Written by Professional Academy Management and Leadership Tutor, Kathryn Knights
Do you have trouble focusing on one thing for any length of time? Maybe even getting to the end of this blog will be a struggle. Today’s world thrives on distraction making it almost impossible to concentrate and give our best performance. It’s not made any easier by the fact that those distractions (think phone notifications) are so addictive. However, there is a way to combat the urge to be ‘always-on’ and it will help you keep a calm mind and boost your overall wellbeing.
The word ‘meditation’ comes from the Latin ‘meditatum’, which means ‘to ponder’. It has been practiced for thousands of years in numerous religious traditions, with the modern method believed to go back 5,000 years to India.
Mindfulness meditation is a type of meditation that requires no religious or spiritual belief. It is simply the ability to be fully present in the moment. It is available to us in every moment and despite our world becoming filled with more distractions there is a big demand in the workforce for people who can demonstrate focus and attention skills. So, if you can train yourself to become a master of mindfulness meditation you’ll not only improve your wellbeing but you’ll be an in-demand employee too.
1) Reduced anxiety and stress – you will reduce the levels of cortisol (the stress hormone) produced in your body. It is responsible for the ‘fight or flight’ response we have in stressful situations, which was great when we were cavemen and women but not in the modern office.
2) Better emotional distance – you will have a better sense of judgement and reasoning that will help you to see things the way they really are, rather than letting your emotions get in the way.
3) Improved attention span – neuroplasticity is the 'muscle building' part of the brain; the things we do often we become stronger at, and what we don’t use fades away. Practicing your ability to focus will help you get better at.
4) Better sleep – not only will you fall asleep faster but the quality of your sleep will be improved.
Find a quiet spot, close your eyes and focus on your breath. If you notice your mind wandering (which it will do…often) just bring it back to focusing on your breath. Start with 5 minutes of breathing, or even one minute. In fact, it doesn’t matter how long you spend in your mindful state, because each time you do so you’ll be developing your focus muscle.
Make the practice work for you. If you can’t find a quiet spot just look for one where you will be undisturbed, even a busy café will suffice. Remain focused on your breath and do not worry if your mind wanders. The skill is in noticing when your mind wanders and being able to it back to your breath.
People break their habits because they’re not sticky enough. Being clear on your ‘why’ (reason) is one way to help keep your habit stay put. If the reason you meditate is because you read this blog, then the habit wont stick for very long. Your ‘why’ needs to come from deep within e.g. I meditate because I value my health, and when I do so, I feel happier and better connected with others.
Another way to make your habit stick is to have some external accountability and this is where mediation apps are particularly useful. They help you track your progress and log your successes. They also provide guided mediations, giving some structure to your practice. Both of these things will give you some early momentum, which is important in the early days of habit making.
One of the best apps out there is Headspace. Their manta is: ‘meditation made simple’. They are equally committed to providing authentic expertise in meditation as well as studying the science of meditation. To this end they have 16 published studies in the leading mindfulness peer-reviewed journals showing the impact of Headspace on stress, focus and compassion.
Their guided meditations help you train your brain to focus. Check out their YouTube channel where their short animations clearly explain some of the concepts behind mindfulness meditation.
Life can throw obstacles in our path that can break even the stickiest of habits. Don’t feel bad for breaking the chain. You can’t change the past but you can focus on the future. Simply build your practice back up again, remembering that every time you practice you are training your mind to apply that mindful approach across all areas of your life.
If you need further advice, get in touch via LinkedIn.
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