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What does Mindfulness have to do with Success?

Mindfulness is the practice of purposely focusing your attention on the present moment and accepting it without judgment.

 

Habit reCode is all about developing daily success habits so what does mindfulness have to do with success habits?

 

Isn’t mindfulness just hippy-dippy hokum? Turns out, this hippy dippy mindfulness has a huge impact on success!

 

Mindfulness has been practiced since ancient times but seems to have become more prominent through Western culture in recent times.

 

I always like to examine the facts. Studies such as the ones listed at the bottom of this post, have indicated that mindfulness is  an effective way to:

  • reduce stress
  • increase self-awareness
  • improve focus and concentration
  • enhance emotional intelligence and facilitate better relationships
  • catch self-defeating behaviours, and substitute more effective ones
  • effectively handle painful thoughts and feelings.

 

Seems like a lot to expect from just sitting quietly and noticing thoughts?

 

Well that’s what I thought but I decided to test the theory with a week of daily meditation (the most popular method of mindfulness practice.)

 

One week of sitting quietly for just 10 minutes a day led to a noticeable change in my daily interactions.

 

I was shocked… but rather at ease with this 🙂

 

Aside from my huge endorsement of mindfulness, here are some interesting points.

 

Sara Lazar conducted studies and used MRI to observe the effect of meditation over 8 weeks. The MRI found increased gray-matter density in the hippocampus, known to be important for learning and memory, and in structures associated with self-awareness, compassion, and introspection.

 

Studies show that when we intentionally shape our internal focus (practice mindfulness) it induces a state of brain activation. The effect of repeated mindfulness practice is long term, not just immediate.

 

This shows that you can actively change your brain and increase your well-being and quality of life.

 

Sounds pretty good to me. Spend a few minutes a day to increase my general quality of life.

 

Where do I sign up for that?

 

Mindful practices include:

  • mindfulness meditation
  • yoga
  • tai chi
  • qigong
  • centering prayer,
  • chanting

 

Like most of you, I already feel stretched for time so what’s the quickest and most effective way to lasting happiness you ask?

 

Mindfulness meditation is the most popular way to practice mindfulness and great results can be seen with just a few minutes a day. Everyone is different, so experiment with different forms if you like.

 

The simplest and quickest way to practice mindfulness:

You can achieve a form of mindfulness with just 2 minutes a day. Everyone can spare 2 minutes.

To complete the 2 mindful minutes:

  1. Find a quiet spot and sit comfortably.
  2. With eyes open (useful practice for other mindful exercises), direct a soft gaze downward.
  3. Focus on the physical sensation of your breath.
  4. Don’t get frustrated if your mind wonders, it will do so. It isn’t about trying to stop thoughts or clear your mind, just try not to get attached to thoughts that arise. Notice thoughts and let them go.

 

Here are some additional methods to practice mindfulness as taken directly from Leo Babauta’s website, zenhabits.net:

