Mindful

The name is somewhat ironic. I’d perhaps rename it momentful (it doesn’t roll off the tongue though). The moment becomes full and rich, (the mind becomes less full), you feel your senses, you inhabit your body (rather than just your head), there is space in the mind for ideas to flow in, space to be curious about the information outside of your thoughts. You see more, you are calmer, you choose a response rather than impulsively react.

You’re present.

Not distracted or multi-tasking, but present to what is happening in life in that moment.

Our life is made up of a series of moments so it’s pretty significant to start to fully inhabit our lives. It’s the difference between a satisfying and fulfilling existence to one in which you wonder where the time has gone and what you did with your life. It’s the difference between connection with another and disconnection.

Mindfulness has been proven to reduce stress and anxiety, it’s been proven to change your brain chemistry. It’s an effective treatment for depression and chronic pain conditions. The stats are impressive and there is a list of them here, if you like stats.

Mindfulness both moves us up from the lower end of the wellbeing spectrum away from depression and anxiety and allows us to move to the higher end of the wellbeing spectrum. Being present allows us greater joy in life. As we inhabit our bodies more, food tastes better, moving feels better, connection with others is greater. We feel more grateful and more compassionate as we are able to disentangle from the repetitive thought loops and respond to what is actually happening.

Many people are alive but don’t touch the miracle of being alive.

Thich Nhat Hanh

It allows interventions such as coaching to have greater impact as it drops us out of the loop of thinking that gets us stuck in old stories and unhelpful behaviours (such as victim mindset) and it drops our attention into the body. From there we calm the nervous system, we feel safer and we have capacity to see a new perspective. We’re more receptive to new information and less entrenched in our “usual ways of thinking”.

Integrating mindfulness and coaching powerfully combines the two practices and allows greater scope for new beliefs to be embedded and new behaviours to be adopted.

There have been numerous scientific studies on the effect of mindful meditation. This is an overview from Harvard University.

What is mindfulness?

Ultimately mindfulness is paying attention to more than just our thoughts. Most of us are listening to the internal chatter in our heads; even when we are reading or watching something we’re often listening to the commentary in our heads or our internal response to what is being said. Mindfulness is the skill of disengaging from the thought.

Our thoughts are usually about the past or the future so disengaging invites us into the present.

How we achieve the capacity to disentangle from the grip of our constant thoughts is through mindful meditation. A practice of sitting upright, breathing full slow breaths and shifting our attention away from thought to the anchor of the breath. You can try a simple breathing technique and feel the mind and body relax and the energy drop from the head to the centre of the body.

Why do we need mindfulness?

The impulse to think is natural to humans however it’s a muscle we have overworked. We’ve overworked it to the point that we are in a hype state of “wired”, tension in the body is the norm, as is insomnia and a constant low level anxiety in most people.

Our way of life has become intensely cerebral. We are overstimulated by the relentless stream of information. There is always more “content” our brains could consume and be stimulated by whether it’s from work, social media, rolling news, infinite sports, endless boxed sets… Our rural ancestors would not have been constantly wired and tense in the ways that we are.

The constant pressure to be doing more means we’ve also lost the ability to rhythmically and fully rest.

Mindfulness helps us slow the body and calm the brain so that it accepts and trusts that it can rest, it does’t need to be pinging to the next thought or action – it’s safe to switch off.

What next?

If you want to try mindfulness but haven’t know where to begin, please explore some free meditations here. Simply choose a time to sit quietly, it works well to schedule it so that you do it! Take a comfortable seat, ideally in a quiet place where you will be warm enough and undisturbed. A top tip is to have your exhale longer than your inhale, this invites the parasympathetic nervous system to initiate.

Want to try it now? Notice the rise and fall of your chest as you breathe. Try breathing in for a count of 4, hold, then exhale for a count of 6. Pause and then inhale again. As thoughts arise simply notice “oh that’s a thought” and return your attention to your breath. Gently close your eyes to deepen the practise. Just a couple of minutes breathing this way will significantly reduce levels of cortisol in your system.

Mindfulness sessions for your workplace.

Having a regular session at the workplace gives everyone the opportunity to learn and benefit from mindfulness. It creates a beautiful vibe in the workplace on mindful days. The sessions often include little tools and tips for adding mindfulness to the workday so teams and individuals can learn how to integrate it into work life.

In March and April there are 15 taster sessions available. Email angela@angeladavenport.com to enquire about having a mindfulness taster session at your workplace.

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