What is mindfulness?
Mindfulness can be described as a way of being and living rather than a tactic or strategy for life. When practised on a continuous basis, mindfulness improves mental health and functioning by helping decrease stress and psychological distress. It can support lasting change in behaviour, as through practice, you can increase emotion regulation and self-control.
Mindfulness entails many different facets and elements. By choosing a specific component of mindfulness to study and practice on a weekly basis, over time, you will experience an in-depth understanding of the fulsome nature of mindfulness.
Okay..but still.. what is it exactly?
Mindfulness refers to attention that can be directed inside as well as outside of ourselves. For example, feelings, body sensations, thoughts, or emotions, is attention directed inward. Attention to a conversation with a friend, trees in a forest, sounds, or a book, is attention directed outward. Mindfulness refers to attention in the here and now. Attention to the things that are happening in this very moment, internally or externally. Just being.
This may sound simple, but how many times is our attention redirected by our thoughts?
Thinking can often be an unconscious act. And although undeniably very handy as it allows us to make plans and solve difficult problems, at the same time, it often triggers many problems. Our mind can get easily lost in endless thinking, worrying and rumination, and create thoughts, emotions and feelings like fear and sadness. Because of this, we may lie awake at night because we worry about what might happen tomorrow, or, we cannot stop thinking about that mistake we made last week. These are only a few examples of how our mind can make life difficult.
So where does mindfulness fit in?
Mindfulness teaches us to deal with problematic thoughts by focusing our attention on the here and now. Mindfulness helps us create a different relationship with our thoughts, feelings, and emotions.
Mindful attention means attention without judgment.
So how can this support lasting change in behaviour?
A key element of mindfulness is acceptance.
Through mindful attention and acceptance, we allow every feeling, emotion, sensation or thought to be there. They are there anyway. Instead of fighting against feelings or thoughts, mindfulness fosters a willingness to acknowledge, allow, and accept these internal states. By letting go of this struggle and fight, we save energy (Alberts, Schneider, & Martijn, 2011) and realize that the things we fight against often fade away automatically, often sooner than when we actively fight against them.
As soon as we acknowledge emotion, we can experience it as a temporary state; in other words, the emotion comes and goes. In this way, you become an observer of your inner states (through observing the self; Deikman, 1982). You are no longer identifying and completely lost in the content of thoughts or feelings but become their observer. As an observer, you can still experience emotions or feelings but can now also decide whether to be fully taken by them. By observing thoughts without judgment, you can experience their transient nature. Also, we learn that not everything we think is true.
In sum, mindfulness can help us identify less with feelings, emotions, or thoughts.
This supports lasting change in behaviour as we are no longer affected, or at least far more resilient to unexpected situations and changes. We no longer need to fight against or run away from situations, people, places, emotions, or things. Rather we accept them and can continue to function in an ordinary capacity.
Like everything, mindfulness takes practice. You might not see results or be great at it straight away. I challenge you, therefore, to NOT GIVE UP.
Think of it like getting fit, it takes practice, but you will see slow improvements. Then, all of a sudden you cannot live without the high of air in your lungs or strengthening your body. Your mind is the same. Mindfulness is keeping your brain fit. There is a reason everyone raves about mindfulness.
It works. So start now. Join our practice and start seeing results for yourself.
The EA Institute
Amanda Vinci, Coach, Motivational Speaker, Co-Founder & Co-Director is one of the most inspirational and empowering Executive Assistants Trainers in Australasia, Amanda started as an entry-level administrator 13 years ago and has since gone from Senior Executive Assistant to Executive Coach. Amanda is an Internationally Accredited Coach, Practitioner of Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) and an Accredited EDISC Consultant and Trainer.
This is a guest post from Amanda Vinci from The EA Institute. Amanda spoke at this October’s Virtual Summit. For more details head over to the Virtual Summit website. If you would like to write for Practically Perfect PA please review our guidelines and get in touch.