Our busy lifestyles often mean high levels of stress impacting productivity and health. Research shows practicing mindfulness can reverse these effects for improved efficiency and well-being.
How many times a week do you feel stressed or overwhelmed? Be honest!
If you’re a busy professional, or a struggling solopreneur like me, I imagine not long goes by before you realise things have crept up on you. When you actually stop for a moment you realise you’re feeling … a tad swamped.
Growing demands of everyday life mean we are increasingly feeling overloaded. Without sufficient self-care strategies such overload causes harmful stress levels, negatively affecting our physical and mental health.
Research is now telling us one of the most effective ways to keep stress under control is daily mindfulness practice. Not only does mindfulness reduce stress, it has a myriad of other benefits too. Improved focus, awareness, productivity, effectiveness, better health, and it’s even anti-aging (who doesn’t want this!).
“When we withhold our full attention, we decrease efficiency and increase likelihood of mistakes and misunderstandings.”
Mindfulness originates from Buddhist traditions, but exists in various forms within many cultures. Put simply, mindfulness is ‘training our attention’: the practice of awareness, focus, and presence.
When we withhold our full attention, we decrease efficiency and increase likelihood of mistakes and misunderstandings. The most challenging part is our mind is wired for distraction. We ruminate over past events, worry about the future, and daydream about other times and places. If we allow our minds to get away from us, it can be bad for our health – literally!
Ruminating leads to depression. Worrying causes anxiety. Imagining a “better” reality only provides a superficial and temporary state of mind, detracting from achieving a stable and healthy existence right now.
Allowing our mind to run riot can leave us overthinking and catastrophising, often making ourselves sick over things beyond our control. These ‘unmindful’ states cause us stress. Our bodies react to ‘perceived’ threats with a stress response causing unnecessary damage.
Over time this contributes to mental and physical health issues, like:
- depression and anxiety,
- high blood pressure,
- accelerated aging,
- immune dysfunction, and
- heart disease.
But there is good news! You can reverse these effects and prevent further strain on your body by living ‘mindfully’. Research shows many health benefits from regular mindfulness practice, including:
- reduced stress and anxiety
- better sleep
- improved pain management
- decreased negative mood
- enhanced emotional regulation
- decelerated aging.
Your undivided attention = better everything!
Mindfulness facilitates improved learning, mindset, communication, parenting, partnering, performance, leadership, health, and resilience. What’s not to love here?!
You can be mindful in a number of ways, so it’s easy to find something that works for you. Whether it’s formal meditation practices, observing mindful moments, implementing mindful work practices, or other mindful activities.
4 ways to live mindfully
- One thing at a time: break the habit of multi-tasking. Research says the brain is a ‘serial processor’ = one thing before another, making multi-tasking ineffective as each task receives diminished attention. Yes, even hands-free and driving!
- Daily mindfulness practice: start with a 1 minute breathing meditation, a 5-minute body scan, and work up to longer meditations. Take a tai chi or yoga class.
- Become aware of mindful moments throughout your day: notice a flower (scent, colour, shape), the sun (its warmth on your skin, brightness, energy), water (sound it makes as it flows, light glistening on the surface), walking (your breathing, the feeling/movement of your body), birds (watch and listen), fresh bread (smell, texture, taste – a personal favourite). It can be anything! Just be observant and fully present for that brief moment.
- Implement mindful work practices: turn off alerts on your phone / PC so you can work undistracted. Where possible, finish one task before starting another.
Like any new habit, time and practice improves all. Go easy on yourself while you find your groove. Part of mindful living is practicing self-compassion and acceptance. Observe your thoughts and feelings without judgement, practice acceptance and letting go. Persevere. The benefits will come.
The ultimate aim = less stress + more life.
What are you giving mindful attention to next? Choose wisely – live mindfully!
Source: This article by Bree Somer is reproduced with the permission of Flying Solo – Australia’s micro business community. Find out more and join over 100k others.
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