By Nick Jankel

Author, Keynote Speaker, Leadership Theorist, Transformational Coach, Wisdom Teacher, Co-Creator of Bio-Transformation Theory & Practice®

What is Mindfulness?

Mindfulness is a practice that can help us thrive in a crazy-busy world, finding a way out of depression, stress and anxiety. Mindfulness is very simple. It’s the art of being aware of our thoughts, emotions and sensations in the present moment. It’s about not going into the future or past, and not judging what is happening. Mindfulness meditation is a technique that helps you practice this. After practising mindfulnessfor a while, you can stay mindful while driving, talking, working – and even partying. If we’re mindful, we can change the way we think and lower our stress and anxiety. This helps us to deal much better with the problems in our lives.

Slowing down the Stress-y Mind with Mindfulness Meditation

Practising mindfulness is like slowing down the machinery of the mind enough to be able to look at it clearly. You can then see the thoughts that are making you feel depressed, angry or anxious – and start to get some distance from them. Instead of becoming overwhelmed by your feelings, you can start to manage them better. Seeing your emotions more clearly has huge benefit for your relationships. Mindfulness meditation also helps with attention and concentration, so it’s a good one to try if you’re studying or doing detailed work. As an addiction antidote, it’s also worth a look if you want to quit smoking or have more control over your alcohol use. People who’ve practised mindfulness-based stress reduction say that they have more energy, feel clearer about what’s happening in their life, sleep better and enjoy their work more. They’re also less anxious, better able to solve problems, and have fewer stress symptoms. Sounds pretty good to me. So how do you do it?

 

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How to Get Started with Mindfulness

Anyone can practice mindfulness – and you can do it anywhere. There are plenty of courses available. But if you want to get started with mindfulness meditation right from your living room, you only need 10 minutes a day of sitting quietly and focusing on your breathing. Your mind won’t stop doing its thing – it will keep giving you thoughts to respond to, because that’s its job. Yours is to just keep going back to your focus, without beating yourself up for getting distracted. You can try mindfulwalking too. Focus on the sensations of your feet meeting the ground underneath you, staying with each part of the walking movement and returning to it over and over as the mind wanders. For help with more specific problems, check out mindfulness-based stress reduction and mindfulness-based cognitive therapy.

Keeping the Dog on the Leash: Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction & Cognitive Therapy

How does mindfulness work? The fact is, our minds are like dogs off a leash – wandering around about 50 % of the time. By practising mindfulness techniques such as the body scan, we get to choose what we want to focus on rather than letting our minds pull us all over the place, often in directions that cause stress and depression. If we’re thinking – and especially worrying – too much, we also miss what’s happening right here and now. This means losing out on the juicy-ness of life, so we don’t enjoy our work, hobbies and relationships as much as we could.

Mindfulness-based stress reduction and mindfulness-based cognitive therapy, while a bit of a mouthful, are useful modern forms of the ancient practice of mindfulness. Research on meditation shows that these therapies have good track records with combating depression and anxiety. Mindfulness-based stress reduction helps you improve your awareness of your body. That way, you can catch the early signs that you’re starting to slip into a less than thriving state, and take control. Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy is a blend of breathing exercises, gentle stretching and meditation with cognitive therapy tools. The aim is to change the thought patterns that cause depression and anxiety. Thoughts that get you stuck in a negative cycle, like ‘I can’t do anything right’, ‘I’m not good enough’, ‘I’ll never get anywhere’. Powerful stuff!

From the Buddha to Silicon Valley: The History of Mindfulness

Mindfulness as a concept dates back thousands of years, to the time of the Buddha – but it’s gone way beyond Buddhist meditation. It was founded on Vipassana meditation which is about finding insight into what life is really about. In 1979, Jon Kabat-Zinn founded the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction program in the US, to treat people with long-term illness. Since then, mindfulnesshas been used more and more in the medical field, as well as in schools and prisons. It’s a way of being as well as a practice. And you don’t need to become a Buddhist to understand or practice it. Silicon valley employees and other corporate environments are hotbeds of mindfulness meditation, and even the former Archbishop of Canterbury, Lord Rowan Williams, practices a Buddhist-influenced meditation each day

How will this help you to transform your problems and pain?

Mindfulness helps us become more self-aware: the side-effects of this are more calm, better relationships, and a higher enjoyment factor.

 

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