I have just finished working in Koh Samui and during my stay there, caught up with a friend I had met in Greece a couple of years ago.
She is an interesting lady, a psychologist and Buddhist meditation instructor amongst many other things and has spent most of the last 10 years living in Bhutan. I have never met anyone quite like her and during our time together, I learnt a lot, particularly about my ego.
Yes, the good old ego. Probably about the most destructive force on the planet and yet most of the time we are completely unaware that it is there. I thought I was fairly egoless until this lady reminded me of its presence and how very much alive it is!
The ego is who we think we are. It is made up from our beliefs about the world which we have gathered by our own personal experiences and is influenced by our language, culture, family, friends, country, religion and beliefs. It is almost like a set of rules by which we unconsciously live by and will die in order to protect it. When someone challenges our ego, the first feeling we tend to experience is anger because we defend our ego in exactly the same way we would fight to protect our body, family, friends or country.
During our conversations, she would often challenge me on things that I said or believed and although I didn’t show it, I would often feel my anger rising within. I could easily have defended what I had said but instead, chose to keep my mouth closed and listen to her thoughts and comments. I am not saying that I passively agreed with everything she said, God no! But put my ego aside, listened to what she was saying and then questioned whether or not I believed it was true.
One thing she commented on was how many generalizations I used when talking about topics as though the things were accepted by everyone in the world as true, when in fact, they were merely facts that I believed were true. I am a hypnotherapist, a life coach and a meditation instructor, I know these things and I often point them out to my clients and then completely forget that I am doing the same thing!!
Isn’t it so much easier to notice other people’s faults rather than our own?
The reason it is important to question our beliefs is that if we are not happy, then there is something at fault in the way we percive the external world.
The world is the world. If we are not accepting the way it is, it means that we have a misconception about it. It is not the world that is at fault, it is our ego’s perception of it.
But in order for us to change our perception about it, it means that we have to accept that we have been wrong for so many years.
This is a painful process when it is pointed out to us, because this ego, this way of thinking is almost a part of our very personality.
I mean, let’s be honest now. Who likes to be criticized or told that they are wrong?
Nobody! It almost feels like a personal attack. Part of our brain can often feels like we are being belittled or that the person criticizing us feels they are better than us. As a result, anger kicks in.
Anger is the emotion that we experience when we need to defend ourselves. It produces a host of fight or flight responses in the body and we start to think with the irrational, animalistic part of our brain that is called the limbic system. This is activated when we feel threatened and as a result we act without thinking. It is a very important we use this part of the brain when we are feeling physically threatened, but we must become aware of its presence and only use it when we need to.
When the ego defends itself, a big problem that we experience is that we do not listen to what the other person is telling us. The result is WE DO NOT LEARN ANYTHING NEW.
If we wish to develop ourselves, we must learn to listen and become impartial to what other people say. This is the only way you will begin to notice the faults in your personality or ways of thinking and start to change.
We must learn to listen openly to what people say and trust our own judgement on matters. Thinks, question and analyze what people are saying to us and rather than becoming angry or upset by their comments, listen and ask yourself if what they are saying is really true.
If it is, great, accept it and use the new information in your life to make permanent and positive change.
If you listen to the facts, scrutinize them and find them not to be true then reject them. But do not reject ideas before you have carefully and impartially listened to them first. Otherwise you will never change.
The Ego is a powerful force. Although it is suppose to be there to protect us, it also responsible for all the pain and anger we experience in life. Knowledge is power. Learn to understand your ego and the beliefs that are holding you back in life. Listen to what others are saying and question your beliefs. It is painful but it is the only way you will successfully develop yourself and change for the better.
How often do you have to deal with people who are angry?
It could be a partner, your children, friends, work colleagues or your superiors at work.
One of the most important lessons I have learnt in life is too simply be kind, to everybody, all of the time, no matter how upset or angry the people around you are.
Why? Because life is so much less stressful that way.
When you remain calm and kind to others, you can quell small fires and prevent them from getting out of control.
You may think that is an obvious thing to say and you probably think you are kind.
But being kind is not easy. Being kind takes great strength of character. Being kind means learning to control your thoughts and emotions and being as solid as a rock no matter what people do or say to you.
When someone upsets us or makes us angry, we naturally become angry ourselves. When this happens, do not retaliate.
When you feel the anger rising within you, keep your mouth closed and say nothing.
For to speak hastily and angrily will only make the problem worse.
