Mindfulness practices can help to increase our ability to regulate emotions, decrease our stress and anxiety levels, and to focus our attention. This means that we can also observe our thoughts and feelings without judgement. Even with these benefits, the idea or thought of mindfulness can be overwhelming and challenging without practice and in the beginning when you are learning these skills.
So, like everything in life – we must give mindfulness a chance; we must be willing to feel it’s challenges and embrace the sheer practice of slowing down and adhering to a regular routine of mindful and focusing skills and drills. And much like our daily routines of brushing our teeth, eating, sleeping etc.; once we get in the rhythm, it becomes easier, and we can extend the boundaries and time to enhance the affects and feel more focused, upbeat, and overall happiness in our lives.
While there are many approaches and methods, most practices agree on these simple five strategies overall to gain a bit more focus in our busy, hectic lives:
- Make notes or a “to-do” (or even a “not to-do”) list: Just like the title, take notes (maybe positive affirmations from a book) and write them down in a notebook or on special paper and store in a folder or file to reference easily, or make a “to or not to-do” list. Just like it sounds – make a list of things to to-do OR not-to-doJ
- Meditate for 1-5 minutes: Meditation can be as short as 30-60 seconds at a time to hours at a time – yet start small and short and work your way up to 5 minutes. Once you establish a routine, it does get easier, and you will find that a longer period is easier to do over time.
- Read a long book: You can begin with a short story (especially if you don’t read regularly) so that you build your endurance for reading and focusing your attention on a single book or story, then build up to the longer books.
- Exercise your body: Movement of any kind is helpful to redirect your energy, focus and attention. Try starting with simple range of motion exercises like shoulder rolls, arm and trunk movements, moving your legs while seated and work your way up to 15 minutes of a practice of Yoga, fitness, Pilates or Tai Chi. These formats will help to increase the endorphins and make everyday activities easier to do.
- Practice active listening: Do you ever find yourself listening to someone and realize that you’ve completely lost the ‘story’ that they are telling you? This is very common when we are distracted and feeling stressed or anxious. Just like with meditation – if you find that your mind has wandered and you have lost the trail of the conversation – just ask them to repeat what they just said and look right at them (if you are in person) or close your eyes and imagine they are sitting right in front of you (if you are on the phone) and really hear and listen to their words.
The following are some other techniques and might be more appealing to you or try mixing and matching from the above and below list to add variety to your mindfulness approach and practice:
- Try a counting game
- Memorize patterns
- Complete a crossword puzzle
- Visualize an object
- Sit still for 5-15 minutes
- Follow the hand of the clock for 1-5 mins
Apps & websites for improving concentration:
While it does seem somewhat counterproductive to our quest for mindfulness – using apps (yes, those very things that CAN and WILL distract you) might have some benefits. Here’s a small list of apps that can help you ‘build’ your mindfulness strength and add more focus and concentration to your day:
- Brain HQ
- Lumosity Brain Games
- Cold Turkey
This improved technology for your focus and attention does mean that you can work on your cognitive skills anywhere you are. In today’s world that’s important as well as practical. These apps can also make the process of finding a routine of mindfulness fun and engaging; making it easier to return to these skills and drills on a regular basis hence adding to the effectiveness that these practices add to our daily lives.
It is not necessary to practice for hours at a time, instead – think small! The results will be easier to feel and see if you begin with a few minutes a day several times a week versus going for the limit and trying to schedule in more than you will be capable of doing realistically. Start by finding one day of the week and a time during that day that you can devote at least 1-5 minutes of some mindful activity. Perhaps this is a meditation, reading a chapter in a book, writing in a journal – or whatever else resonates with you and your schedule. Try doing that activity once a week at the allotted time for 4 weeks and see if you notice a difference. You likely will notice the difference even after the first try – yet give yourself at least one month or four weeks in a row to feel, note down, and notice the difference. If you can note down in a journal or your calendar on that day how you felt before the activity and a few words to describe how you felt after the activity and look back after a month. Do you see and feel a difference in your focus and concentration? How about your mood and overall spirit and demeaner? Try not to be too harsh in your recall of how you did or felt – just note and write without judgement or negative self-talk and move onto the rest of your day. You’ll be surprise how just a few minutes a week can make a huge difference in a very short amount of time.
Rejuv at Work also offers several options for Mind-Body classes and/or workshops such as: Meditation, Stretch at Your Desk, Deskercise, Yoga, Tai Chi and Pilates. These are all ways to help reduce and manage stress and anxiety as well as promote a healthier and happier outlook and work environment. Mindful movement strategies are wonderful ways to add healthier alternatives and ideas for your staff and employees.