By Jamie Spannhake, Esq.
There is one thing you can do each day that will greatly improve your life, health, and relationships. You can do it anywhere. It doesn’t cost anything. It doesn’t require special tools or skills. It is mindfulness.
What is mindfulness?
Mindfulness means being present in the moment and focusing on what is happening right now. The opposite would be distractedness; for instance, while working, you’re focusing on all the things that need to be done around the house, or vice versa. When you practice mindfulness, you engage in deliberate actions (or inactions) that are intentional and conscious and less reactive.
Mindfulness is a little vacation for your mind.
Mindfulness creates calm and focuses the mind, cultivating greater attention and clarity. Mindfulness is scientifically validated to help people deal with the challenges and stressors of life. By working on focus and attention, you can manage your emotions better, connect with others more successfully, and become happier and more effective in your work and life. It can change the way you deal with yourself, your stressors, other people, and life. Essentially, it allows you to remain calm in the midst of the storm, without letting circumstances overwhelm you and cause frustration and exhaustion. Mindful action is proactive rather than reactive.
What are the benefits of mindfulness?
The key benefit is the ability to choose what you think about and do — in other words, the ability to act rather than react. A daily mindfulness practice can have the following five benefits too:
- Reduce stress and anxiety. Mindfulness calms the mind, which is the underlying premise for managing stress and anxiety. When we feel stressed and anxious, our minds are running at top speed in many different directions at the same time. Thus, the racing heart, tight muscles, and snappish reactions. Mindfulness can relax your mind and body to help you achieve a calmer state in which to face the world and all its challenges.
- Improve your ability to deal with difficult times and people. Mindfulness is very helpful during difficult times, and when dealing with difficult people. Sometimes our reactions to events and people are only partly related to that event or person. Often some past experience is coloring our reaction, and perhaps making it more intense or problematic than the situation or person alone warrants. Mindfulness can help by calming your mind and helping you identify and understand the deeper questions that arise during these times.
- Increase focus and productivity. Our lives with our many devices and distractions can make us feel frazzled and disrupt our ability to focus and pay attention. With all the obligations we handle in the numerous roles we play, mindfulness can restore our ability to focus and calm our mind so that we can manage all that we must.
- Increase compassion for self and others. Mindfulness can increase our capacity for compassion toward ourselves and others. Compassion is an emotional response whereby one perceives another’s problem and genuinely wants to help resolve the problem. This is part of what lawyers do: People come to us with their problems, or to avoid future problems, and we help resolve or avoid the problems. Without compassion, we cannot understand others, anticipate what they will do, or take pre-emptive steps to avoid problems.
- Develop perseverance. Life requires perseverance. We must keep working, keep trying, and keep going. We must be able to walk away when things are not working, take a break and come back fresh and ready. Mindfulness gives our brain the opportunity to rest and rejuvenate so that we can persevere.
How to Practice Mindfulness
Be present in the moment and focus on what is happening right now. If other thoughts come into your mind to distract you, notice the thoughts and then let them go. If you find it helpful, mentally address the thought with a nod of your head or a quiet “Hello” and then let it go and again focus on the present moment.
When something happens that leads to judgment, acknowledge that judgment, then let it go. Instead focus on the fact of what happened, not the judgment attached to the action.
Also focus on your breath. Just breathe. Be deliberate in your breathing. Take long, slow, calming breaths, in and out. Breathe in deeply, hold it for a few seconds, and breathe out completely.
You can also sigh on the exhale. It is a great release of stress and negative energy. Imagine breathing in the “good” and releasing the “bad” on the exhale. Deep breathing will relax the mind and body because you are giving your mind and body oxygen they need to feel good and work well, while releasing the waste carbon dioxide.
Throughout your day, notice times when you can take five minutes to focus on being present in the moment, and breathing deeply. You will have started your mindfulness practice and be on your way to acting deliberately and with intention.
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