Never show your anger towards anyone, ever…..unless your life is seriously at risk.
Under any other circumstance, anger will always be your downfall.
When someone is angry with you and you react with anger yourself, you are only adding fuel to the fire.
You cannot fight fire with fire, otherwise, you create an inferno. Infernos are very hard to put out and can last a very long time.
You can only fight fire with water or as the Taoist say, “The soft always overcomes the strong”.
What is meant by that? Does it mean you cower in fear and let the other person walk all over you?
Absolutely not. The complete opposite in fact.
You stand your ground emotionally. You take control of the situation by acting calmly and cultivating the opposite. It means cultivating internal strength and great self-control within, rather than losing control of your temper and letting your emotions out.
When you remain calm and in control, you do not become a victim to your emotions. You simply observe the anger inside of you, relax into it, let it go and speak calmly, confidently and clearly back to the person you are conversing with.
Reacting without thinking is easy to do. Anyone can do that, but only the wise know and understand that this will only cause you more problems in the long run. Better to keep your mouth closed. That way you will be able to listen to what is being said and then make your own decision as to whether you believe the facts to be true or not.
Wise people understand that knowledge comes from listening, not speaking.
It takes great strength to remain calm and be kind to those who are angry or criticize you. It means dropping your ego and being unaffected by the opinions of others. It means that inside, you are so strong and confident of yourself that anger and insults from others fly off you without affecting your calm, inner nature. It also means that you are open to criticism and change if you think that what is said will make you a better person.
In the West, we often regard anger as a sign of strength and a good way to get things done. In the East, it is regarded as a weakness.
Sometimes, we believe that getting angry instils fear into people and they will do as we say. But the truth is, you may get things done in the short term, but you also run the risk of people digging in their heels and doing the opposite. Even if they do comply to what you say, they will resent you and do whatever they can to make you slip and fall in the future.
You will also find yourself feeling uncomfortable in front of that person whenever you see them and that causes YOU stress!
If you remain calm, polite and show no fear, you will gain respect from others. When people respect and like you, they will go out of their way to help and support you.
I challenge you to be nice to every single person you meet for a week and see how much your life changes. Do not get angry with anyone. Be strong internally.
Be kind, to everyone, all of the time.
I love watching mother nature sometimes.
One thing I learnt whilst living in Asia is that you have to learn to live with it because a lot of the time it lives in your house. No matter if you are on the top floor of a skyscraper, I can guarantee you will still find ants in your kitchen!
I remember one day watching a group of about 10 ants lifting a grain of rice up a wall. The skill and precision they used revealed just how intelligent these creatures were. As I watched them, I realized they must have been communicating in some fashion because the complexity of the way they manoeuvred around the grain of rice looked similar to a bunch of highly experienced removal men carrying a piano down a flight of winding stairs.
I then thought to myself, wouldn’t it be amazing if CEO’s knew how to get their employees to work as intelligently as these ants?
Unfortunately, when it comes to many industries, the opposite seems to be true.
Many companies I have worked with seem to deploy competition amongst their staff believing that this will motivate them to reach their targets.
I don’t understand this approach at all. From what I have seen it creates a bad atmosphere of dishonesty and mistrust amongst co-workers where individuals are only concerned about what they can get out of the business, now what is best for the businesses itself.
It also encourages employees to work against their co-workers and revel in their failure! Why? Because when other people fail and they succeed, it makes them look good.
Sad, but true I’m afraid.
Surely a business would benefit more if everyone worked together, supported one another and shared their knowledge rather than keep it to themselves.
“But it works”, a CEO told me recently about his company which encourages internal competition
Yes, and so does a Robin Reliant, but that doesn’t mean to say it is the best car on the market.
In my opinion, competition is overrated unless it is used for sports and recreational fun.
I have found that I learn so much more when I share my knowledge with other people in a similar field to me rather than keep information to myself because it is USUALLY reciprocated. Obviously, not everyone feels the same way and I do meet a lot of people who are on the take and not willing to give.
When I do meet such people, I know that I will not work with them. But when I find people are equally as willing to share their knowledge with me as I am with them, then I will not only trust them but will go out of my way to help them too.
If they are truly willing to help me without thought of personal gain, then I know they have the best interests of their customers and other people at their heart too. These are definitely people worth collaborating with because they have the wisdom to understand happiness comes from helping others to succeed, not from what is in it for them.
