Monday, April 2, 2007

Mind Over Multitasking

Mindfulness or being mindful is being aware of your present moment. You are not judging, reflecting or thinking. You are simply observing the moment in which you find yourself.
How much time do you spend not being mindful?

See if you recognize any of these statements from a questionnaire developed at the University of Rochester:

1. I find it difficult to stay focused on what's happening in the present.
2. I snack without paying much attention to what I'm doing.
3. It seems I'm "running on automatic" without much awareness of what I'm doing.
4. I tend to walk quickly to get where I'm going without paying attention to what I experience along the way.
5. I find myself listening to someone with one ear and doing something else at the same time.
6. I tend not to notice physical tension or discomfort until they really grab my attention.
7. I rush through activities without being really attentive to them.

If some of these sound familiar, there's plenty of room for increasing mindfulness in your daily life. Learning to focus the mind can be a healthful antidote to the stresses and strains of our on-the-go lives. Being mindful means focusing attention on what you're experiencing from moment to moment.

It's quite a challenge to be mindful in our hectic world.

Mindfulness-based approaches have been integrated into the treatment of anxiety, panic attacks, depression, and other behavioral and emotional disorders including binge eating, obsessive- compulsive disorder, and depression relapse.

Studies at University of Wisconsin showed that after mindfulness training, brain wave recordings showed a pattern of activity greater in the left prefrontal cortex that is associated with happiness and optimism. Mindfulness also influenced the immune system of those in the study. The mindfulness students produced more antibodies than the controls.
Source: Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care, and Society

What can you do to increase your mindfulness?

* The Mind/Body Medical Institute suggest that you slow down as you go about everyday activities, doing one thing at a time and bringing your full awareness to both the activity and your experience of it.
* Notice the times when your thoughts are creating stress or distracting you from the present moment.
* If you are in a stressful moment (perhaps you're about to speak in public or undergo a medical test), observe your thoughts and emotions and how they affect your body.
* Make something that occurs several times during your day, such as answering the phone or buckling your seat belt, a reminder to return to the present and think about what you're doing and observe yourself doing it.
* Being mindful doesn't mean you'll never "multitask", but you can make multitasking a conscious choice.
* It doesn't mean that you'll never be in a hurry, but at least you will be aware that you are rushing.
* Although upsetting thoughts or emotions won't disappear, you will have more insight into them and become aware of your choices in responding to them. Resource: Harvard Medical School Health Watch, Mind/Body Medical Institute.

Hopefully, hearing some of this research and learning some ways to increase your mindfulness will move you in the direction of being more mindful as you go through each day. It's worth giving it a try.

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