Ep 14: Eternal Sunshine of the Testless Mind

You’ve probably heard about Mindfulness, its got a lot of press, good and bad1. recently, but I want to talk about it in the context of work.

First, an intro, for those who need it.

Mindfulness is based on Buddhist meditation that as the name suggests is based around being aware of yourself and your surroundings.

Getting lost in the zone or work or even your own head can be wonderful for chugging through a complex problem, but it can also cause issues with the same, resulting in you not seeing the wood for the trees.

Taking a step back and bringing yourself back into your body can revitalise (or relax) you and can help you return to work with a fresher pair of eyes.

The easiest way of doing this is breathing. Just the act of firstly breathing properly2. if you can, which means engaging your diaphragm, and your stomach should move before your chest can help. That act of changing how you breathe if you don’t breathe properly already will trigger some mindfulness, because you will be aware of your breathing, you won’t be able to not feel your stomach moving, the air passing through your nose.

If you do already breath properly, ace, you’ll have to focus yourself on how your breathing feels.

Doing that (and just that) for 2 to 3 minutes can have an effect, even if it may be unsettling at first.

It took me a while to get into Mindfulness – the course I did started with full body scans, which is lying down for 20 to 30 minutes, being aware of parts of your body, starting from either the top of your head or your toes (toes to head is supposed to invigorate you, head down to relax you). And it is thorough, toes, tops and bottoms of feet, ankles, all done separately, so each session takes a while. But if you can get it (and I am aware not everyone can) I think its helpful for work, as well as personally.

Firstly it forces you to give yourself space, a commodity I think is highly valuable and should be protected and gathered more often. Rushing and being under pressure leads to fire fighting, which generally leads to short term thinking and nothing good comes of that.

Take a second, breath, then look at the issue again.

You’re also encouraged to be kindly curious about things. Focusing your mind on one thing is hard, you will wander, and that’s fine. Take note of what you’re thinking of, then slowly bring your mind back.

If you notice something off in your body or mind whilst being aware of it (pain, tenseness), you are encouraged to try to relax that part of your body, but if not, that’s fine too.

And that can be useful. You are encouraged to be curious about things, to approach things, even if they might be hard, but again, with an open mind.

This becomes a habit. Practising being more aware of yourself means you become more aware in general. It becomes second nature. You are also more likely to approach things you wouldn’t before (especially in the case of mental health issues), and you’re kinder to yourself if things don’t work out.

Thirdly, its an act of kindness, and being kind to yourself is a hard thing to do, and its not always valued as it should be. One of the steps of Mindfulness is kindly awareness, both to yourself and to others. Being aware that everyone has their own story, their own struggles is a whole section you can dedicate time to.

Go be kind to yourself and someone else today. I recommend it.

Its something else that will become second nature. And its easier to be empathetic when you get in the habit of being kind. That means you’re more likely to think about how other people interact with things, or where other people are coming from if they disagree with you.

Leading on from that is my favourite part of Mindfulness: respond, not react.

Full disclosure, I suffer from anxiety, and one of the ways that manifests is very defensive reacting to things, which is bad for everyone, as no one gets a good resolution, and I spend a week afterwards beating myself up about it. So I practise responding. Taking a momentary step back and making sure I’m not kneejerk reacting to things, make sure I’m not coming from a place of anxiety. I like to think it helps with my interpersonal skills and relationships.

Sometimes I’ll go sit in a quiet area of the office and listen to a guided breath meditation (aptly called the 3 minute breathing space), and then get back to work, and I think it does wonders. Sometimes it feels almost indulgent if I’m on a deadline or just really busy, but I really notice the difference. I complete work to a higher standard, and feel much better.

I highly recommend mindfulness, and I’ll put some resources in the show notes for learning more, and a video so you can give guided breathing meditation a go

Resources

Breathworks (run the courses I have done):
http://www.breathworks-mindfulness.org.uk/

Example video

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8gcUSfTEn84

Footnote

[1]http://www.theguardian.com/science/brain-flapping/2015/may/21/mindfulness-drug-free-side-effects
[2]http://www.selfication.com/how-to-breathe/

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