With the abundance of competing distractors in present day, it can be challenging to remain focused on one task at a time. Our minds are riddled with thoughts of errands to run, responsibilities to take care of, meetings to attend, and the like. When thousands of thoughts and concerns are circling around our mind all at once, it can feel like we are going through the motions on autopilot without truly experiencing life. The New Year is a time for renewed focus and to mindfully live your best life in both your work and personal life.
Mindfulness is a mental state characterized by awareness of and attention to the present moment from a nonjudgmental stance. It takes practice to develop this quality, but once mastered has several cognitive benefits for attention and memory. Practice in mindfulness teaches us to disengage from distracting stimuli and maintain attention on a focal objective. Mindfulness is practiced through breathing techniques which guide our attention to the changing bodily sensations as it relates to the breath – the rising and falling of the abdomen, the expansion of the chest, the tingling sensation at the tip of the nose, and anything else we may be experiencing in that very moment. The breath is used as an anchor upon which to fix our attention, and gently guide ourselves back from when our minds have wandered.
A key component of mindfulness is acceptance. While carrying out these exercises, it is natural that thoughts will arise which pull attention away from the objective. Rather than suppressing these thoughts and becoming frustrated at our inability to maintain focus, mindfulness instructs us to simply notice when we have drifted, acknowledge the thought with nonjudgmental acceptance and without further evaluation, and then gently bring our attention back to the breath to continue with the practice.
Over time, training in mindfulness can serve to develop emotional intelligence in intrapersonal and interpersonal circumstances. By training our minds to recognize our internal states of being, we can learn to notice when we feel ourselves becoming overwhelmed, stressed, reactive, or flustered, and reflect on how these emotional states impact others.
Try practicing mindfulness as you kick off 2015! Below are some tips on ways to incorporate mindfulness in your daily life:
- When you notice you are feeling stressed or overwhelmed, take a few minutes to breathe. Breathe in deeply for a few seconds, and exhale for twice as long as slowly as possible. Try doing this for ten breaths.
- Every so often, “check in” with your body. Notice if you are feeling tense, and try to identify the source of the problem.
- Tune out any potential distractions – especially electronic devices! This will help your remain focused on one task at a time.
As you learn to build mindfulness, you will begin to notice a greater sense of peace and fulfillment in your daily life. Mindfulness practices teach us to attend to our experiences rather than letting them pass by us, and can undoubtedly shape you into a more focused and productive leader throughout your work activities and interactions with others. Stay tuned for more insights on how mindfulness can enhance your impact as a leader!
Look out during the month of January on our website and through social media (Twitter, LinkedIn), for more information on the topic of mindfulness and how it can be applied to leadership and organizational development.