The concept of mindfulness is becoming more mainstream, talked about and more accepted as an essential skill that people benefit from learning in today’s busy and hectic world. Whether it is your sports performances, your work performances or in everyday life; learning mindfulness can certainly make a positive difference!
Jon Kabat-Zinn, the founder of mindfulness, defines mindfulness as an “awareness that arises through paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgmentally.’ Effectively, it is about knowing what is on your mind in the present moment. There is no stress, worry or preoccupation about what is in the past nor what might happen in the future. You are fully in the here and now, accepting what is without judgement.
It can however be challenging to ‘be fully present in the moment’ as our minds have a tendency of jumping from one thing to the next. We often worry about what has happened in the past and wonder whether the same thing (often with negative connotations) will happen again. We worry about what might happen in the future and project all sorts of scenarios, again many with negative projections. We worry about the stories we tell ourselves after we experience something yet don’t check out the facts to find out what is true.
There are so many benefits of practicing mindfulness. Mindfulness improves a person’s mental and emotional well-being. People who practice mindfulness have a greater capacity to deal with adverse events and tend to be more resilient when things happen. On the physical side of things, the benefits are exhaustive including relief from stress, lowered blood pressure and reduced pain. From a mental perspective, mindfulness can help reduce depression and anxiety.
How does mindfulness relate to performance? One of the challenges many people face is dealing with their mind and all the negative thoughts and fears they have. By developing the skill of becoming more mindful and therefore more present in the moment, they learn to be able to acknowledge what is going on with their thoughts, their bodies and the environment and then choosing to direct their attention to what they need to do to perform to the best of their abilities. With practice, they learn what are the task-relevant details (and thoughts) that help them to perform optimally and learn to let go of any thoughts that do not help. Essentially, they can reassure themselves that at that very instant in time, all is well!
Another benefit of becoming more mindful is that it effectively gives us some breathing space, a pause to gather our thoughts and decide what next. When we become mindful, we take a few moments to notice, to accept and then make a conscious choice as to what to focus on. Ideally, we chose to focus on something that is positive or that is helpful in whatever situation we are in. This in turn gives us more flexibility in how we might respond rather than in a reactive, almost knee-jerk or programmed manner.
If you would like some support in developing your mindfulness skills, give me a call for a chat to discuss further.
Point to ponder: I challenge you to take one minute right now and get curious about being fully present. Notice what you notice, without judgement. Then, when you complete that one minute, ponder what difference consciously practicing and developing this skill of mindfulness might help you. What do you need to start doing to practice regularly?