If you’ve been even remotely awake the last decade or so, you’ve probably heard something about mindfulness, the practice of which has seemingly exploded in popularity over the last few years. While the plethora of yoga and meditation classes designed to promote mindfulness seem logical, you might be surprised to know that powerhouse business schools are offering courses on mindfulness in leadership. Further, the medical community– the pillar of scientific thought and empirical evidence – has also embraced mindfulness within mainstream medicine, acknowledging that the practice of being mindful can help with common challenges such as chronic pain, anxiety, depression, emotional stress, and even cancer and chronic disease. Those are some fairly powerful statements that certainly warrant taking a closer look at the practice.
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So, what exactly is mindfulness?
Simply put, mindfulness is the quality or state of being consciously aware. This mental state is achieved by focusing your awareness on the present moment and acknowledging the accompanying feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations without judgement (this latter criterion is key as it helps keep your emotions out of it). Because mindfulness involves being fully present in the moment, and considering things with a clear, non-judgmental head space, it is a powerful tool for focusing and thus simplifying your life.
Being mindful in our current society is not the norm; we are overstimulated and often in a constant state of frenzy. As a result, people use various types of meditation to develop their ability to be mindful, including breathing exercises and types of walking meditation. Both techniques, and in fact mindfulness itself, take consistent practice in order to become proficient. This is because in addition to the harried pace of our current world, the human brain is also not wired to sustain focus in that manner. Seriously, try it. Sit quietly and think about just your breathing for thirty seconds. You can do anything for thirty seconds, right?
How long did you go before your mind wandered? If you’re like most people, likely not much more than a few seconds. That’s because your brain naturally looks to spring from one thought to the next making connections. It takes significant practice and discipline to remain singularly focused.
Similarly, the human brain is also not wired to focus on the positive, but rather the negative; when you were trying to focus on your breathing, it is likely your attention shifted to something you were worried or anxious about. We ruminate on these negative events because, as a species, we are wired to note potential threats in our environment in order to survive. This sort of rumination can lead to stress, anxiety, and a loss of productivity. Because mindfulness can help direct your focus away from negative thoughts or stimuli – things that we often have little to no real control over anyway— it can reduce stress and anxiety allowing for a greater sense of well-being and increased productivity.
While increased focus on the task at hand and reduced stress are solid enough reasons to embrace mindfulness, the practice has much more to offer; mindfulness has also proven to be a powerful tool for improving social interactions. Essentially, mindfulness can help you respond appropriately and compassionately in tricky social situations. Mindfulness has been described as the space between action and reaction; an individual who is mindful will take that space to consider how to respond rather than simply reacting in what is often an emotionally charged way. While sitting in said space, the individual can acknowledge their thoughts, feelings, and sensations sans judgement or emotional connections; the goal is to simply assess what is without trying to make any sort of meaning out of it. After all, feelings and emotions aren’t inherently ‘wrong,’ it’s just the way we respond to them that can be troublesome. By taking the time to objectively acknowledge these instead of just reacting, you can make more informed, rational decisions while avoiding potential anxiety or stress; this is vital when interacting with people. Everyone comes from a different place and has a unique perception of the world around them, being able to look at a situation unencumbered by your own biases can afford you a better vantage point to understand them and meet them in the middle.
Today’s world can be somewhat chaotic; while there’s little that can be done to change the nature of that system, you can change how you exist within it. Mindfulness can help you make that change and simplify your life by helping to drill down on what’s actually significant. Once you’re able to separate out what really needs your focus, you can then stop wasting your time and energy on trivial matters and stressors and instead be present in the moment. Perhaps that feels like a random message coming from someone working at a speech recognition company. But the fact of the matter is that we at nVoq believe in the importance of taking care of yourself and your patients just as much as we believe that solutions like SayIt can help simplify and focus your practice so. The time your patients spend with a doctor might end up being the most important time in their life. If we can help make that time more meaningful, then we have both done our job!
Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information on how SayIt can help you create a more mindful practice!