The practice of mindful meditation has recently been very much publicized in the news and the interwebs lately, and for good reason. In fact, I recently did an online search at a bookstore for the topic and it came up with 2,231 search results for book topics and related material!
Practicing these behaviors have been shown through empirically validated research to reduce stress and anxiety, and increase emotion regulation and focus (Davis & Hayes, 2011). Steven Hayes also provides support for the practice of mindfulness within Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, an empirically validated intervention, which exists within the one of its six tenets: "Being Present (Hayes, 2004)." (see also Acceptance and Commitment Therapy)* With the benefit of modern technology, the practices of mindfulness and meditation are no longer accessible to those traveling to far off places who participate in retreats or structured classes, as many applications and books provide support in the practice, teaching beginners and advanced learners.
I have to be honest, I was incredibly resistant to engage in mindful meditation. However, as a highly (self-proclaimed) anxious individual, I read countless articles proclaiming its benefit to increase productivity and decrease anxiety and stress...so I decided to give it a try.
I started to notice a difference in my thinking and reactive behavior after the first week, though I'll be honest, and I almost gave up after the first or second session. I scheduled time first thing in the morning to block off five minutes where I would sit in silence and "practice" mindful meditation. I focused on my breathing, and tried to simply "notice" my thoughts. The first two sessions were a disaster, and my thinking just kept racing at quick speeds about everything I needed to do that day in my business. The third day, I was on the verge of giving up, when it finally clicked. One of the practices of mindfulness, advises people to think of a metaphor of a "Passenger on a Bus," to practice noticing your thoughts. In this metaphor, the person practicing meditation imagines that they are a passenger on a bus, and all the thoughts and feelings present in the mind, pass by out a window as if you are a "passenger on a bus." As soon as I visualized that scenario, I was able to think more on my breathing, and react less to the thoughts and feelings occurring. By the end of the first week, I already saw a difference in my thinking and reacting to stressful situations. By the end of the second week, I was able to stretch the practice time to 20 minutes instead of just 5 minutes.
As a skill set, practicing mindfulness, shown through both research and my own experience, has allowed myself and others to access more information, focus on work, and reduce stressful thinking practices. If all leaders: teachers, parents, and business executives learned to practice this skill, and then in turn teach the skill to those they lead, we could all develop new ways to combat stress and anxiety in our daily lives!
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Hayes, S.C (2004). Acceptance and Commitment Therapy and the new behavior therapies: Mindfulness, acceptance and relationship. In S. C. Hayes, V. M. Follette, & M. Linehan (Eds.), Mindfulness and acceptance: Expanding the cognitive behavioral tradition (pp. 1-29). New York: Guilford.
Davis, D.M & Hayes, J.A.(2011) What Are the Benefits of Mindfulness A Practice Review of Psychotherapy-Related Research. Psychotherapy 48(2) p 198-208
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