Mindfulness is not about trying to fix anything. It is about expanding our awareness by focusing on the present moment several times a day for short periods of time. Mindfulness is known to alleviate stress but that is just a side benefit, the real benefit we gain from mindfulness is awareness.
When we allow our minds to wander we often get caught up in our story. You know your story even if you aren’t consciously aware of it. Mine used to be that there is never anyone to support me and I had to do everything for everyone. It also included that there was never enough money for me no matter how much I earned. Your story includes all the patterns that make life hard or easy for you, how you relate to others, how much money and time you have, and how successful you will be.
We have an exercise we do in my life coach training course where people monitor their moods over a 24 hour period. The vast majority of people who complete this exercise find that their moods fluctuated a lot more than they realised. Often people find that there is a specific time of day when their mood dips, usually at 2pm. Or, they discover a trigger that takes them away from being as happy as they would like to be.
When we are mindful we don’t judge, we simply observe. By being mindful we are not living in the past, the future, or worrying about something or someone, we simply experience this moment right now, which is the only moment we have control over. Mindfulness can be a form of brain training as awareness enables us to make a conscious choice to change our habits or limiting beliefs. Through the practice of mindfulness we train our brains to create a new default pattern in much the same way as acting on values does. Scientists have found that when we are mindful we start wiring neurons which balance the brain in the same way as antidepressant medication. Being mindful has also been found to reduce negative thinking and improve our ability to regulate our emotions.
In his book, Joy on Demand: The Art of Discovering the Happiness Within, Chade-Meng Tan says that a 2003 study found that just eight weeks of mindfulness training is enough to cause significant changes in the brain associated with increased happiness.
Mindfulness is a way to keep our brains healthy and it protects us from stress. It can support the development of new beliefs to replace those that limit us, and being mindful can makes us feel good about ourselves.
ACTING ON VALUES IS A WAY OF BEING MINDFUL
When I first started teaching people about values, I never considered them to be a form of mindfulness, in fact during the late nineties when I first started working with values we didn’t hear much about mindfulness at all.
The way I work with values is to choose three values that you commit to live by. You don’t have to find the perfect three straight away, you can play with them, but I always say you know when you have chosen the right values because they enhance your life.
Once you have chosen your values you define them. This is simply writing out a short statement that says exactly how you will act on your value in a moment of stress.
So when your stress response is triggered, you pause, feel your emotions and act on your value.
This simple conscious choice, acted on repeatedly can change your entire life. It supports you to feel good about yourself. To be aware. To change limiting beliefs and it can reduce stress.
Remember, how you use your mind changes your brain.
Anne Hartley is CEO of Hart Life Coaching, a mindfulness and meditation teacher training school, and author of Love the Life You Live.