Mastering Mindfulness

Daniella Cressman
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In today’s world, it’s not unusual to consistently work ten-hour shifts and hold down three jobs. Unfortunately, it can be extremely difficult to remain present, content, and energetic when you have so much to handle on a weekly basis.

THE BENEFITS OF MEDITATION

Meditation offers a myriad of benefits. These are wonderful personally, but they also make an enormous difference professionally.

IT INCREASES CONCENTRATION

This is perhaps the most important benefit when it comes to productivity. Plenty of people become far more productive after they begin a regular meditation practice.

Impressively, a study was conducted in 2013 which stated that mindfulness training actually improved GRE reading comprehension scores while simultaneously reducing wandering thoughts. Since many of us need to complete so many duties to perform every week in this society in order to make a living, it makes a lot of sense that meditation is a powerful way to train our minds so that we can actually focus on fulfilling one obligation at a time. This may be surprising, but there’s been quite a bit of research done which states that doing one thing at a time actually results in people completing their tasks faster. In fact, people actually lose 20% of their productivity for each additional task they try to take on.

If you find yourself struggling to focus on a particular responsibility of yours, you may want to utilize these tips from Emma Seppala, Ph.D.: a renowned international psychologist, speaker, and author. She shares her invaluable wisdom, stating that it is important to become present, quiet the overly active mind, help others, and stop the train of self-focused thought before it runs off of its metaphorical tracks.

Dr. Seppala writes beautifully about childlike wonder: Most adults are incredibly enchanted by how present children are. They cry one minute and laugh the next, and they haven’t even learned how to criticize themselves for either emotion because society hasn’t yet taught them to do so. Conversely, we as adults often try to hang onto joyous moments for dear life and bury traumatic, sad, or frustrating experiences in the depths of our souls instead of simply embracing the present moment. In essence, it’s essential to know that anger, contentment, fear, excitement, sadness, and every other emotion in life is simply part of the wild ride we are on, and we’re meant to experience each one fully instead of constantly planning for the future or frequently attempting to relive the past.

Self-focus is all too easy to fall into. Many of us start to think of ourselves as the center of the universe and become frustrated with those around us for their criticism or lack of commitment when it comes to our mutual plans. Whatever the case may be, it’s always a good idea to get out of this mental rut by realizing that we are the equivalent of one grain of sand on a vast beach. It’s essential to view our human tendencies in a humorous light, allowing ourselves to laugh at how self-centered and nihilistic we can sometimes become.

It’s essential to observe our emotions about the world around us rather than getting lost in them. This will likely lead to increased contentment.

IT HELPS YOU REGULATE YOUR EMOTIONS

Meditation helps people regulate their emotions according to brain imaging research. A regular practice is absolutely wonderful because it helps us observe our emotions rather than being consumed by them.

If you’re feeling a bit down on yourself, it can be all too easy to start ruminating about something that someone said to you or worrying about your insecurities. We all do this, and it’s perfectly normal, but this is not great for our mental health. Thankfully, meditation can help you observe that perhaps you are entering a spiral of negativity, and it will often become easier to observe the emotions you are experiencing without judging them.

Human beings are the only animals who can metaphorically live in the past or the future. While this is a wonderful gift because it allows us to learn, play, and reason, it can also be a tremendous burden because it can wreak havoc on our emotional well-being. In fact, a wide variety of philosophies and religions have pointed out that we are happiest when our minds are firmly planted in the present moment. This certainly seems to be the case from a spiritual perspective: The happiest people are often those who have learned to live life to the fullest, no matter what their circumstances are.

MINDFULNESS PRACTICES REDUCE STRESS

Many people suffer from anxiety and depression in this day and age. Social anxiety disorder is all too common, and it can feel completely debilitating for someone who is trying to make friends and get out a bit more. Fortunately, mindfulness can help with this.

