Mindfulness for the Long Haul
Over the last months we have looked at mindfulness in the context of diet, exercise, personal growth and performance. It is clear that the power of being in the present moment, as well as bringing a sense of acceptance and non-judgment to that moment, has a multitude of applications and benefits. As you have seen, mindfulness can make both eating and exercise more enjoyable. In addition, it can lead to personal growth while simultaneously enhancing cognitive and athletic performance. Taken on a corporate level, mindfulness can impact organizational reliability and quality, while improving the experience of employees and customers alike. It is obvious that being mindful can have huge benefits on many different fronts.
Since bringing mindful attention to your daily life can be so beneficial, you might wonder how to sustain these positive effects over the long run. Personally, as a physician, I view mindfulness as I would any other preventive health measure. It needs to be used in order to maintain the benefit. For example, if you spent the last eight weeks exercising to get in shape, you would need to continue on a maintenance program in order to keep your conditioning. Likewise, if you went on a diet for eight weeks, lost 10 pounds, then reverted to old eating habits, you would very likely gain all those pounds back in short order. Mindfulness is really no different. If you go back to your autopilot-based habits, you will very quickly zone out, forget about the present moment and find yourself, once again, knee deep in stress.
So how do you maintain the important gains you have made? Well here are some suggestions:
1. Practice at least twice weekly:
Mindfulness is like going to the gym for your brain. To stay in shape you have to keep exercising. Being mindful is no different.
2. Physically schedule your practice:
Schedule mindful practice into Outlook, as a smartphone reminder, or even by writing yourself sticky notes and putting them on your computer. If you commit to practice in writing or in your calendar, you will find it far easier to stay on point.
3. Exercise mindfully:
Go for a mindful walk at lunch, do the Mindful Exercise Podcast while at the gym, or remember to walk mindfully when going to a meeting or to your car after work. Bringing mindfulness to daily physical activity keeps both your mind and body in shape.
4. Drive mindfully:
If your schedule is booked and you can’t find time to sit down, driving is a great time to practice as you are, in essence, a captive audience!
5. Be mindful with others:
Bring mindfulness to conversations and really listen and observe as someone speaks with you. You can also practice mindful activities with your children or pets. For example, you could do a quick body scan for a child as a way to help them get ready for sleep. You could also spend several minutes mindfully petting your dog or cat.
6. Override autopilot as often as possible:
To keep pesky habits from coming back, remember to frequently do an easy automatic task mindfully. You could, for example, make washing the dishes or brushing your teeth a daily mindfulness activity as a way to stay in the present during times when your mind really tends to wander. Write a sticky note and paste it by your sink or your toothbrush to help you remember.
Like healthy eating, mindfulness is a habit and way of life that gets easier the more you practice. The benefits are well worth it!← The Mindful Habits of Highly Reliable Organizations Mindfulness Resiliency Blog →