Mindfulness for Stress Reduction

What is Mindfulness?

It has been said that Mindfulness is “the intentional, accepting and non-judgmental focus of one’s attention on the emotions, thoughts and sensations occurring in the present moment“.[1]

Mindfulness is the practice of shutting out all of the internal dialogue and focusing on the present moment.  It sounds easy, but trying to shut-out thinking is a hard thing to do, but can be easily accomplished with practice.

What is Mindfulness for?

Reduce Stress with MindfulnessMindfulness, Free Mindfulness Exercises and Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) (Mindfulness Therapy) has been proven to reduce stress and to help with a variety of physiological conditions such as depression and anxiety.  I encourage you to Google and research this for yourselves.  In my case I was in a low point and I really needed to get better for my wife and for my family.

I went to a psychologist and she told me to Google “Mindfulness” and “Jon Kabat-Zinn”.  If you are suffering with stress or stress related mental illness I recommend that you do the same.  My experience that first time changed my life profoundly.  It enabled me to turn off the excessive thinking, and mute the movie for a while, and exist in the moment, be present, conscious, and still my mind for a while.

What I mean by Unconscious

We have all unconsciously driven down a familiar road and have no recollection of the journey – something is awake in there or we would have crashed at the first bend.  Reading a book and you suddenly realise that for the past 3 pages your eyes have been reading the words, but your mind has been all over the place.

Stopping the unconscious chatter that is constantly going on inside our heads, and trying to connect with the other thing that is there – being present with the silence, or the book, or the journey or the stillness, without the stream of thought interpreting that reality for you.

How to practice Mindfulness

The best thing about Mindfulness is that you can do it anywhere and at any time.  You don’t need to sit, cross-legged chanting for an hour, or go to a particular place, like a gym or yoga studio.  You just have to connect with the quiet and the stillness that is all around you, all of the time.  You simply have to shut out the noise from your mind, mute the movie, turn off the constant stream of thought interpreting reality for you.

You can sit at your desk, close your eyes and focus on your breath.  Concentrate simply on your breath, how it feels, any smells, the rise and fall of your chest, all without thinking, or allowing your thoughts to interpret the reality for you.  Simply exist in the present moment.

The thoughts will raise themselves again, probably in a matter of seconds, you may start thinking about how awesome you are for starting Mindfulness, lol.  That’s fine, understand that this is normal, and readjust and go back to the breath.  I bet you’ll be thinking again within 10 seconds – no worries, understand that this is happening, readjust and start over.

Soon, with practice, the spaces between thought will grow and the periods of stillness and peacefulness will get longer and longer.

You should try to find at least 30 minutes per day for Mindfulness meditation – if you really can’t find the time for 30 minutes, then you should meditate for an hour.

An amazing video on guided mindful meditation

Don’t Identify with the Stream of Thought

It is also important not to identify with the thoughts that go on inside your mind.  There may not be anything objectively true about them, they are just thoughts.  “I can’t do it” “I’m hopeless at that” or other things like that are just thoughts.  Another way to interpret the reality of not being skilled at something is “with practice I could become the best at that“.  Same facts, different interpretation.

What about trying to interpret the future?  Stressed about that job interview, those exam results, that first date tomorrow?  All the thoughts and scenarios that go through your mind, twists and turns, following from thought to thought, until you probably end up with some negative potential outcome in your mind, which makes you even more stressed or anxious.  Well, once again, they are just thoughts, they don’t really exist!  No one can see into the future, and the people who say they can, CAN’T.  So it is just as likely, before an event in your life that it going to go really well.  Our mind makes up these scenarios, probably based on past experiences.  But there is no reason to believe that because something happened 2 years ago, that that has any influence on the outcome tomorrow.

Gratitude and Thankfulness

One of the biggest ones for me it to be grateful and thankful with what you have in your life right now.  Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with trying to better yourself and do more or get more.  But along the way remember to be grateful for what you have in the present moment, every present moment.  If you are starting a new business and you only have one client, be grateful and that you have one client, don’t begrudge that client because you need ten clients.

Do Hippy Stuff

Mindfulness is not just good for business, it is important to remember to do it in your personal life too.  Be present with your kids, don’t be playing with them 1% with 99% of your mind back in the office.  Be 100% out of work, as well as 100% in work.  Be present with your family, with your partner, with your friends.

Go surfing, read a book, take your shoes off, walk on the beach, play cricket or football, roll around on the grass wrestling with your kids, go for a swim, have a barbie and a couple of beers, or whatever it is you like to do, and be present with it, work will be waiting for you on Monday morning when you get back.

[1] Marcus MT, Zgierska Dr A. Mindfulness-based therapies for substance use disorders: Part 1 (Editorial). Substance Abuse 2009;30(4):263-4 extracted from <http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2818765/>.

Mindfulness for Stress Reduction