Mostly anything that’s worth doing requires focus, especially on your first try. You can imagine writing a complex email, sorting out files and such.
What makes focus a harder task is blocking out distractions from your awareness. With the advent of smartphones and social media, this has become an even harder task.
One day I was studying about which gender had more self-compassion for my graduate thesis, and I was grateful our dog finally stopped barking. Suddenly, both my laptop and phone beep up! Many Facebook friends are having a conversation in our group chat. Functioning in autopilot, I took a couple of minutes to realize I was no longer focused.
Perhaps you have tried a similar ordeal where you’ve suddenly lost focus.
Daniel Goleman, the author of the bestselling Emotional Intelligence book, says that our minds tend to wander a lot. When our minds do wander, we tend to autopilot on worrisome thoughts. “Why isn’t my partner replying?”, or “What should I say to my boss?”
Mindlessly worrying can be counter-productive to whatever we want to achieve. Fortunately, mindfulness helps the wanderings of our restless minds.
Mindfulness simply involves the awareness of the present moment without getting swept away by our reactions. This could mean paying attention to whatever you are doing at the moment.
This kind of practice originates in Buddhist traditions. People would hum out mantras and become more serene and relaxed. Nowadays, mindfulness practice is as simple as paying attention to your breath.
How exactly can you practice mindfulness without breaking a sweat? I’ve learned to live with these two ways:
- Way of the breath. This path is more conscious in nature. It involves stopping whatever you are doing and taking a deep breath. Pay attention to your breath, and your breath alone. You will notice your mind trying to wander to different places. Once you do, pay attention to your breath again.
- Catching yourself in the act. One time in traffic, I was raging over a reckless motorcycle overtaking me. All I could notice was how stupid he seemed in my head, and I wished he’d realize that. Suddenly, I noticed myself going through the rounds of getting angry. As this happened, I became more relaxed and balanced. Also, my urge to rant rapidly dropped, which is great. Mindfulness can involve simply noticing ourselves going in autopilot.
These are only two distinct ways to inculcate mindfulness in our lives. Of course, I do not suggest becoming mindful ALL the time. There will always be times it’s nice to be in autopilot and ‘mindless’. Performing arts such as acting and dancing are great examples. The list of exceptions will warrant another blog post.
In the end though, you want to develop a mindful stance in times of stress. It has been widely known to reduce anxiety and depression. Plus, it makes us more calm and happy, who wouldn’t want that, right?