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March 2015

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Ever wondered how you find peace in a stressed-out, digitally dependent world? Well, it may just be a matter of thinking differently …  Mindfulness

Google the word and you will find articles about it everywhere. Time magazine even had a cover about it last year and companies like Google and other Fortune 500 organisations are teaching their employees to be mindful. It is said that even the Pentagon in America has allocated budget for research about how it can help soldiers to stay calm and collected during stressful situations.

As South Africans, we probably have very long lists of things that are contributing to our stressed-out lives. So, if we can deal with stressful situations better we will be able to live a more fulfilled life.

Technology has made it easier than ever to fracture our attention into smaller and smaller bits. We answer a colleague’s question from next to the field at a child’s cricket game, we pay the bills while watching TV, we answer emails while we’re stuck in traffic. In a time when no one seems to have enough time, our devices allow us to be in many places at once – but at the cost of being unable to fully inhabit the place where we actually want to be.

So, what is mindfulness? It is a simple way to live in the moment – the now, and to appreciate it. At one level, the techniques associated with the philosophy are intended to help you quiet a busy mind, becoming more aware of the present moment and less caught up in what happened earlier or what’s to come. Many cognitive therapists commend it to patients as a way to help cope with anxiety and depression. More broadly, it’s seen as a means to deal with stress.

Mindfulness is being used worldwide to help people deal with stress, pain, fear, depression, and even some addictions. Studies show it helps to stabilise your blood pressure, makes your immune system stronger and it helps you to be more positive. If it was available as a pill, doctors would probably prescribe it.

Maybe you’re thinking how are you going to be able to become more mindful? Well, you’re already there …  Mostly when you experience wow moments is when time stands still … Ever relaxed on a Sunday afternoon and suddenly your head was full of new ideas? Studies show that it’s always there, but only when we relax ideas can surface.

Maybe we should all aim to become more mindful this year and appreciate the moment more in order to worry less about the future.

Read Lawrie Shuttleworth’s story on page 34. I think that he is a great example of someone who has been mindful throughout his life.

Gerinda Jooste
Editor

 

Five steps to mindfulness

An easy way to become more mindful is to start making time to be quiet and to do nothing. Start practising doing nothing. It can be frustrating at first, but research shows it reduces stress and increases focus.

Sit cross-legged somewhere quiet. Keep your back straight and let your shoulders drop. Take a deep breath and close your eyes.

Be aware of how you breathe. Don’t change it, but focus on the sensation of air moving in and out of your lungs.

As thoughts come into your mind and distract you from your breathing, acknowledge those thoughts and then return to focus on your breathing each time.

Don’t judge yourself or try to ignore distractions. Your job is simply to notice that your mind has wandered and to bring your attention back to your breathing.

Start by doing this for ten minutes a day for a week. The more you make time for this, the easier it will be to keep your attention where you want it.

Source: TIME magazine,

3 February 2014

Author: Gerinda Jooste

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