The Mindfulness HabitAug 23, 2021
With our thoughts constantly wandering back and forth between the past and the future, chances are we spend the least amount of our time in the present. Mindfulness is simply a moment-by-moment awareness of what is happening around us, without passing judgment. Being mindful is about being present and, that is more easily said than done.
Some early research on mindfulness was conducted by Ellen Langer, a Professor of Psychology at Harvard University. In her book Mindfulness, published in 1990, she suggested that mindfulness improves health and overall wellbeing.
As we get older, we were told, our overall health is supposed to get worse. We start losing our vision and hearing, our cognitive abilities will decline, etc. But what if there is a way to reverse this? What if there is a way to improve instead of worsening our overall health? What if there is a way to take ourselves back 20 years and feel as if we were 20 years younger?
This is what Langer wanted to find out. She recruited men between the ages of 75 and 80 and placed them for one week in a beautiful resort that was set up as if it were 1959. The men were asked not to bring anything to the resort that is more recent than 1959.
The newspaper and magazines in the resort were from September 1959. So were the radio shows, announcements, and commercials. They watched movies, TV shows, and sports events from that period.
The participants were divided into two groups. The researchers told both groups that they believed the stay in this resort would have a positive impact on their lives.
The control group was asked to discuss and remember 1959 in the past tense. The experimental group on the other hand was directed to be the person they were in 1959.
Prior to entering the resort, during the stay, and at the end of their stay, participants were video recorded and certain measurements were conducted: physical strength, vision, hearing, cognition, etc. Each participant was photographed before and after their stay.
The results of this research were astonishing. After staying in this resort for only one week, the experimental group’s vision, hearing, and cognitive ability improved. Their blood pressure dropped. They moved faster and stood taller.
The control group received some great benefits as well. At the end of the day, all the men looked a few years younger and ate and slept better than before.
A study recently presented by the American Heart Association showed that patients who practice mindfulness can reduce their risk of death by half from heart attacks, strokes, and other causes when compared to similar patients who were only given education about healthy living, but did not practice mindfulness.
By practicing mindfulness you truly get to know yourself and the world around you. There are also many side benefits of mindfulness such as feelings of relaxation, reduced stress, help with difficult emotions, and being better able to control anger and other feelings and desires.
In the world we live in, very few of us can dedicate hours to meditation, but we don’t have to do that in order to be mindful. We can do so at any time throughout the day and still gain huge benefits.
In his course, Practicing Mindfulness: An Introduction to Meditation, Mark W. Muesse explains a number of different mindfulness techniques. Four of these techniques—breathing, walking, eating, and driving—I turned into habits. These habits will help you live in the moment and focus on the positive.
Start practicing some of these for just a few minutes, and as you train your brain in these skills, keep steadily extending the time.
Breathing is something that we don’t consciously think about very often. Of course, we know how to breathe, but mindful breathing is something else entirely. To breathe mindfully, you need to focus on breathing in and breathing out and think only about your breath.
You can practice mindful walking when walking from your car to the office, from the parking lot to the supermarket, or walking in a park. These walks can be short or long. Regardless, focus on your steps, your body, your breath, the environment, and your surroundings. Focus on the moment of being.
To eat mindfully is to eat slowly, taking your time to eat each and every bite of your meal. Look at the food before you eat it, focus on the shape, smell, texture, color, taste, etc. Think about what was required to produce this food and all the steps necessary to bring it to your table. Most people don’t have the time to mindfully eat at each and every meal, but you can try this practice at least once a week, and see what a difference it makes.
You can also practice mindful driving. Driving mindfully is not just good practice, it is the right thing to do to ensure our safety and that of others. Mindful driving involves paying attention to everything that is in front of you, including the road, other cars, pedestrians, buildings, signals, etc. Listen to the sound of your car, to sounds on the road, watch for signals people give you from ahead, and pay attention to both sides of your car (especially if you’re driving on a highway and in the middle lane!). Focus on the moment of driving. Observe other drivers, but pass no judgment. You don’t have to react if someone cuts you off. Reacting negatively will inevitably result in anger and will do nothing to ensure that no one will cut you off again. Just witnessing the moment will make you aware that these things happen, and help you be mindful and enjoy every moment of your life, whatever it brings.
Think for a moment about what mindful living could do for you. When could you practice mindfulness? Which mindful practices could you introduce into your life? Pick one and make a commitment.
Commit to becoming more mindful. Chose one mindful exercise to practice this week. At the end of the week, write down a reflection on that exercise. What worked well? Why? What are you going to do differently based on this experience?
Braco Pobric is an Internationally Recognized Positive Psychology Expert and Corporate Trainer. He is the bestselling author of Habits and Happiness: How to Become Happier and Improve Your Wellbeing by Changing Your Habits. Braco is a founding member and Chief Happiness Officer of the Life Success Academy Certified Positive Psychology Master Trainer and former globally Certified Trainer and Business Coach for Dale Carnegie Training. He trained over 60,000 Students in 172 countries.
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