Well, what does this have to do with mindfulness I hear you ask?
Physical break-ins are tangible, something that we can easily recognize and fix. What’s less noticeable are the small thefts that happen regularly, often on a daily basis, within our own lives. For example, do you notice how often you mentally rehash a conversation that didn’t go well, or how long you listen or interact with a colleague or friend as they speculate about another person, or how long you spend on social media? Each of these will sneakily take something vital from you, and every day there are multiple thoughts and behaviors that not only intrude and interrupt the flow of your life, but they steal peace of mind and the one thing that you can never get back—your time.
Sometimes it’s habits that drive certain behaviors such as eating pizza on a Friday evening, or wearing “lucky” socks when watching a game of football or when participating in a race or competition, or always going to the same spot on vacation at the same time of year. At other times it’s driven by balancing the needs of family, or spending time with the same group of people, or the demands of the workplace.
By not paying attention to behaviors, attitudes, emotions, associations, and what we consume we can end up causing or being in an accident, being late, having arguments, becoming ill due to inadequate nutrition and lack of exercise, and exhausted due to the constant barrage of thoughts and an insufficient quality of sleep.
With everything that we either must carry out or do simply because we’re in the habit of doing it, it’s no surprise that we can become out of touch with what we want or what’s really important to us. This is further compounded by chronic stress, demands of balancing work and family life, the pull of wanting to please others leaving little time for oneself. We can easily find ourselves stuck to the rim of a water wheel as it slowly turns, plunging us into churning water and then spinning us around again where we start to see clearly only to be plunged into the water yet again.
Each one of us has faced challenges and struggles in life. Think about a young child learning to walk, or swim, or swinging a bat and trying to hit a ball. Most likely there were people there cheering, saying “you can do it!” These people were there supporting and celebrating the successes and creating positive reinforcement.
However, consider what would happen if each of us gave up and stopped trying to swim or hit a ball after the first few times when we failed. Negative thoughts and self-perceptions are learned behavior and become so ingrained that they become “second-nature.”
Thankfully they can be unlearned. Struggles are not unique to one individual. It’s how we face each clash that we encounter.
In No More Stinkin' Thinkin' I’ll examine how mindfulness can not only offset unconscious behavior and but positively alter your way of thinking. We’ll explore aspects of mindfulness, such as:
· The difference between mindfulness and being in “Flow”
· Understanding how mindfulness can reduce stress and enhance wellbeing
· How mindfulness can hack the mental system to reduce cravings and addictions
· Generating self-awareness
· Increasing your ability to focus and untangle from stress and unhelpful thinking
· Managing your emotions
· Mindful activities to practice at work and at home
· How to incorporate mindfulness into everyday situations
· Establishing a foundation in mindfulness for self-care
It’s common to want to go deep into mindful methods first, to try them out before fully understanding what it is that we’re trying to alter. But if we don’t know why we have our habits and why react the way that we do, it’s going to be more challenging to change. Throughout each chapter I’ve included research that is relevant to our developing understanding of mindfulness and how it changes the brain and our subsequent responses to life. Then there are methods that require minimal effort as you start to carve out new behaviors, building up your ability until you can implement them with ease, before adding in ones that require more experience.
Since 2000, I’ve been leading well-being programs, including mindfulness and stress-management techniques in group settings and online trainings. My qualifications include Registered General Nurse, Certified Wellness Coach, Certified Wellness Program Coordinator, and Level 2 TriYoga teacher with certificates in program management and worksite wellness evaluation.
I’ve found that there’s not a one-program-fits-all solution that is going to address problem areas. What works best is giving people different tools that they can personally choose to use; ones that suit their lifestyle or personality and their work schedule or professional environment.
This book contains multiple components from research to the various uses of mindfulness with examples of how to integrate your own preferred method into everyday life. As you’ll discover, being mindful will help you to begin to free yourself from past habits and reactions and guide you through the replacement of outdated behaviors.
