3 benefits of mindfulness
Mindfulness as a mindset is picking up in popularity with countless blogs and articles detailing the benefits of adopting a mindful outlook in life. One way to build this habit is to find an activity where you can obtain distance between your thoughts and become a spectator rather than author. You’ll hear some people say running is their form of meditation. For others it might be yoga, cooking, drawing – whatever the activity, the key is to be mindful during the process.
Jon Kabat-Zinn, a leading authority on the use of mindfulness training defines it as: “Paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally.”
I’ve had a few people ask me what I have gained from meditating regularly and I’ve summed it up to 3 points.
1 – Distanced myself from my ego
Most people have an ego but from my experience and observation, they tend to stand out a lot more with males. Everyone expresses their ego differently but for me, it was about competing with others; comparing myself to others. Listening to ill-advice I give to myself for the perceived achievement I may experience.
When I started meditating regularly, I found the urge to compete, compare, self-judge decreased. I became more calm and rationale about the decisions I was making for myself and in turn, could put aside my ego and make the right decision that would benefit not hinder me.
I found as I became calmer, my empathy increased. In situations where someone may express anger, I express love and put myself into the other person’s shoes. Recognising that they are expressing that particular emotion for an unknown reason. Did they just break-up with their partner? Did their boss just scold them? Did they find out bad news and you were the first person after this event to interact with them?
The next time your feel the need to react with anger – pause – breathe – react.
2- Recognised rumination for what is was
One of the worst habits people have is rumination. Rumination refers to the tendency to repetitively think about the causes, situational factors, and consequences of one’s negative emotional experience (Nolen-Hoeksema, 1991). Basically, rumination means that you continually replay events or conversations focusing on the negative element.
Think of a time where you’ve talked yourself into a dark place. This is rumination.
According to Cleveland Clinic Wellness, each person has an average of 60,000 thoughts per day. And of those, 80% are negative. Our brains are hardwired to pay more attention to negative experiences.
Fortunately, rumination is a mental habit and can be broken. Research has shown that when you catch yourself stewing, you need to distract yourself for 2 minutes to break that spell. And you need to keep distracting yourself until you no longer stew on that event. This could take hours/days if you haven’t built the mental fortitude to change your mindset, but, with practice, you will find you stop ruminating and your outlook will focus on the positives.
Here are a couple breathing techniques to try when you find yourself stewing and looking for a distraction.
Breathing technique 1 (15 seconds per round)
This technique takes 15 second per round, so repeat 8 times and you’ve hit 2 minutes.
– Breath in for 7 seconds
– Hold for 4 seconds
– Breath out for 4 seconds
-Repeat (as many times as needed)
Breathing technique 2 (15 seconds per round)
– Breath in for 5 seconds into your diaphragm then continue for another 3 seconds breathing into your chest
– Breath out for 7 seconds
– Repeat (as many times as needed)
Am I being mindful?
During this technique, breathe into your diaphragm and feel your belly expand. When your diaphragm is full, fill your lungs. Witness your breath being pulled in through your nose or mouth and feel it fill your insides. A focal point is the ‘tip-over’ when you move from inhaling to exhaling. Recognise that, stay present and your feel your breathe release. To achieve mindfulness, you must be present, purposeful and non-judgmental on each second, each feeling of each breath.
3 – Became a witness of my thoughts
During meditation, your mind will continue to tempt you with experiences, events, stories and thoughts, this will never stop. You must use your breathing as a platform to step back from the torrent of thoughts, not connecting or feeding any of them, and allowing them to come and go as they please. It’s inevitable that you will attach yourself to a thought and you may find yourself playing that out. But you will recognise this is taking place and it’s at this point that you need to gently and non-judgmentally bring your attention back to your breathing.
When starting out, you might think that you need to be able to meditate without your mind wondering. Don’t think that. Every time you meditate you will be in a difference place compared to the session before. You might be restless, energetic, tired, focused, upset, angry, frustrated – each session is different so don’t beat yourself up when you think to yourself “why can’t I focus”. If you meditate for 20 minutes and for 19:50 seconds you mind is running, if you bring your focus back to your breath for the last 10 seconds – you’ve had a successful mediation! Remember that. It’s a skill like anything and the more you do it the longer you’ll be able to sustain your attention to your breath.
Can I recommend any resources?
‘Calm’ app – Calm has a free version which offers you limited mediations but if you pay for the pull version, you get access to over 2 dozen mediations at varying lengths (2,5,10,15,20+ minutes) and for various emotions: sleep, non-judgement, confidence, creativity, anxiety release and many more. Highly recommended and worth the investment!
‘Grid Diary’ app – I embarked on a personal exploration for a month with daily mediation and journaling. I used this app to complete my journaling. It provides you with a library of questions you can answer each day and you can save a template of questions so you can compare how you have grown from the start to the end of the month.
‘Headspace’ app – I used this for a little bit but decided to go with Calm. It’s definitely worth checking out before purchasing Calm to make sure it doesn’t provide you everything you need. Some people I speak to love it, I didn’t like the voices of the people so I went somewhere else.
There you have it folks. some really useful information on how to be more mindful and use it to your advantage to clear that mind.
Why not give it a go & see if it helps you in your everyday activities and see if it can help you with your workout scheduling as well.
Thank you to Simon for this insightful piece. If you have anything you’d like to contribute to the RoD Blog email firstname.lastname@example.org to discuss.
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