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Mindfulness is receiving a lot of attention in the media and for good reason: regularly practicing mindfulness meditation can literally change the brain, strengthening regions of the brain associated with attention and emotion regulation, and may be particularly beneficial for people who not only have to manage themselves in stressful situations but manage others as well. People who practice mindfulness meditation have been shown to experience reduced stress, increased well-being, are more likely to be compassionate towards themselves and others, and may even have more adaptive immune system responses.
So what is mindfulness? Mindfulness involves paying attention to what’s happening in the present moment with an attitude of openness, kindness, and curiosity. It’s a way of interacting with the present moment, which means it can be practiced anywhere and anytime. And while some people seem to be more mindful than others, it’s a skill that gets stronger with practice.
The best way to strengthen your ability to be more mindful is to set aside time each day to practice, starting with short, simple exercises. In a recent Psychology Today article Dr. Ryan Niemiec introduces a brief mindfulness exercise he calls “The Mindful Pause”. It has two steps:
1) Begin by pausing and feeling your in-breath and out-breath for 10-15 seconds.
2) Conclude with a question: Which of my character strengths will I bring forward right now to support myself (and others) in this situation?
I find this exercise encourages me to step back, ground myself, and consider what the present moment requires of me. In the article I share how taking mindful pauses encourages me to be kinder and more appreciative of the good in my life.
Try taking some mindful pauses throughout your day and see whether inserting some space in your hectic routine helps to bring out your best and leverage your character strengths. If you are interested in learning more about leader character you can find out more here.
Chiesa, A., & Serretti, A. (2009). Mindfulness-based stress reduction for stress management in healthy people: A review and meta-analysis. The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, 15, 593-600.
Davidson, R. J., Kabat-Zinn, J., Schumacher, J., Rosenkranz, M., Muller, D., Santorelli, S. F., … & Sheridan, J. F. (2003). Alterations in brain and immune function produced by mindfulness meditation. Psychosomatic Medicine, 65, 564-570.
Hölzel, B. K., Carmody, J., Vangel, M., Congleton, C., Yerramsetti, S. M., Gard, T., & Lazar, S. W. (2011). Mindfulness practice leads to increases in regional brain gray matter density. Psychiatry Research: Neuroimaging, 191, 36-43.
Shapiro, S. L., Brown, K. W., & Biegel, G. M. (2007). Teaching self-care to caregivers: effects of mindfulness-based stress reduction on the mental health of therapists in training. Training and Education in Professional Psychology, 1, 105-115.
Snippe, E., Nyklíček, I., Schroevers, Maya., Bos, E. H. (2015). The temporal order of change in daily mindfulness and affect during mindfulness-based stress reduction. Journal of Counselling Psychology, 62, 106-114.