Mind­ful­ness made sim­ple

Mind­ful­ness is re­ally sim­ple. You are al­ready hav­ing mind­ful mo­ments dur­ing the day and, if you prac­tise it, you get bet­ter at it.

Living Now - - Meditation & Mindfulness Feature - By Richard Cham­bers

Ev­ery­body seems to be talk­ing about mind­ful­ness these days. It’s all through­out health­care and busi­ness. Our kids are learn­ing it in school. No­vak Djokovic is us­ing it to stop him­self from crum­bling un­der pres­sure. So what ex­actly is it?

Mind­ful­ness is be­ing fully en­gaged and present in each mo­ment of our lives. We all know the ex­pe­ri­ence of be­ing fully in the mo­ment when we are do­ing things we love, and the feel­ings of well-be­ing and re­lax­ation that come from this. This is mind­ful­ness, and re­search shows it leads to im­proved well-be­ing, en­hanced work/study per­for­mance and bet­ter re­la­tion­ships.

Have you no­ticed there are times that your mind is any­where but in the present… maybe when you are over­whelmed with work, wor­ry­ing about some­thing or re­act­ing to some­thing some­one said? Re­searchers have found that most peo­ple spend about half their lives dis­tracted from what is ac­tu­ally hap­pen­ing.

When we are in this ‘ de­fault mode’ of mind wan­der­ing and men­tal chat­ter, we tend to get caught up wor­ry­ing, dwelling or re­act­ing. This is be­cause, when the brain was evolv­ing, we had to con­stantly be on the look­out for very real threats to our sur­vival. These days, there are less sabre-toothed tigers around, but we still have this neg­a­tiv­ity bias wired in to our brains. Have you ever no­ticed how your mind is re­ally great at find­ing ‘prob­lems’ – wor­ry­ing and ob­sess­ing about things? This is why.

Luck­ily, mind­ful­ness of­fers a so­lu­tion. Any­thing we prac­tise, we get bet­ter at. So if we prac­tise fo­cus­ing our at­ten­tion on what is hap­pen­ing in the present, notic­ing when it wan­ders and gen­tly bring­ing it back, we get bet­ter at do­ing this. We lit­er­ally ‘come to our senses’ and spend more time fo­cused and present, and less time dis­tracted and stress­ing our­selves out. This is ‘mind­ful­ness med­i­ta­tion’.

When we do this, we re­wire our brain for bet­ter well-be­ing and per­for­mance, strength­en­ing key ar­eas like the pre­frontal cor­tex and hip­pocam­pus. We can also cul­ti­vate qual­i­ties like cu­rios­ity, gen­tle­ness and self-com­pas­sion – and these get hard­wired in, too.

A grow­ing body of re­search shows that mind­ful­ness leads to: • Bet­ter phys­i­cal and men­tal health • Im­proved con­cen­tra­tion and mem­ory • En­hanced pro­duc­tiv­ity • Bet­ter com­mu­ni­ca­tion and re­la­tion­ships. There are sev­eral ways you can prac­tise mind­ful­ness and re­wire your brain, start­ing right now. These in­clude: • Daily med­i­ta­tion. Start with 5 to 10 min­utes. You may like to use an app such as ‘Smil­ing Mind’. • Bring­ing mind­ful­ness to ev­ery­day ac­tiv­i­ties, e.g., tast­ing your food (put your phone away!), re­ally lis­ten­ing when you are com­mu­ni­cat­ing, pay­ing at­ten­tion when you are com­mut­ing, etc. • Stop try­ing to multi-task. The brain can only fo­cus on one com­plex task at a time and you are at­ten­tion­switch­ing, not multi-task­ing. Fo­cus on one thing at a time and no­tice the ben­e­fits for your stress lev­els, pro­duc­tiv­ity and en­joy­ment.

To re­cap, mind­ful­ness is re­ally sim­ple. You are al­ready hav­ing mind­ful mo­ments dur­ing the day and, if you prac­tise it, you get bet­ter at it. n

Dr Richard Cham­bers is a clin­i­cal psy­chol­o­gist and in­ter­na­tion­ally-recog­nised ex­pert in mind­ful­ness. He con­sults to a grow­ing num­ber of busi­nesses, ed­u­ca­tional in­sti­tu­tions and com­mu­nity or­gan­i­sa­tions in­ter­ested in us­ing mind­ful­ness to en­hance well­be­ing and per­for­mance. Richard also works at Monash Univer­sity, spear­head­ing a univer­sity-wide mind­ful­ness ini­tia­tive.

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