One of the easiest ways to make a poor decision is by making a choice when the mind is engaged in a multitude of different activities. When the mind cannot fully focus on the question at hand, or when the priority is not on finding the best answer, the result is more likely to be a poor choice that results in less than desirable results.
Stress and anxiety are a problem for anyone. Allowing our mental dialogue to go on an endless loop of all the things we have to do, the decisions we have to make and the “what ifs” associated with each of those decisions are a recipe for disaster. Being able to silence that negative mental dialogue and bring your focus to the issue at hand can allow you to make the best decision with the facts you have at your disposal.
Mindfulness and Meditation
There is often confusion about mindfulness and meditation. Mediation involves mindfulness, but mindfulness can occur without meditation. To keep the differences clear, here are the basics:
- Mindfulness – becoming aware of the internal and external factors in your life. This includes your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors as well as your environment, movements, actions, and Mindfulness is a way of being that focuses your attention on those things that matter, learning to recognize and let go of those that do not.
- Meditation –includes mindfulness but brings a physical practice to the process. Meditation usually includes controlled breathing, opening your awareness, developing a sense of inner centering and peace in a specific format or practice. This is often designated as a specific period of time and can include a variety of practices from seated meditation to breathing or the use of mantras.
The benefit of both mindfulness and meditation is the ability to create a focus that allows you to develop an ability to clear the mind and bring your resources to bear on important issues. With mindfulness, this practice can occur anywhere and at any time, which is essential for professionals.
How to Development Mindfulness
Mindfulness is something that is constantly developing and evolving. It is not blocking out thoughts but rather teaching the mind to focus on specific thoughts to make clear, effective decisions and choices.
Any time you are feeling overwhelmed with information, bogged down in details or overrun with emotional feedback, here are some easy mindfulness techniques to use:
- Breathe in calmness – visualize the chaos in your mind. As you take a breath in through the nose and see calmness (perhaps water, sunlight, a favorite color) coming in through the nasal passages into the lungs and spreading throughout the body. With the exhale through your mouth or nose, see the chaos leaving your body, replaced with the calm image. Repeat 2 or 3 times until you feel your body and mind relaxing.
- Ground physically – think about something you do that makes you feel calm and relaxed. Create a physical anchor (object) that reminds you of this calm time in your life. Keep that anchor on our desk or in your line of sight and, if you start feeling stressed, look at or touch the object while remembering those feelings of inner peace.
- Become curious – being mindful means becoming aware of the things around you. The next time you start to do something routine, stop and become mindful of what you are thinking, what your body is doing, and what is going on around you.
These exercises seem simple, but they are not easy. With practice, you can extend your mindfulness and perfect using it in a wider variety of settings.