Double your Life!

Would you love to have more time? Would you like to double your life?

Sounds pretty good to me.

Do you remember when you were a young child, say somewhere between the ages of six and eleven, when a year seemed to last forever? The school holidays, and in particular, the summer holidays seemed to last for a year? Now as an adult, the years seem to fly by, and every year seems to go by even faster than the last!

Well, I have a theory about this.

Children are naturally mindful. They are not thinking about what happened yesterday, they are not worrying about what they are going to do tomorrow or next week. They are living completely in the present. Enjoying their day and fully absorbed in whatever it is they are doing right in that moment. As adults, even when we are ‘taking time out’ we are still thinking about other things. The disagreement we had with someone the day before, or thinking about what we have to do either later that day or when we return to work. The truth is, we are rarely ever truly ‘present’.

Research by Harvard Business School has found that people are ‘lost in thought’ about 47% of their waking hours. According to their research, ‘people spend 46.9 percent of their waking hours thinking about something other than what they’re doing, and this mind-wandering typically makes them unhappy.’

Our thinking is often consumed by the past and the future. From a mindfulness perspective, embracing the present is about learning to engage in the moment and be completely absorbed in what you’re doing. Our brain can drive us crazy with its myriad of thoughts, and one of the tricks to reducing our levels of stress is to recognise that we don’t have to respond to every single one. We can choose what we want to focus on.

Mindfulness is a Buddhist concept founded thousands of years ago. A modern explanation is as follows: ‘Mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way; on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally.’ This is how it has been described by Jon Kabat-Zinn, the creator of the Stress Reduction Clinic and Centre for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care, and Society at the University of Massachusetts Medical School.

In more recent times, the western scientific community has become supportive of mindfulness and its relationship with our overall sense of wellbeing. Mindfulness is the ability to observe your thoughts and emotions without necessarily becoming them. This links back beautifully to emotional intelligence and the skill of self-awareness. Mindfulness (just like self-awareness) helps you to observe your emotions without judgement and assume an open, curious and problem-solving approach to managing them. By slowing down and living more thoughtfully and gently we have a greater sense of calm and wellbeing.

Mindfulness is not just about meditation and breathing or relaxation. It is also not about ‘emptying your mind’. Some people mistakenly think that mindfulness or meditation is about not thinking about anything. That is not the case and Andy Puddicombe explains this well in his TED Talk, 10 Mindful Minutes, when he says, ‘It’s more about stepping back, sort of seeing the thought clearly, witnessing it coming and going, emotions coming and going without judgement, but with a relaxed, focused mind’.  Being mindful means being able to truly focus on the task at hand and be present. It means letting the thoughts that wander into your mind simply pass by, observing them as distractions and not becoming caught up with them. This helps you give your attention and full focus to the job at hand and be more productive. Incorporating mindfulness into everyday life and activity will allow you to develop a healthy perspective of the way you view the world generally. This enhances our sense of happiness, mental health and levels of resilience.

While I cannot lay claim to being an expert in mindfulness, I do practice five minutes of mindful and regulated breathing each morning before I start work. Practicing regulated breathing helps improve our ability to manage stress. Slow breathing allows us to increase the variability of our heart rate to decrease stress, improve focus and build resilience. Our breathing rate affects our heart rate patterns, which affects how our brain deals with stress. And all these processes are highly interconnected. While it’s difficult to directly control your heart rate, or your brain function, you can control your breathing rate. By regularly slowing your breathing down, you can improve your heart rate variability, which will allow your brain to more effectively deal with the stressful situations you encounter. Even when I worked as an employee in an office, I would start my morning by spending time in an available meeting room, undertaking mindful breathing before going to my desk and starting my working day. After those five minutes, I always feel amazing. I feel alert, re-charged and ready to take on whatever it is I am doing that day. My head feels clear and my energy levels are great.

Often in my training programs or coaching sessions, when I suggest to people that they take five minutes out of their working day to practice a bit of mindful meditation they will tell me that they don’t have the time. You don’t have five minutes? Well actually, you do. If you have time to make a coffee, you have time for a little mindfulness meditation.

Honestly, when you make time, you create time. Don’t believe me? Try it and let me know how you get on.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.