An Introduction to Mindfulness

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I’m sure at some point you have become stressed at work whether meeting a deadline, presenting, managing challenging clients, delivering a project, etc.  Are you aware of the moment that you begin to get stressed?  Does your communication style change for the better or worse?  Do you let it bubble away before exploding?  Do you go home to de-stress with Netflix and then begin the whole process over the next day?

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We live our lives on automatic pilot, not really aware of what we are doing, and when our ‘buttons are pressed’ we are more likely to react rather than respond. We follow old habits of thinking which trigger automated and conditioned responses, which are often unhelpful and not needed.

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You are probably asking ‘So how do I become more aware and change these old habits?’

Through mindfulness.

Mindfulness is about becoming more aware of what’s going on right here, right now. We can appreciate our lives instead of rushing through them, always trying to get somewhere else. Being mindful can also prevent us being swept away by our habitual currents of thought and emotion, which can manifest as stress, depression, negative thinking, anxiety, anger, resentment or self-doubt.

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It’s about teaching yourself to be more:

  • Aware – of your body, your mind and the environment
  • Present – in this moment
  • Focused – more able to make choices about where you place your attention
  • Embodied – being in your body; bringing your mind and your body into synch
  • Accepting – of yourself and others

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Whilst meditation is an age old practice, in modern times academic research has demonstrated the significant benefits of mindfulness practice for our physical health, mental health and wellbeing (happiness). There are a growing number of research papers showing meditation can actually change the size of your brain, improve your memory and make us more empathetic, compassionate and resilient under stress. Sara Lazar’s TED Talk provides some interesting facts about this.

Just to dispel any myths, you don’t need to sit in the lotus position, wear robes and shave your head, and you don’t need to become a Buddhist.

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If you’d like to know more about it or try some meditation for yourself, check out the Headspace app by Andy Puddicombe, it gives you a free taster and easy intro to meditation.

I would highly recommend enrolling for a Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) group course. They are typically 8 weeks long and instructor led allowing you to gain a greater appreciation of meditation and its benefits in a relatively short period.  For accredited instructors of the MBSR courses check out the mindfulness network, or if you are in London I’d recommend beingmindful.co.uk.

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Mike Mears

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