Mindfulness is the practice of becoming more fully aware of the present moment, non-judgmentally and completely, rather than dwelling in the past or projecting into the future. It generally involves a heightened awareness of sensory stimuli (really noticing your breathing and the sensations of your body) and being in the “here and now”. While mindfulness has origins in Eastern philosophy and Buddhism, there is no necessary religious component to the practice. Anyone can enjoy the benefits.
Mindfulness is typically achieved through meditation but can also be practiced through daily living. Simply focusing on the present moment and quieting your inner dialogue can help you attain peace and align or ground your thoughts.
Many of us have constant chatter going on in our minds that keeps us from enjoying or even noticing anything around us. The chatter has to do with the present, the past and the future. It brings with it feelings of regret, worry and guilt and any number of other distressing emotions. All to no avail as the past is done, the future we don’t know about and we are wasting the present with this thinking.
If you have suffered a dysfunctional family background or past it is likely you also suffer from this monkey chatter. It questions your every choice and decision, worries about things you have said or done in the past and fears things you may encounter in the future. You may live thousands of miles away from toxic family members but their legacy lives on in your mind. Dysfunctional thought patterns are most likely the culprits causing the chatter.
Mindfulness has gained great respect as a treatment for emotional ills, particularly when combined with cognitive therapy. Mindfulness is being used for the treatment of anxiety disorders, depression, relationship and anger issues, sleep problems, eating disorders and stress management. It is also being utilized in the medical world with pain management and diseases that are thought to have basis in stress.
Mindfulness is particularly relevant in our society as we all find ourselves multi-tasking. We have adopted this term as something we should do and may feel deficient as humans if we find it difficult. However, study after study have shown that multi-tasking is not efficient and our performance actually declines when we multi-task. As our performance declines we worry more and the chatter increases. The sense of overwhelm really kicks in and can put you into a downward spiral of emotional problems.
More errors are made and we burn out faster. Our brains are simply not designed to focus on two things at once that take our full concentration such as our jobs. Some things can be managed OK while multi-tasking like talking on the phone and watching our child play, or talking on the phone and doing dishes, but not things like write a letter to a customer and check email every 10 seconds, or read email while talking to a client on the phone. The distraction is in your voice and the customer is offended.
Would you want a surgeon operating on you and checking his tweets and blogs while doing so, looking away every few seconds? No, you wouldn’t. You may not be performing surgery but you have a job and as part of your personal integrity you need to give it your all. Your employer deserves your best performance and your customers deserve your full attention. Not to mention your own brain deserves to have the best conditions within which to work.
Your family also needs some of your undivided attention. Nothing says “I’m not really interested” more than staring at your phone during dinner or tuning out with job thoughts while your child or significant other is talking. If you are not paying attention they will find someone who will. These are the memories you are creating.
We all complain about stress and feeling overwhelmed but we all buy into the multi-tasking thing like it is gospel. We even pride ourselves on it but it’s really nothing to be proud of. It’s like being proud of just having cut your finger off for no reason. It’s harmful to you. It is something society has adopted that is to our detriment. The brain is aware of trying to compensate and do many things at once and releases stress chemicals and stress hormones.
How exhausting! How do you fix it?
Slow down. Do one thing at a time and do it well. If you have time constraints then give each task whatever time is available by prioritizing and pay attention to only it during that time. You will feel better and still get to everything. You will feel in control instead of circumstances controlling you and dictating that you try to do everything at once.
Find an App. There are many wonderful free apps with mindfulness training. Just try some until you find the one that resonates with you. This is the easiest and least expensive way to introduce yourself to the concept and practice. Clients typically report finding relief from chatter and overwhelm in the first week of practice.
If you cant find an app, find a therapist. There are also many wonderful practitioners of mindfulness. Google psychologists, therapists and counselors in your area to see what is available.
Find a retreat. If you have the time and resources, jump all in and go on a retreat to fully immerse yourself in the practice and training. Make sure you research the retreat leader for credibility and see some references from past participants before signing up. There may be local retreats in your area or you can choose a destination retreat in an exotic locale.