A straightforward way to do this is to create a simple form, using a spreadsheet or table something like this.
|08:00||Sleeping||BF 8 Hours|
|09:15||Answering / Reading Emails||15m|
As you can see from the example, everything is categorized and added together as tasks are completed. At the end of the day it will be clear how much time you’ve spent on each task. Leave nothing out and do this for more than one day so you can average out the time you are spending on specific activities.
Review the results and draw your own conclusions about how spend your time. Remember to be curious. This is not about beating yourself up because you sense failure or weakness. Be kind to yourself.
Once you have an overall view of a few typical days, add the following.
Prioritize tasks by breaking them down into 3 groups:
- Need to be done today.
- Within a day or two.
- Further ahead.
Make a schedule for your daily activities and write your to-do list for
the day in priority order. Once you have this list, aim to complete your top priority items and as you progress, focus on kindness to yourself. You are a human BEING not a human DOING.
Delegation is one of the keys to success.
Look at your tasks and honestly see if any can be delegated to others. Asking for help is never a weakness.
Identify and eliminate distractions and time-wasting activity. Look for activities that drained your time or distracted you. These could include staying up late binging TV series and feeling tired the next day. Or, getting sucked into the conflicts of others that don’t concern you. Change the way you look at things.
Learn to say “no” but do this sensitively. An important aspect of time management is knowing how much you can realistically achieve in the time you have available. Unless it’s critical, don’t accept tasks from others if it will postpone your original plans. Saying “no” can seem challenging yet, it becomes easier with practice. The reward is that you are helping other people to take responsibility for their own projects while you get more of your own list done.
Avoid perfectionism, seeking excellence is rewarding. Some people lose time aiming for perfection. If this is you, set time limits on tasks, and allow the possibility that it might not be perfect.
Just do it: Avoid procrastinating dreaded tasks by getting the most challenging out of the way early in the day. There’s a post here that might help with that.
We all know that getting things done in the time available can be challenging, sometimes, it may even seem impossible. Mindfulness demands patience and kindness toward yourself and on occasion it may be necessary to adjust your plans or expectations. This is never a failing, it is a positive awareness of the external conditions. Mindfulness helps us to deal with these internally.
“Look past your thoughts, so you may drink the pure nectar of This Moment.” – Rumi.
We are all capable of living mindfully and it helps us to develop a positive sense of where we end, and others begin. It all starts with you.
More Tools That Help
Relating to these there are plenty of tools in addition to the practical examples presented here that can help with Mindfulness and your Personal Growth and Development whether you feel challenged or just seek to advance the way you respond to your world. If you would like a free 20-minute coaching session on some of these, please leave your contact details in the comments and you will receive a prompt response. Alternatively, you can send an email. Please understand that your contact details will never be shared outside ExGro.
Please note that free sessions are extremely popular and have become limited although every effort will be made to honor requests or refer to another available practitioner where appropriate.
There are many ways to effectively explore and advance your Personal Development in any area of life that matters to you. A box of tools to challenge the boundaries and move forward toward realizing success is extremely beneficial.
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Comments and Questions
Leave yours below. Your thoughts or questions may well ignite a positive spark in other readers thinking. You will always receive a prompt response to your questions and there is no such thing as a bad question; only the one that was never asked.
I bow to the place in you that is love, light, and joy
Peace & Light
Steve Costello is a British Community & Youth Studies and Psychology honors graduate with over 30-years theoretical and practical experience coaching in the Personal Development public and private sectors. He founded ExGro in 2018 with business partner, clinical psychologist and friend, Leo Faerberg.
2 thoughts on “How Mindfulness Works”
Hi Steve. Another great post 🙂
Learning to say no to something was/is the hardest for me, particularly when it came to work or, jobs that needed to be done at home. I didn’t listen to my body telling me “enough” and I paid dearly. I fully agree with you – when I create a pause before responding to a situation, even just a couple of deep breaths, I tend to have a more compassionate, holistic view.
Practicing mindfulness has improved my experiences of life in general, provided I don’t over-load my day with a to-do list.
Thank you for your tips on time management – very useful and practical 🙂
Hi Ger, Thanks for sharing your thoughts. My ToDo list is crazy today and I really need to call a halt for a while. It’s so easy to become caught in the flow and that’s not always a good thing. Some mindful mountain bike riding is in order. Glad you found the time tips useful. Plenty more if you need them.