By Christi Malthouse
Do you ever find yourself feeling envious of the “calm” people around you? The ones who remain Zen-like when stressful chaos erupts in the office, as it so often does.
How do they do it?
Well, more than likely they control their response to a situation by being mindful. While we react with an instinctual fight or flight response.
Mindfulness and meditation. Are they the same thing?
Mindfulness and meditation are two wellbeing buzz words, but what exactly do they mean, and are they the same thing?
The short answer is no, they are not the same thing. In fact, in terms of definition they are the opposite.
Meditation is focused-attention on one thought for a period of time. It’s a process. Whereas mindfulness is a way of being. It’s a continual awareness of your thoughts and bringing them back to the present moment.
80% of our thoughts are generally negative, and 90% of our thoughts are repetitive, so it is increasingly hard to stop our mind moving towards concerns for the future and worries about the past.
Mindfulness allows us to push through the natural instincts of the mind and control our thoughts in the now.
Dean Casamento, from Casamento Coaching, has seen a sharp increase in the number of males seeking wellbeing assistance since the pandemic began. He uses mindfulness and meditation as tools in his fitness and personal development training to empower young men to sit with their thoughts and emotions, to evoke a more balanced response.
“Mindfulness allows us to move through challenges and uncertainty by being in a position of empowerment, as opposed to disempowerment, which enables us to pause and reflect and to act accordingly to our needs, wants and desires,” he says.
“We are so hardwired to overthink things and intensify our emotions, but when we realise that we are not our thoughts and feelings, and that we can control the reactive mind through awareness, it allows us to switch on the healing process of the parasympathetic system which provides physical, mental and emotional recovery.”
So, if mindfulness is the act of being, then meditation is the process of doing.
“To meditate and to be mindful are two completely different things. Mindfulness is part of who you are, it’s your identity. Someone can meditate and still not be mindful,” says Dean.
“However, meditation is a powerful tool for developing mindfulness, it’s an anchor to bring all your senses into the present moment.”
Meditation slows the heart rate through deep, conscious breathing. It also slows down the mind.
The frontal lobe, which is the part of the brain responsible for reasoning, planning, emotions and self-conscious awareness, switches off during meditation.
The thalamus, which controls our senses, reduces the flow of incoming information. And the reticular formation, the brain’s relay centre for incoming stimuli, turns down the noise on alert signals.
And there’s long-term benefits too. Regular meditation can increase focus, reduce stress and anxiety, and improve memory, creativity and sleep.
Getting started with mindfulness.
Just as there are different forms of meditation – guided, moving, sensory and mindful focus – there are different ways to help cultivate mindfulness too. Be mindful in conversations. Instead of judging and waiting to speak, listen and observe, and consciously respond.
Be mindful when you eat. Really enjoy the smells, the tastes, and all the sensations of food.
When you sit at your desk, spend a moment feeling your fingers touch the keypad, your back against the seat, the smell of coffee from your cup. When walking outdoors be aware of the sounds, the breeze against your skin, the feeling of your feet as they touch the ground.
Gratitude is another form of practice for mindfulness. “Cultivate mindfulness through gratitude by taking the time to think about the things – small or big – that you’re grateful for, each day.”
When we are more mindful, we notice it in others. That’s the power of influence, we get what we focus on.
If you feel irritable that’s what you’ll notice in the people around you, particularly in the workplace. But if you have a deeper sense of calm, you’ll be that Zen-like employee who isn’t as affected by the chaos, and you’ll gravitate to other calm people.
So how do we develop mindfulness? Dean says:
- Decide to do it. Think about the benefits of being more mindful and the real value to you.
- Choose a form of mindfulness, and remember that less is always more. It could be as simple as a few minutes of focusing on the breath, on sounds, or using a mantra. Anything that brings your conscious awareness back to the present.
- Think about pre-existing behaviours and habits and dovetail off those. For example, take a moment to be in the now after your first sip of coffee, after you brush your teeth, when you’re in your car or walking to work.
- Set a cue or a reminder, something to trigger you to consciously take control of your thoughts.
- Incorporate gratitude into your day by finding small things to be thankful for.
Children naturally live in the moment, fully immersing themselves in whatever activity has captivated their imagination. And they are happier for it. Perhaps it’s innocence, perhaps it’s a lack of consequences and responsibility, or maybe, it’s mindfulness.
It makes you think doesn’t it?
To discover how Readiness can support your employees to learn mindfulness techniques, contact us today.
Dean Casamento: www.casamentocoaching.com.au