Mindfulness and Modern Life

Today I decided to notice how many things were trying to communicate with me as I went around my daily tasks.

It started calmly enough with my alarm. Then the mundane household objects chimed in: a finished dishwasher cycle, a radio host chatting in the background, a kitchen bin pinging as it opened and closed, a burglar alarm that required me to input a code etc. Then into my car “bleep bleep” your seat-belt needs plugging in. “Watch out” your bumper is too close to something. Then into the office: a security door that required a fob; the inevitable pop ups on my laptop; appointment reminders on my phone; lift interfaces wanting to know where I was going, letting me know where I was. And it’s wasn’t just these routine spaces either: the shop doors that blurted out “woo-wah” as I entered, a supermarket self-serve check out that wanted to know how many bags I’d used. All this just from furniture.

During all of the above, from the moment my feet touched the carpet in the morning, to my head hitting the pillow at night, there were fellow humans trying to communicate with me too: face to face, via social media, sms, email, messenger apps, video messaging, etc And crucially as with every other human out there, while all of this was ongoing my own internal monologue was chipping in too: the responsibilities churning around my head; my ruminations on what had come before; planning that which was yet to come; and my Self Talk letting me know whether I was doing a good job or not.

And as these things don’t wait in an orderly queue, all of the above was a constant barrage on my senses all day long. The day rushed by with my poor little human mind being drawn to the most loud, most recent, often most irritating attention seeking interruption throughout.

This is nothing new, you say. The term living in “The Age of Distraction” was coined years ago.

Brilliant. So have we cracked it then?  No we have not. In evolutionary terms it has been a flicker of a whisker and we are all still learning how to live like this. Meanwhile our lives are rushing by in chunks of weeks, months and years. And for many of us living in this hurly burly feels out of control. Anxiety and depression are all too common. People are suffering from work-life imbalance (mind at work, body at home or vice versa).  Some of which, I’m guessing, is why you have found yourself here.

So what can we do about it?  Lots and lots, actually.

We have a series of blogs about how to win at modern life. How to find our Happiness Edge.  And my first look is at Mindfulness.

Does mindfulness really work?

A lot has been said about mindfulness in the last five years.  It has been lauded as a cure-all and then debunked as overrated. Well, as with most things, the truth is somewhere in between.

To refresh our memories, the benefits of mindfulness include:
• reducing stress, anxiety, and depression
• increasing effectiveness, wellbeing, and happiness
• improving physical health via a stronger immune system and lower blood pressure

The marvellous thing about mindfulness is how little time it takes to begin to feel benefits from it.

When we are barraged by so much stimuli that we never get a chance to stop and take a breath we feel a sense of rushing over-stimulation. And neither our family, nor our colleagues, nor our very selves can maintain our attention for more than a fleeting moment.

As I have mentioned, we spend virtually all of our thinking time either within our memories or with “what happens next…” So our thoughts are usually placed in the past or future. But physically we are always firmly in the present. Mind in one time frame, body in another. This creates mental tension, and it also gets in the way of our savouring what is going on around us right now.

Mindfulness is a way to restore harmony.

A great introduction to mindfulness is the following short scripted meditation. The meditation focuses our mind into the present moment, filling our awareness with it, so our body and mind are united in time. It also reminds us that whatever has happened in the past, and whatever might be about to happen in the immediate future, we are at this very instant, safe and secure.

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