Mind-full or Mindful?
After celebrating the end of 2020 with great enthusiasm, we are back to reality. The stress and anxiety that have plagued us since March are creeping their way back now that the holiday festivities are over. Our minds are left full of questions, thoughts, and worries.
The biggest one being: Will 2021 be better?
What if we told you that you can start making this year better right now? You’d probably think that is impossible given the circumstances: working from home while your kids are remote learning, unsure about the stability of your job and finances, worrying about the health of your loved ones. How can you possibly feel at peace at a time like this?
There is a solution: implementing daily acts of mindfulness can make this volatile environment feel less stressful. We’re here to walk you through how to make these small changes and why it is so beneficial.
Why Practice Mindfulness?
Mindfulness is the ability to be fully present and aware of how you feel at a given moment. It may seem simple, even trivial, but being more mindful is scientifically proven to benefit your mental and physical health, which in turn creates a healthier and more productive workplace.
Here are just a few of the reasons why you should add mindfulness into your daily routine:
- Reduced stress, anxiety, and depression: Putting space between you and your stressful situation can help alleviate anxiety, and learning to redirect your negative thoughts to something positive can be a successful way of treating depression. Not only that, studies show that meditation actually causes the amygdala, the part of the brain in charge of fear, stress, and anxiety, to shrink.
- Improved cognition and working memory: As mentioned above, meditating everyday actually changes your brain, which can improve memory in addition to reducing stress. One study showed that practicing mindfulness for 8 weeks increased the volume of brain regions in charge of learning and memory, such as the hippocampus.
- Reduced tendency to get distracted: Just a couple of weeks of daily meditation can improve your focus and concentration. Research shows that it decreases mind wandering by reducing activity in the brain region known as the default mode network. This helps us stay focused and redirect our thoughts quickly when we do get distracted.
- Improved emotional regulation: Stressful situations, especially unexpected ones, can leave you feeling frustrating, angry, and anxious. Practicing mindfulness helps reduce emotional reactivity, allowing you to shift your focus away from the negative situation.
- Improved immune function: By reducing your stress levels through meditation, you can actually help your immune system, which is vital in the midst of this global pandemic.
Mindfulness While Living in a Volatile Environment
The pandemic has created a high stress environment for many people: lay offs, excess workload, decreased social interaction, kids learning remotely, financial stress, etc. After almost a year, it has really taken a toll on everyone’s mental health. This is why learning to redirect your thoughts through meditation can be so beneficial for alleviating the stress and anxiety.
Not only has our new, ever-changing environment brought on excess stress, it has also added even more distractions, which can lead to decreased productivity in the workplace. Most living rooms have switched from a place to relax, to an office, conference room, and classroom all rolled into one. You cannot focus on work when your kids are running around playing, nor can you unwind on the couch at night when your mind is racing with thoughts about work. While practicing mindfulness will not get rid of these distractions, it will teach you how to focus on the task at hand and separate work time from “you” time.
- Meditate: Close your eyes and focus on the sensations of your body and breath. Notice any thoughts that may come up and then redirect your attention back to your breath.
- Find joy in the little things: Reading a book, talking to a friend on the phone, and your morning cup of coffee are all simple things that can bring you joy.
- Write down things you are thankful for every morning: By starting your day on a positive note, you’ll be less likely to focus on any negative thoughts that come up.
- Put away your phone while working: This will reduce mindless scrolling through social media and distractions.
- Be aware of your emotions as they arise: When you experience a stressful or frustrating situation, pay attention to your emotions. You will be able to feel your anger or anxiety rising and can then redirect your thoughts to something positive or look at the situation from a new perspective.
- Set boundaries: Working remotely means we could be online and available 24/7. Choose to take time away from answering emails or thinking about work so you can be fully present in other aspects of your life.
Start Slow and Give Yourself Time
While mindfulness is not a panacea, research shows that you can reap many benefits by practicing it a little everyday. However, the point of mindfulness is to reduce your stress, so don’t get frustrated with yourself if your mind keeps wandering off in the middle of your meditation session. It may take you a little while to get the hang of it, but remember to stay positive.
In the words of Buddha, “Our life is shaped by our mind, for we become what we think.”