I’ve touched on the topic of mindfulness on my blog before. Today I want to share my own experience with you in the hope that it can help you find some balance in your own life.
We live in a great, big hurly-burly VUCA world. And it’s exhausting. What is VUCA you ask? It’s a term borrowed from the US Army. It stands for Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous. The business community has borrowed it from the army, and applied it to leadership development, for us to think about how we need to lead (ourselves and others) in a VUCA world.
Are you creating your own in-balance?
If you reach for your device on waking, the chances are that you are met with an onslaught of demands before you’ve even started your day. But does it have to be this way? We are creators of our own fate. You can choose to start your day in a different way. In a way that gives you a bit of time to yourself – at least for a short time each day. One tool that has proven successful for me is mindfulness.
Choose to create balance
Mindfulness has its roots in Buddhism. It’s come a long way from ‘hippydom’ to being a legitimate cognitive tool to help us deal with the frenetic pace of today’s world. While mindfulness is not an activity as such, it is often arrived at by practicing mindfulness meditation, yoga or other mindfulness inducing activities.
Mindfulness itself is a state of awareness of your experience in the present moment – a state of awareness that carries no judgement on what that experience is.
In the past mindfulness was often viewed with scepticism by the business community; something that was more appropriate for holistic enthusiasts and hippy types. But today the medical field stand behind it as a well-researched and successful tool to deliver significant psychological and physiological benefits. The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence, NHS Choices and the Mental Health Foundation have all acknowledged the benefits of mindfulness in leading a healthy, stress-managed life.
Some of the most common benefits associated with the regular practice of mindfulness are
- a reduction in stress and anxiety
- improved sleep quality
- increased focus
- better memory
- an improvement in cognitive flexibility
And with this researched evidence, the business community is finally catching up and catching on.
Choosing how to practice mindfulness
With the explosion of interest in mindfulness, there has been a proliferation in the ways we can access it. Choosing the right option to help you practice can be stressful in itself! So here’s an overview of your options:
The two main categories of help are
- in-person mindfulness activities (e.g. courses, retreats, workshops)
- digital mindfulness activities (easily accessible digital version of mindfulness which you can carry around in your pocket and access as and when you need).
I’ve tried many options over the last five years. My personal interest was piqued by the emerging research, and I wondered how mindfulness could help my clients in the leadership development and resilience optimisation work I do. And of course, as I’ve explored and tested various options, the benefits for my own health and wellbeing have become more and more evident.
During my experimentation, I found it difficult to find a way of practicing that worked for me. Id’ find myself starting with an online app, and then getting bored. I’d get the giggles during ‘in-person’ activities. Or I’d find the voices used in the various digital activities I tried deeply irritating. But then…
…finally, some Headspace
I saw Andy Puddicombe’s TED talk, Ten Mindful Minutes, back in 2012. But it wasn’t until last year that I discovered Headspace.com. Headspace is an App designed to bring mindfulness to people in a simple way. Andy Puddicome is one of its co-founders and the voice of all the guided meditations.
I am a Headspace convert. I love it for many many reasons:
- it has a superb structure built with the aim of learning a new practice
- it’s not patronising
- you can choose the duration of your sessions and vary it each day if you like
- there are hundreds of different options depending on where you want to focus your practice (sport, creativity, focus, anxiety, sleep etc etc). There are even options children.
- Andy’s voice is very listenable, calm and encouraging.
I also like Andy’s story and the ethics surrounding the business he and his business partner have set up. After all, it is important that the businesses we support are ones that align with our own principles.
My Headspace experience so far…
Practicing mindfulness is neither hard nor easy, but it is different. For that reason, you need to approach it as you would learning a new sport. Lots of practice!
I am now five months into my Headspace journey. I have completed 131 sessions, averaging 14 minutes at a time. (Though I have challenged myself and managed 40 minutes on one occasion!) In that short space of time, it has become an essential part of my morning routine. Gone is my grab for Facebook and emails. Gone is listening to the news first thing. I have learned that these things can wait. In return, I enjoy a more peaceful entry to the day and it doesn’t just make me feel good. It makes me much more able to deal with whatever the VUCA world throws at me. Bring it on!
I invite you to try mindfulness practice for yourself. It can be hard to get into the practice of doing it every day, but stick with it. When you do you will see an improvement in how you deal with everyday stressors and an improvement in the quality of your relationships and encounters.
If you do one thing after reading this blog – watch this short animation on how Headspace works.
If you do decide to give it a go, I’d love to hear how you get on.