How to Be Mindful
  1. Do one thing at a time. Single-task, don’t multi-task. When you’re pouring water, just pour water. When you’re eating, just eat. When you’re bathing, just bathe. Don’t try to knock off a few tasks while eating or bathing or driving. Zen proverb: “When walking, walk. When eating, eat.”
  2. Do it slowly and deliberately. You can do one task at a time, but also rush that task. Instead, take your time, and move slowly. Make your actions deliberate, not rushed and random. It takes practice, but it helps you focus on the task.
  3. Do less. If you do less, you can do those things more slowly, more completely and with more concentration. If you fill your day with tasks, you will be rushing from one thing to the next without stopping to think about what you do. But you’re busy and you can’t possibly do less, right? You can. I’ve done it, and so have many busy people. It’s a matter of figuring out what’s important, and letting go of what’s not. Read more: The Lazy Manifesto: Do Less.
  4. Put space between things. Related to the “Do less” rule, but it’s a way of managing your schedule so that you always have time to complete each task. Don’t schedule things close together — instead, leave room between things on your schedule. That gives you a more relaxed schedule, and leaves space in case one task takes longer than you planned.
  5. Spend at least 5 minutes each day doing nothing. Just sit in silence. Become aware of your thoughts. Focus on your breathing. Notice the world around you. Become comfortable with the silence and stillness. It’ll do you a world of good — and just takes 5 minutes!
  6. Stop worrying about the future – focus on the present. Become more aware of your thinking — are you constantly worrying about the future? Learn to recognize when you’re doing this, and then practice bringing yourself back to the present. Just focus on what you’re doing, right now. Enjoy the present moment.
  7. When you’re talking to someone, be present. How many of us have spent time with someone but have been thinking about what we need to do in the future? Or thinking about what we want to say next, instead of really listening to that person? Instead, focus on being present, on really listening, on really enjoying your time with that person.
  8. Eat slowly and savor your food. Food can be crammed down our throats in a rush, but where’s the joy in that? Savor each bite, slowly, and really get the most out of your food. Interestingly, you’ll eat less this way, and digest your food better as well.
  9. Live slowly and savor your life. Just as you would savor your food by eating it more slowly, do everything this way — slow down and savor each and every moment.
  10. Make cleaning and cooking become meditation. Cooking and cleaning are often seen as drudgery, but actually they are both great ways to practice mindfulness, and can be great rituals performed each day. If cooking and cleaning seem like boring chores to you, try doing them as a form of meditation. Put your entire mind into those tasks, concentrate, and do them slowly and completely. It could change your entire day (as well as leave you with a cleaner house).

 

There are great apps out there that will guide you through a few minutes of mindfulness and the most popular ones are ‘Calm’ and ‘Headspace’

 

If you are like many of us, you find out that there is this wonderful practice that can enrich your life and only take 2 minutes a day. You make a decision ‘I WILL practice mindfulness for 2 minutes every day, how hard can that be. I will start tomorrow!’

 

Sound familiar?

 

A large percentage of these intentions just fall away. We either forget about it or we start out strong and then it slowly falls away.

 

Habit reCode has a ‘zen habits’ module to help you stick to the practice and make it a habit, make it automatic.

 

The module is based on the zenhabits.net website and Leo Babauta’s resources.

 

Habit reCode stops you from putting off the behaviour by incentivising you with negative consequences. If you don’t complete one of the check-ins, you lose $2 and get a hilarious(maybe an over exaggeration) post on Facebook (if linked)

 

Not only does this module help you to develop a daily 2-minute mindfulness practice, it adds a gratitude mindset for increased happiness!

 

If you are frustrated at failed attempts to instill a great habit, try Habit reCode, it just might work this time.

 

Reminder: that annoying pop-up offers you a free download of the habit change workbook (just in case you want to replace that arvo cookie with a better routine etc.)

 

Recent scientific findings on the benefits of practicing mindfulness.
  • University of New Mexico researchers found that participating in a Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction course decreased anxiety and binge eating.
  • Office workers who practiced Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction for twenty minutes a day reported an average 11% reduction in perceived stress.
  • Eight weeks of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction resulted in an improvement in the immune profiles of people with breast or prostate cancer, which corresponded with decreased depressive symptoms.
  • A prison offering a form of meditation training for inmates found that those who completed the training reported lower levels of drug use, greater optimism, better self-control and reduced recidivism.
  • Fifth-grade girls who did a ten-week program of yoga and other mindfulness practices were more satisfied with their bodies and less preoccupied with weight.
  • A mix of cancer patients who tried MBSR showed significant improvement in mood and reduced stress. These results were maintained at a checkup six months later.
  • The likelihood of recurrence for patients who had experienced three or more bouts of depression was reduced by half through Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy, an offshoot of MBSR.
  • After fifteen weeks of practicing MBSR, counseling students reported improved physical and emotional well-being, and a positive effect on their counseling skills and therapeutic relationships.