The mind is the only place that you live. What you experience goes through the mind, whether it is real or imagined, and what you think is what you believe. Using mindfulness as a solid foundation to build your life upon will help to eliminate moments of unconscious behavior, unaware emotions, and reduce internal struggles. In doing so you gain freedom; freedom from being caged up by random or unconscious thoughts and actions. When you live mindfully, you’ll be in charge of the vast domain that is your mind.
We don’t often think about the importance of maintaining awareness of our thoughts though. Think about a race car driver though. He or she cannot risk their mind drifting and lose concentration. They act with precision, with pre-defined strategies and tactics for each maneuver, and F1 teams such as Mercedes and Ferrari include the practice of mindfulness as part of their training in order to perform at such a high level and maintain their dominance on the track. It’s easy to envisage the devastating events that could happen if their awareness wandered and they became distracted at a time when their full attention was required.
Our daily activities may not appear to be so risky, yet unconsciously spoken words or actions can have harsh and even harmful consequences especially if delivered in haste. When you are exposed to a specific event, it is how your mind reacts, either consciously or unconsciously, that determines the response rather than the actual event itself. What we perceive as being real stems from what we perceive through the senses as well as from our past experiences, and we can even “fill in the gaps” as to a person’s intent based on our personal experiences.
Being fully in the moment allows you to be fully present with another person. This means that by listening to them, non-judgmentally, you make them feel that they’ve been heard for who they are and what they are going through. One of the important aspects of this is HOW it makes a person feel. How they feel before, during, and especially after an interaction with someone who is mindful. And it’s a two-way flow filled with positive emotions. It motivates you to continue to repeat this type of behavior because of how good it makes YOU feel and the other person that you are interacting with. Who wouldn’t like to talk to and be listened to by someone who makes you feel that they are truly interested in you and that what you are sharing matters?
While mindfulness will help in bringing awareness to what is unfolding around you and enable a sincerer, more reflective response, it requires you to consider other aspects of your experiences, emotions, and thoughts. For example, take a moment to imagine the sun. Are you looking at a sunrise or a sunset? A sunrise is filled with potential, of all the new opportunities that the day can bring. A sunset embodies endings and can also symbolize gratitude for all that you have achieved during the day. Yet either one can represent the repetition of an unhappy situation or a stubborn obstacle that is in your way preventing you from reaching a positive destination and seeing your goals through to the end. Or it can be reminiscent of a positive emotion or event. What does a sunrise or a sunset symbolize to you at this moment in time? Do you see the clouds that drift across the sky as objects carrying rain to spoil a picnic or magical animals as seen in the imagination of a child.
Your perspective is created by your own memories of past experiences, and it is constantly added to, by what happens to you in the future and how you react to them. Perspective must be reined in, in order to allow you to be open to receiving information AND observing without judgement.
When you are aware of the power of your perspective and intention and how they shape yourself and the world around you, you can see how assumptions and reactive emotions can in fact keep you tied down in the very habits, behaviors, and stressors that you are struggling to get away from.
The late Jim Rohn said, “Every day, stand guard at the door of your mind.” At the start of this chapter I described a scenario where a house had been broken into and items stolen and used it as an analogy for what can happen on a daily basis when we don’t pay attention to what we put into our minds by what we read, see, or listen too as well as what we allow to waste our precious time and energy on.
The mind is like a house, with windows to see in and out of, walls that we erect as mental barriers, multiple rooms that we can hide unpleasant memories in, but also a garden where we can rest or play or dream and create through our imagination.
For example, if we have old habits that we want to break out of or new routines that we want to begin, mindfulness has been shown to be an effective, drug-free method at initiating the changes that we want to have happen.
There are multiple elements that go into erecting a house, including what you put inside it. However, there’s a part of a house that’s frequently not thought of because it’s not typically seen.
It’s the foundation.
The foundation is what supports the entire structure and load of the building. It ensures that the building will withstand detrimental forces from outside elements such as strong winds or earth tremors that attempt to tear it down. And it protects the building from dampness and water that has the potential to erode and weaken the integrity of the house. Mindfulness is like the foundation of your house that helps to hold everything together. Building mindfulness into your daily living will help you care for your body and mind and lead a more satisfying lifeMore information on No More Stinkin' Thinkin' is available