Mindfulness?! That’s sitting cross-legged on a woollen mat under a Nepalese Mountain humming ritualistic mantras, right?!
As Tim Ferris explains in Tools of Titans, the one habit consistently practiced by over 80% of the billionaires, icons and world-class performers he spoke to while researching and writing the book was some form of daily mindfulness practice.
But what is mindfulness, how does one do it and what are the benefits?
My experience with mindfulness began in 2018 when I heard about the supposed advantages of mindfulness for focus and stress-management and downloaded the HeadSpace app. I took out a 2 year subscription which I have extended ever since.
For me now, at about 06:05 each day, I’ll put on the latest session of whatever course I’m following in the app (‘Finding Focus at Work’ the past few weeks) and perch on the end of the sofa with my eyes closed. Andy Puddicombe, the founder of the app will lead me through 10 mins of guided breathing and focus exercises. Were anyone else in the room, it would look like I was sitting on the sofa with my eyes closed, taking slightly more deliberate breaths than normal, because that’s all I’m really doing.
I find that it gets me into the frame of mind to observe, without judgement, more of my day than I otherwise would and I think, for me, this is the major benefit. It develops us to be less reactive to our surroundings, more able to see external events objectively and allow them to pass, to be reflected on from a distance before continuing with our day.
Beyond that, the empirically evidenced benefits of mindfulness are substantial. The EOC lists 141 benefits on this interesting page: 141 Benefits of Mindfulness.
For me though, it’s perhaps best summed up as…
‘coaching us to increase the time between stimulus and response’.
Put into practice at its very best, things can happen around us without impacting us, our thoughts or our actions.
I can definitely still become distracted if something flashes up on my screen, or I’m hungry or something else is on my mind. But I find that I realise that I am distracted much sooner and that is the point at which I realise the distraction, that the mindfulness has supported me through that moment, as I can gently bring my focus back to whatever I had planned to be doing at that time.
I can’t talk for how easy it would be to start mindfulness without an app, as I used Headspace from the start and can thoroughly recommend it. As of today, the app tells me that I have done over 40 hours of mindfulness so I obviously get on well with it and have built a really good habit during SWAN#1 and now into SWAN#2, recently passing the 60 day streak mark.
There are popular alternatives to Headspace such as Calm and 10% happier but my experience with those is limited. The story of Andy Puddicombe, the creator of Headspace, who had previously been a monk but wanted to take mindfulness to the masses, is inspiring and he still leads many of the practices in the app.
A good comparison of the different mindfulness apps is here.
So I view this 10 minute investment of my time each morning as one which is paid back throughout the day. Every time that I get distracted while I should be doing something else, I feel like mindfulness has helped me to realise that I am distracted and to redirect my attention back in the direction of progress.
And if, like me, you would like some reassurance that you’re actually getting some return on the investment of your 10 minutes, or however long you choose to do, the Search Inside Yourself Leadership Institute suggests that one can expect to see a 200% return on time invested, a substantial claim. My thoughts on this figure are that it is possible, as recapturing and refocusing one’s wandering attention sooner should allow you to get more of the important stuff done faster to a higher standard.
Headspace can be downloaded here and it normally includes some sort of free trial so you really do have nothing to lose and everything to gain.
And you don’t even need a Nepalese Mountain.
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Mindfulness is something I have been reluctant to try, not for any particular reason other than not making space for it. I’ve committed to giving it a go!
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