Think rationally about this.
No one in society can survive alone. We need the support of people around us and therefore we need to work together to survive.
If you think you are independent and you can survive by yourself, tell me…did you make your own clothes? Did you grow the food that you eat? Did you make the car that you drive or build your home with your own hands?
Everything that we do, each and every day, is dependent on the other people around us. We HAVE to work together in order to survive and business is no different. A business is nothing more than a group of individuals working together to achieve a common goal.
And so where pray tell, does that leave space for internal competition?
Look forward to any thoughts on this article…😊
When I fly back to the UK having been away for a few months, I often find myself being more observant than usual of the things around me.
On my last visit, I found myself on the London underground during rush hour where most people were heading off to work.
In the carriage, I could see 27 people around me. 22 of those were either staring into or listening to music on their mobile phones, 2 of them were reading newspapers, one was reading a book, one was sleeping and there was one other person, like me, just doing nothing.
Doing nothing is a lost art these days. People simply do not know how to switch off, yet these moments of switching off are very important to the brain.
Because it is in these moments of “doing nothing” that our brains manage to reflect on life and give us greater clarity of thought.
When we are busying ourselves, we are just taking in information but have no time to reflect on it. This also actually means that most of what we are reading is not being absorbed into the brain but just giving us temporary relief from boredom.
When I recommend books to people, I tell them not to just read the book, but to study and reflect on the teachings. This way, your mind can really understand the information rather than just experiencing momentary pleasure from it.
Only by reflecting on knowledge and putting into practice can we experience true wisdom.
But if we spend our lives with our heads in our mobile phones only reading about knowledge, we are not really assimilating that knowledge into our daily living.
‘Doing nothing’ is often recognized by many people as being a waste of time, but in fact, just like exercise, our bodies need this down-time to recover from ‘information overload’. This information overload means our brain has little or no recovery time which in the long term can lead to feelings of stress and anxiety.
In addition, when you take on knowledge without reflecting on it, you are merely following the opinions of other people. But taking the information and reflecting upon it will give you a greater personal understanding of the problem and what action you need to take.
Inner reflection also allows time for personal growth too. It is very important that we have some self-awareness and this can only come through periods of ‘downtime’ when we spend some time just ‘being’ rather than ‘doing’.
When we have more self-awareness, we also have a greater understanding of other people too. As a result, our empathy increases towards other humans as we begin to realise that they experience life in the same way that we do. This, in turn, improves our communication skills on both a personal and professional level.
Another thing about learning to do nothing is that it helps reduce anxiety especially if we can combine it with a walk in the park or sitting outside on a sunny day. Just observing the world around us or even taking our focus of awareness into our bodies will help us to reflect on our lives internally.
This, by the way, is different from conscious thinking. Conscious thinking can do the opposite, for example, sitting in silence but spending that time churning a problem over and over again in your head. This can exasperate the problem.
What I mean by doing nothing is just relaxing the body and noticing what is going on around you, now, in the present moment.
When we enter the sea on a windy day, it is often difficult to see more than a few feet in front of us as all the sand gets churned up with the water.
However, after a day or two, when the sea has settled, all the sand sinks down to the bottom of the ocean and it is possible for us to see clearly for 20 or 30 metres.
The mind works in the same way. When we allow it to settle by doing nothing, the thoughts of the past and future start to settle and we can see things much more clearly because our ideas are not clouded by our previous experiences from the past or worries about what might happen in the future.
Even Albert Einstein said that many of his greatest ideas came not whilst focusing on a problem, but after he had stopped thinking and was going about his day to day tasks.
And I am sure you have experienced a time when you are trying to remember someone’s name and the harder you think, the more it alludes you. But go about your daily tasks and all of a sudden the name pops straight into your head!
So take some time out now and again from your mobile phone, TV, iPod, book or whatever you use to distract your mind and spend some time, each day, allowing your mind to do nothing.
You will find greater peace of mind, clarity of thought and new ideas revealing themselves faster than ever before.
It is a pity that our education system doesn’t teach people how to build relationships with other people. The world would be a much better place if it did.
Unfortunately, all we are ever taught at school are subjects that will help us how to get a job. We are not taught how to live. Because just like any other subject, living is an art, a skill that needs to be learnt and practised if we are to enjoy life and live in peace with ourselves and the world around us.
