by Vicki Flaherty and Megan Moyer
Image: View of Samos, Greece from Guzelcamli, Turkey (Photo by Vicki Flaherty)
Mindfulness is not about living in slow-motion, about a sedentary practice, or a soft mindset. Rather, mindfulness enables us to move with speed because our minds are clearer and we can be more decisive, less biased, and more creative. Mindfulness puts us in action. Mindfulness is the new ‘hard skill’ – the practice is like exercise for the brain, and the result is a brain that is in the best service of our bodies and lives.
Mindfulness is about developing a sharp, clear mind.” ~Rasmus Hougaard and Jacqueline Carter, How to Practice Mindfulness Throughout Your Work Day.
Mindfulness can be practiced in a myriad of ways. We are all unique – in our backgrounds, cultures, ways of working, preferences, styles, needs, and so much more. So it is no surprise that different people are attracted to different approaches. Within IBM we have been experimenting with everything from formal, structured, in-person group meditation practice series to virtual 15- to 30-minute weekly global mindfulness sessions hosted via conference call to mini-habits that are integrated into the way we work, such as a mindful minute and a micro pause.
In our prior posts, we invited you to greater awareness via the STOP technique where you create small pauses to notice what you are thinking and feeling, physically and emotionally (Why Mindfulness Matters), as well as via techniques for observing and focusing on your breath (Building Your Focus Muscle). This time we bring you ‘mini-habits’ – simple, practical mindful practices you can incorporate throughout your day. By taking small actions or steps consistently over time, using mini-habits enables positive change.
The idea is to start with a minimum change that eventually leads to the bigger shift. For example, if you want to write a book but never seem to have the time and can’t even get started, you might try a mini-habit of writing a single sentence of the book first thing in the morning, every morning. As you see the power of the accumulation of your ideas, you might be inspired to write more.
|Mindful Start||First thing when you awake take a moment to notice the sensations of your breath for a few breaths before getting out of bed.|
|Enjoy a technology-free zone as you move from one activity to another, whether you’re driving to and from destinations or to and from meetings or some other activity. Turn off your cell phone and other devices and just notice how you are feeling and what there is to see or hear.|
|Mindful Meetings||At the start of your next meeting (whether it’s at the office or with family or friends), allow yourself to be fully present. Let go of whatever you were doing before and all that awaits you afterwards. Take a few breaths and feel yourself in the now. Even better, at the office, make the first agenda item an invitation for everyone to clarify, whether in silence or verbally, their intentions or desired outcomes.|
|Mindful Eating||As you eat, pay attention to the colors, taste, smells, and textures of your food. If possible, sit down and be intentional about eating slowly and savoring each bite. Added bonus: smile between bites and you might just find you are less stressed when your meal is done! J|
|Computer Pause||Use the time while your computer is booting up or processing to notice the sensations in the body as you sit or stand. You can also notice what you are thinking, or take a moment to notice and appreciate something around you such as a photo.|
|Gratitude Pause||At any point in your day, pause and think of something you are grateful for. Smiling as you do is an added bonus for your mind and body – and those who might be around you! J|
|Healthy Body Micropause||Take a thirty-second micro-break to energize your muscles and reduce tension. You might slowly turn your head from side to side, holding each turn for a count of three and repeating 5-10 times. Or you might make wide circular motions to roll your shoulders forward 5-10 times, and then backward 5-10 times. Or you could tightly clench your fists and then release, fanning out your fingers about 5 times on each hand.|
|Restroom Pause||When you visit the rest room (we intentionally chose this word!) during the day, take a moment to pause while washing or drying your hands (or both). Focus on how the water, temperature, or towel feels. Use the focus to clear your mind of the debris so you are ready for what’s next.|
|Object Pause||Steady your attention by focusing on a single element of an object. It might be the color or shape of something in the space around you (e.g., on your desk, in the parking lot, in your home, at the park). Each time your mind wanders from the element, refocus.|
|Nature Pause||Go outside and focus on something in nature for 2 minutes – maybe it’s the sounds of birds or water, or the color of flowers or leaves, or the feel of the air on your skin. Can’t get outside, visit CALM where you’ll find nature images and sounds that you can enjoy for a relaxing break.|
We love mini-habits because they support us in changing not just what we see but also what we think, how we feel, and ways we relate to the world. Short, regular pausing enables us to clarify what’s going on inside ourselves and in the environment around us. The noticing creates a kind of clarity about the reality of the moment. A pause can free us from the trappings of the past or the future, and ground us in reality, providing a solid place for the important work of living and making a difference in the world.
Pausing regularly increases the amount of time we are paying attention, versus letting the autopilot of our minds run. Research suggests our minds wander about 50% of the time. Notice how often you start something with one intention and find yourself doing something different. Because your mind is always at work, it’s easy to get side-tracked and derailed with the latest thought that pops up. Mindfulness practice enhances the awareness that enables us to recognize and release unnecessary distractions as they arise, and it improves the focus that allows us to concentrate on what we’re doing in the moment.
“In mindfulness, we start to see the world as it is, not as we expect it to be, how we want it to be, or what we fear it might become.” ~ Mark Williams and Danny Penman, Mindfulness: An Eight-Week Plan for Finding Peace in a Frantic World.
Go ahead, identify a mini-habit that you can start today. Enjoy what unfolds when you focus your full awareness in the moment.
Content authored by Vicki Flaherty and Megan Moyer
Megan Moyer is IBM Smarter Workforce marketing leader and corporate wellness, mindfulness and whole life yoga instructor.
We hope you find these suggested mindfulness approaches useful for creating greater awareness in your life and work. Please feel free to add a comment below to let us know how you have got on.
Find previous edition of the mindfulness blog series here
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