An Introduction to Mindfulness – Being Present and Efficient
This article gives a brief introduction to mindfulness and some practical applications in life and focuses on how being present can reduce your stress levels and help you to be more efficient at getting things done.
Where Mindfulness Originated from
“Mindfulness is awareness that arises through paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgementally.” Jon Kabat-Zinn
Mindfulness originates from Buddhism. Buddhism is a ‘practice’ not a religion following the ideas and concepts of a person called ‘Buddah’. Buddhism follows a mindful concept of being aware of your thoughts and feelings and observing them. Jon Kabat-Zinn, a Molecular Biologist graduate from MIT who’d been introduced to meditation while completing his PhD, went on to adapt the Buddhist teachings on mindfulness and created Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction. In 1979 he founded the Stress Reduction Clinic at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. He is responsible for helping to bring mindfulness into mainstream society.
Another description of mindfulness is:-
A mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations, used as a therapeutic technique.
Using Mindfulness to Become Focused
Mindfulness is a way of paying attention to what you are doing. Our minds are always so busy that they are easily distracted, and we spend too much time and exertion of energy thinking about the past or the future, what we would have done differently, what someone said or did, what we should do or need to do, our minds and thoughts are constantly all over the place. We go on autopilot while driving or performing tasks so that we can’t actually remember sections of a car journey or did I lock the front door or not?
Mindfulness is about being present and paying attention to what we are doing. If we are present when we lock the front door, we know that we have locked it and don’t have to waste time worrying later in the day wondering if we did lock it or not. Being present while carrying out tasks can make us more efficient and can save us unnecessary worry and stress. If we pay attention to tasks we can often get the task done more quickly, efficiently and to a higher standard because we are focusing on it. If we focus on something, we are more likely to achieve it.
Have you ever done the washing up while busy thinking of your ‘to do’ list? The washing up takes longer because your attention is in different places and items might be cleanish but not as clean as they could be but ‘it’ll do’ because you’re feeling stressed and short of time. If you were present while doing the washing up, the items would have been perfectly clean; you would have taken less time and feel less stressed.
Using Mindfulness to Become Present and Positive
When our minds are busy, and we are not present we often fail to notice the good things around us, so we focus on the negative things or the things that need doing which creates stress and negativity in our mindset, and we feel burdened. Worrying about how much you have to get done that day is not going to get anything done but instead, you have wasted time, energy and emotion focusing on something that hasn’t produced anything positive.
Often when people are walking their dog or walking their children to school they are busy thinking about other things, they don’t notice the environment around them, they miss out on the connection or conversation with their dog or children. They are missing out on the fun and the interaction. The children or dog might even do or say something which could make the person laugh or smile but they miss out on it because they’re not really listening or watching. You might have thought through your tasks for the day whilst walking but it’s still not written down and is likely to be a jumble of thoughts and ‘must do’s’ in your mind rather than a clear plan.
Being present whilst walking the dog in the park allows you to give attention and affection to your dog, to enjoy their company, to notice the birds or flowers, to enjoy your mind not being busy and so you can relax and enjoy the walk, feel refreshed and calm or uplifted and rejuvenated.
When you get back from walking the dog spend a few minutes being present and write out your ‘to do’ list for the day, timings, logistics and clear priorities. You will be able to do this quickly and efficiently and may even come up with some solutions that you wouldn’t have thought of whilst walking your dog and not being present. This way you have had the opportunity to enjoy walking the dog, reduce your stress and have a clear action plan for the day. Keep being present for each task or appointment during the day, don’t waste time or energy worrying about the future, you will be less flustered, spend less exhausting energy feeling harassed or anxious about getting everything done and hopefully achieve everything or even more.
Other Benefits of Mindfulness
“Your worst enemy cannot harm you as much as your own unguarded thoughts” Buddah
When your mind is multitasking, it is difficult to see things clearly. Being present and mindful can allow you to see the bigger picture or the minute detail or find the elusive solution you’ve been racking your brains for, for months. It allows for clarity.
Mindfulness also allows us to look at what emotions and feelings are being triggered or felt in a situation or by other people and to observe those thoughts and emotions. It helps us to identify habitual reactions and judgemental ideas and thoughts. By observing our thoughts and emotions, we can then change these patterns or allow ourselves not to react in that way creating less stress for ourselves. There may be someone that always annoys you or triggers a strong reaction in you; the reaction can bring up all sorts of negative emotions for you and so by reacting this way each time, you are actually hurting yourself. Mindfulness can help you to see another way to act or respond, not react and help to stop you from hurting yourself. Life will always have its’ pressures but being present and using mindfulness can help us to deal with them in a calmer less stressful and emotional way.
The benefits of mindfulness include helping individuals to:
- Recognise, slow down or stop automatic and habitual reactions
- Respond more effectively to complex or difficult situations
- See situations more clearly
- Become more creative
- Achieve balance and resilience at work and home