“If you truly want to change your life you must first change your mind.” – author unknown
I’ve spent most of my life trying to figure out what it is that I actually want to do with it and what will truly make me happy. Throughout this journey, I’ve recognized my key strengths and weaknesses and how I can weave them into everyday life to reach maximum fulfillment. (If you want to learn more about discovering your strengths, click here). One of these strengths is the power of MINDFULNESS. This is a buzz word in the psychology and self-help world. There are many definitions for mindfulness, but I’d like to break it down simply as being fully aware of your thoughts, emotions, or actions in the moment; it’s a state of acceptance and consciousness; learning to live in the present (let go of the past or the future) and rejecting judgement, criticism, worry or overwhelm. Not only does it pertain to self, but it has a lot to do with perspective and observation. Recognizing what’s going on around you and being open to other’s thoughts, emotions or actions is equally important. You see the ‘bigger picture’ and have a different way of looking at the world more positively. By reflecting on the mind, we are in full control of our experience.
Here are a few important benefits of practicing mindfulness:
- Ability to regulate your emotions better, cope with adversities and gain more self-control
- Helps reduce stress and boosts a calmer mental state (which then improves our physical health, as stress creates a threat in the body – added bonus)
- Ability to refocus your attention, which can reduce distractions and improve learning and memory
- Decreases symptoms of depression and anxiety (as someone who has suffered from depression from a young age, I have the ability to step back from a negative emotion, identify it and accept it instead of fighting it)
- Stronger feeling of connection with self, with others and the environment
- Increases overall happiness and optimism
As a naturally laidback, wise and intellectual person, I find being mindful to be quite second-nature. But it still took time to truly recognize and perfect that quality. Many of you might be running around like a crazy lady 8-12 hours a day and get caught up in the routine hustle and bustle of life, so practicing mindfulness just isn’t something you’re concerned with. But I’ve found that taking even just a few seconds out of your day to stop and think about what is happening within you and around you can make a big difference. Press pause and reflect once in a while. Find perspective. Do it while you’re in the car or waiting in the check-out line at the grocery store. For others, a daily schedule of mindful techniques is their thing. For example, Monday’s at Noon = Gratitude time. Sunday’s before bedtime = Self-love Sunday followed by a controlled breathing ritual. And then of course there is always yoga. Whatever it is, find what works for you and stick with it. Namaste bitches.
One of the most common ways I like to practice mindfulness is when the feeling of negative emotion arises. We all get caught up in difficult situations a.k.a LIFE, whether it’s financial struggle, a fading relationship, kids, work-related stress or even just sitting in bumper to bumper traffic. This day in age it has become natural to complain or sink into this catastrophizing whirlpool of ‘woa is me’. We feel like sh*t will never get better, someone owes me something, or I’m simply not good enough. I’m here to tell you that sh*t can get better, no one owes you anything, and you are good enough. You can turn such negative thinking into positive by re-training our brains. We have a growth mindset. I personally grew up in a household of negative thinking, complaining and a history of depression, which is probably why I became so interested in the field of positive psychology in the first place. So to cope with negative emotion, for example, you have to first allow the emotion(s) to be present, but let them go instead of fighting them. This doesn’t mean to ignore your problems because we are all human. But what it does mean is to look at things from a different angle and in a more positive light where possible.
I’ve had my car stolen before, been beat up by a boyfriend, and arrested for DUI in my lifetime. Instead of playing victim or hoping that the getaway driver, ex-boyfriend or the cop to jump off a cliff, I choose to cope with these adversities by accepting they happened and keep on keepin’ on. I’ve turned these experiences into positive learning lessons and I wouldn’t a change a damn thing.
Here are few other personal experiences with mindfulness that you may be able to relate to:
- Living in the DC-metro area, there is a ton of traffic and awful drivers on the road all the time. When someone cuts me off, doesn’t put their blinker on, or rides my tail, for example, I could easily get road rage, speed up and stick my middle fingers in the air. Instead, I would rather choose to let it go and consider looking for an alternative explanation for their actions in that moment. Maybe they didn’t do it on purpose or they are just having a bad day. Whatever the reason is, I’m not going to take it personally and let it affect my day. I cannot control what other drivers do, but I CAN control the way I react to a situation. Getting hot and bothered by someone on the road is simply worthless, so I choose to let it go and keep it moving. Now, will I still shake my head or curse to myself, sure. I’m not perfect.
- I went to Phoenix for a work trip in October and was excited to extend the trip an extra day to explore. I decided to go to the Sanctuary Camelback Mountain Resort for a massage, which was amazing, but the view itself was even more spectacular. Instead of Uber’ing back to my hotel from the resort after the massage, I decided to walk several miles along the desert road in solitude. That whimsical stride on E McDonald Drive was something I will never forget. As corny as it sounds, I felt truly present and at one with the desert, the mountain, the cacti (meanwhile also getting attacked by a jumping cholla cactus, which I didn’t know was a thing until I googled it after the fact. Ouch! It eventually got stuck on my purse). Nonetheless, I was truly experiencing mindfulness in that moment and was able to release any negative thoughts or stress in ordinary life in that moment. If you’ve never been to Arizona – GO.
- I’ve been an Executive Assistant to a few senior leaders for about 5 years now. Before then I had been in other support roles, but in a very different limelight compared to the EA position. Comprehensively, you can define the assistant as the following: master scheduler and strategist, project manager, travel agent, event planner, client service rep, office manager, ultimate listener and retainer of information, maker of magic. With all these duties, it isn’t always easy putting on a smile or having patience day in and day out. But mindfulness has helped me construct a shield between work and becoming burned out. For example, I recognize when I get overwhelmed and have too much on my plate now. So instead of continuing to pile it on or get angry at my manager or a colleague, I take a step back, breathe, and then voice my concern in a productive way, i.e. ask for help, delegate, kindly say you don’t have the capacity to do X-Y-Z but offer a suggestion, ask to work from home 1 day a week for better work-life balance. All of these things have enhanced my well-being at work and opened a door to new experiences as well.
In summary, Mindfulness will allow you to choose positive expectations thus having positive experiences. If you foresee success, then you will achieve success. Visualize success before it even happens. Worrying is not worth it because everything always works out. Having that mindset will really open your eyes to new experiences and a happy place that you never thought you would see so frequently. -Megan