According to a study by Philippe Goldin and James Cross, mindfulness-based stress reduction, or MBSR, has been shown to reduce symptoms of anxiety, stress, and depression. All too often, people with anxiety also struggle with low self-esteem. Meditation and mindfulness practices, can help you center yourself and regulate your emotions.

IT HELPS YOU EMBRACE JUST BEING

Many people will start meditating and suddenly start feeling guilty about not being ‘productive.’ Of course, this is completely understandable, given that we’re in a society where we frequently define ourselves by our job titles.

When people meditate, they can finally learn how to accept themselves for simply being human. If you think about it, it’s quite astounding that we are living this life in this body, and merely sending positive energy into the universe or taking a few minutes each day to care for our minds is actually invaluable in the grand scheme of things. Sometimes, the most productive thing a person can possibly do is dedicate a certain amount of time each day to sit still and observe their thoughts. This simple act can make an enormous difference in every aspect of their life.

IT HELPS YOU REMAIN PRESENT

Too often, we spend our time worrying about the future or reliving the past. Fortunately, meditation helps you observe your thoughts and gradually enjoy the present more fully. Although this can take time, it will help you feel much more content in the long run.

FEWER SICK EMPLOYEES LEADS TO A MORE PRODUCTIVE WORKFORCE

When all of your employees are worn out and sick, it can be extremely challenging to run a successful business: It’s hard to get all hands on deck when nine out of ten people on your team are either taking sick days or doing subpar work because they’re exhausted. On the other hand, people who are present and well-rested are generally much more productive and have a lot more energy.

STATISTICS

It takes about twenty-five minutes for the human mind to reach its peak performance: a state in which someone is completely focused on the task at hand and does their absolute best work. Unfortunately, most of us get distracted about every three minutes, and understandably so: There’s so much stimuli in our environments that it’s all too easy for our minds to wander. Meditation increases focus, meaning that more and more people will be able to reach peak performance at work after they’ve started a regular practice. In short, meditation isn’t just another thing to do: It’s a practice that will elevate every area of your life.

When you tell someone that sitting still and focusing on their breath for five or ten minutes each day will actually change their personal and professional life drastically, there are bound to be some skeptics, especially in a world where productivity is often valued more than creativity and relaxation. Fortunately, the brilliant Matthew Killingsworth and Daniel T. Gilbert decided to conduct a study about whether a person was actually unhappier if they had a wandering mind. They developed a web application where they could collect data from a wide variety of people.

They asked 2250 adults to answer the following questions:

“What are you doing right now?”

“How are you doing right now?”

“Are you thinking about something other than what you’re currently doing?”

For the last question, each person was asked to report to the app whether they were thinking about something else pleasant, neutral, or negative if they answered, “Yes.” It turned out that people were usually thinking about something else, no matter what task they were engaging in. This actually occurred 46.9% of the time, so almost half of these people were distracted, thinking about other things as they went about their daily lives.

Interestingly, it didn’t actually matter whether these folks loved or hated the activities they were participating in: They were equally distracted in both cases. People tended to get sidetracked about 30% of the time when they were making love. That still seems like a large percentage, considering how intense this experience can be.

Killingsworth and Gilbert then discovered that people were indeed less happy when their minds were wandering than when their thoughts were solely focused on the task at hand. The folks who were thinking about positive experiences and memories were slightly less happy than they would have been if they’d been concentrating singularly on the task at hand, while those whose minds wandered to unpleasant or neutral topics were considerably less content than they would have been otherwise.

Perhaps most importantly, a person’s mindset was a stronger indicator of their well-being than the task that they were actually engaging in. The good news is that, although none of us will ever be perfect, learning how to be more present can actually lead to a significant increase in happiness, no matter how much money you earn or which job you work at each week. Anyone can achieve happiness if they learn to find comfort and joy in the present moment.

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Canadian-American author writing about local politics, personal finance, & dining in Albuquerque.

Albuquerque, NM
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