Grasping the moment with mindfulness
Updated: Jan 28
To experience life more fully, Alisa Camplin believes we need to learn to slow down and assign meaning to moments.
It’s not unusual to feel overwhelmed from time to time. Between work commitments, managing a household and keeping up with family and friends, it’s normal to feel some level of pressure in our lives. We can be fretting about the future and then dwelling on the past, or being drawn in so many different directions, that sometimes we can’t enjoy the present.
Mindfulness means fully engaging with the moment. It’s gently bringing your attention back when your mind wanders off. It’s centring, focussing, slowing down and being aware, while not judging or analysing your thoughts. It’s fully engaging your five senses in the here and the now.
How does mindfulness help us think well?
There’s nothing wrong with recalling our days in an effort to reflect and learn, or planning ahead in order to mitigate risk or prepare for success, but when we become consumed by backwards/forwards thinking, we miss the chance to make the most of the opportunities right in front of us.
Research from Case Western Reserve University shows that if you are present in the moment and fully engaged, your focus improves and you process information more accurately. Your short-term memory operates more efficiently when you're calm and not swamped with competing thoughts.
It’s common to think that multitasking is the only way to get through the increasing number of demands in our lives, but a Stanford University study proves that rapid task-swapping actually makes us less efficient than simply focussing on one thing at a time.
Imagine this: you need to complete 15 things in the next 15 minutes. You could try to do all 15 things at once and end up only finishing three. However, if you actually stop and mindfully move from one task to the next, you’re likely to complete more tasks, and at a higher quality.
Practising mindfulness also has biological benefits. Australian microbiologist Elizabeth Blackburn won a Nobel Prize for her work on telomeres, which are the protective tips of chromosomes (thread-like structures that carry our genetic information). She found that regular practice of mindfulness could help extend the life of telomeres, which in turn slows down our ageing process.
Put simply, practising regular mindfulness can deliver you many health and wellness benefits. It can reenergise you, improve your perspective, circuit break harmful thoughts, and provide an easier pathway to sleep. Additionally, our ability to emotionally regulate and to accurately process information all happens when we're fully present in the moment.
How to practise mindfulness
A lot of people think of mindfulness as being rooted in candles and monk-like meditation, but it doesn’t have to be. Mindfulness is a series of tools and techniques that can help you to slow down, take a mental break and calm your brain.
A great technique to help centre yourself in the craziness of today’s world is to simply sit and actively observe those around you. Take notice of how things feel and how they smell, and try to shut down the extra conversation in your brain. Visualise yourself putting on some blinkers so you're not overly distracted. Absorb what you can see and hear, but try not to analyse it. Just be there; be with what is happening, as you breathe.
Practising mindfulness may seem daunting or even a little bit fluffy, but it’s an exceptionally powerful tool that everyone is capable of using: you can choose to slow down and be in the moment, just as you can choose to surround yourself with positive people. There are plenty of different ways to be mindful, it’s just a matter of discovering what works best for you.
Mindfulness is about learning how to stop, focus and be truly present. Not only will this shift you from ‘auto-pilot’ mode into ‘being’ mode, but it will increase your efficiency, your productivity, and the quality of what you're doing. By strengthening your ability to engage with the way things are right now, you increase your opportunity to assert greater control over your life.
Originally published on www.onelife.aiavitality.com.au on April 18, 2019.
Alisa Camplin is an Olympic Gold Medalist, in-demand Keynote Speaker, Corporate Ambassador, and Human Performance Consultant who delivers results-driven Resilience and Human Performance Training and Development Programs. Connect with Alisa.