The importance of practicing mindfulness
At a Glance: You don’t need to sit in silence to experience the benefits of meditation. Quick mindfulness exercises include focused breathing, shutting off distractions and going for an intentional walk.
When your life seems like one long to-do list, it’s hard to keep your mind from wandering to everything else that needs to get done. And then it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy that the list stays long.
Consider using mindfulness exercises to heighten concentration and cut through distractions. Rooted in Buddhism, mindfulness is a state of active, open attention on the present.
You certainly don’t need to start meditating to get in on the mindfulness act. Consider a few of these exercises to train your brain to focus better, helping you concentrate and complete those must-dos.
- Just breathe
- Shut off distractions
- Mindful walking
- Focus, focus
When it’s time to work or study, take a breather first. At your car or desk, close your eyes, sit upright and concentrate on inhaling and exhaling. This will put your focus on breathing rather than all the things you need to do.
Many of us are distracted by the beeps of email, texts and social media. Rather than leaving email open all day, turn it off. Set aside a few intentional time blocks to read and respond to messages — say morning, noon and end of day. Then when it’s work time, it’s work time, and you won’t lose focus from every ping and ding.
Combine movement with a mindfulness exercise to calm your thoughts. Christopher Hoffman and Elizabeth Hoffman suggest in their book, “Staying Focused in the Age of Distraction,” that you take off your socks and walk, paying close attention as your heel hits the ground, then your toes. Walk down the hall doing this slow walking while paying attention to heel, toe, heel, toe. Tada! You’ve given yourself a mental breather while boosting your focus for work.
Training the brain to concentrate on a small task helps you tap into those powers of focus when needed. Try a mindfulness-based stress reduction technique called object meditation, where you pick an item such as a stone or flower. Observe all aspects of it — shape, hue, texture, smell and taste — during several minutes. Doing this exercise tricks the mind to stay in the present moment, a skill that becomes useful when you have a lot to get done.
Over time, incorporating a few mindfulness exercises throughout your day will help you avoid distractions, breathe through stress and make the most of your time.