Mindfulness: mystery, magic, or just another humbug?
You’ve probably heard of it by now; the concept of mindfulness. It can best be described as both a state of mind and a practice. It is the psychological process of bringing your attention to the internal and external experiences of the present. The concept of mindfulness originates from Buddhism, but has evolved into a developable skill by practicing mediation for instance. Among Tim Ferriss’ podcast guests, about 80 to 90 percent do some form of meditation. So, it is safe to say many world-class performers are convinced of the benefits.
What is in it for me?
Many researches have gathered quite some empirical evidence on the benefits of mindfulness. By living in the present the more, the following benefits can be encountered:
- Fewer symptoms of depression,
- Stress reduction,
- Boost of working memory capacity,
- Higher focus,
- Less emotional reactivity,
- More cognitive flexibility,
- Enhanced self-insight and intuition, and
- Decreased anxiety.
Viewing these benefits, mindfulness has the potential to increase your overall quality of life. Who wouldn’t want to complain less and enjoy life more? Here are some of the practices to incorporate in everyday life to increase your mindfulness.
Have daily mediation sessions where you take some time for yourself and focus only on your mind or nothing at all. It will feel a bit awkward at first, but that gets better over time. Or try to get used to this new habit with..
For the ones that struggle with traditional meditation, Headspace was invented. This is a great mobile app for meditation novices, like myself. What I personally love about this app is that you’re able to focus on a specific subject during the meditation session. During the session you’re guided through the exercise, making it easier to follow and mentally wonder off or even worse, fall asleep (happened to me more than once). Focussing on nothing is quite hard, if not impossible. When your mind races at 1000 miles an hour, focussing on one matter makes it a lot easier. It took me about 30 consecutive days before I got into the ease of it, not even to mention all the efforts before that, so don’t get discouraged. I am currently doing the series on happiness, as I like to start my day with positive vibes.
Morning power questions
In “Awaken the Giant Within”, Tony Robbins elaborates on an exercise called the morning power questions. The exercise consists of seven questions that you have to answer in the morning, like the name suggests. Each and every one of the answers will provoke an emotion, which in turn will lead to a more present mental state. When I ask myself the morning power questions I tend to feel more present and grateful for the rest of the day. Try asking yourself these power questions tomorrow morning:
- What am I happy about in my life now?
- What am I excited about in my life now?
- What am I proud about in my life now?
- What am I grateful about in my life now?
- What am I enjoying in my life right now?
- What am I committed to in my life right now?
- Who do I love? Who loves me?
Resolve internal conflict
Another great exercise by Tony Robbins on the same subject, is this guided mediation practice to resolve internal conflict. The tool is backed up by neurological explanations that support the need to resolve unfinished business in our minds. When using this tool, you’ll be guided through an exercise that will help you feel grateful after. As Robbins says himself: “Gratitude derails anger and fear, which are the two emotions that mess us up the most”.
Being mindful does not only have to do with your mind, it can also be applied to an activity. In this case my favourite activity, eating! People that know me are well aware of the fact that I turn into a hangry monster whenever my stomach starts rumbling. When I get to eat, I actually inhale the food and eat way too much in a short amount of time. Eating too fast has a negative impact on your digestive system. The practice of mindful eating, teaches you to appreciate the food and eat smaller portions at a slower pace. This way, you’ll enjoy your meal more and do not overeat.
Really, you do this new age stuff?
To be honest, I was quite the sceptic when I first came across the concept of mindfulness. In my perception, meditation and everything similar to it was for hippies and new age fanatics. My curiosity took over my scepticism and I decided to give it a shot, and another one and another one. Only after I gave it about the 99th shot (at least that’s what it felt like), I finally experienced convincing added value of these mindfulness practices. After all, why are we working so hard if we’re not able to enjoy it along the way? I am curious to learn how you feel towards the mindfulness hype and what are your favourite practices?