Some of the most important life skills we need to be aware of are those that govern human relationships. Without a firm understanding of these laws, people will always find it difficult to develop long-term, deep-rooted friendships which are the foundation of a happy life.
So today I present 6 of these laws in the hope that you might contemplate and incorporate them into your daily living.
1) Don’t bitch about anyone, ever.
This is the most valuable lesson that I ever learnt and it will bring you more peace of mind than any other strategy I know.
Bitching about others is ugly. It is telling people that you believe that you are better than them, that others have faults but you are perfect. Bitchy people are insecure and need recognition of how good they are and they do that by belittling others because it gives them a momentary feeling of worthiness.
But the truth is that when you bitch about others, you actually alienate yourself from people. People will begin to realise you are two-faced and will not trust you and before too long, you will not trust other people around you either. We judge people by our own standards, so if we bitch, we start to believe others are bitching about us too and this generates a feeling of paranoia.
Instead, spend time focusing on your own faults and do everything you can to perfect them. This will help you to become a kinder, happier person and attract the same kind of friends and people towards you.
2) Do not judge others.
When we see people who act in a different way to us, we tend to judge them. We tend to portray a fixed personality onto them such as being a “good” or “bad” person without ever understanding their full story.
“She’s lazy! She leaves work earlier than everyone else”. Maybe she is a struggling, single mother who has to pick up her daughter from school every afternoon.
“He is so tight with his money”. Maybe he is struggling to support his sick wife and 2 children at home.
“He never drinks. He is so boring”. Ex-alcoholic, desperately trying to stay sober maybe?
Do not judge people by your own experiences in life, but try and understand them. Learn to accept people the way they are. Changing a person to fit into your ideal is very difficult. But changing your attitude to someone is very easy.
3) Learn to Listen.
There is a Hindu God of wisdom called Ganesh who has a human body and the head of an elephant. He is portrayed in this way because an elephant has huge ears and a tiny mouth. This is a symbol that in order to have wisdom, one should listen more and speak less.
Listening means really listening to everything that is being said without judging and without just waiting for that person to stop talking so that you can tell your bigger and better story. Listening is like one-way traffic. You can’t speak and listen at the same time, so if you are having a conversation in your head when you are supposedly “listening” to another person, YOU ARE NOT LISTENING. Clear your mind and pay them all your attention. The best way to do this is to become genuinely interested in other people Have compassion for them and you will then find it easier to let go of your ego and focus on what they are saying instead.
4) Never Lose Your Temper
Getting angry and losing your temper helps no one! It is a sign that you are not in control and it will only make a bad situation worse.
If you can learn how to control your anger, you will be able to think in a more rational and reasonable manner and therefore resolve any problems more quickly, easily and efficiently. The reason is that when we are calm we think with a different part of our brain called the Frontal Lobe. This is known as our humanistic part of the brain which allows us to see things more clearly and creatively. But when we become angry, we think with your animalistic, defensive part called the limbic system which acts emotionally and irrationally. When you become angry, you will often say things that you later regret. This will result in feelings of guilt. It also diminishes the respect and confidence people have in you too. But learn to control your anger, people will always look up to you as a leader, a person who is in control, a person who they can depend and rely on when the going gets tough. The best way to learn how to control your emotions is by learning to meditate.
5) Learn to see things from the other person’s perspective.
Quite often, if people have different ideas, views or opinions from us, the first reaction we experience is anger. Why? Because we are defending our long-held beliefs that we feel are a part of us. When someone challenges our opinion, we almost take it as a personal attack on ourselves and as a result, our barriers come up and we miss an opportunity to learn something new. If someone has a different opinion to you, stay calm, open and try and understand them instead of resisting their opinions. Once you fully understand them, then you are in a better position to question whether or not you feel their opinion or idea is correct or not.
6) Learn to forgive.
I remember a lady who came to see me once who said she was having problems forgiving her husband who left her for another woman. She felt angry every time she thought of him and would sometimes be unable to sleep at night recalling how hurtful and selfish he had been. I asked her how long ago this had happened.
“16 years ago” she replied.
It was not her husband who had caused her to suffer for the last 16 years, but herself.
She said she couldn’t forgive him because that would be letting him off the hook.
What hook? There was no hook. He didn’t care whether or not he was forgiven, but that imaginary hook had kept her mind in a place of anger, hatred and sleepless nights for 16 years!!
Learn to let go of the past.
Forgiving is no letting the other person off the hook for what they did. It is letting yourself off the hook so you can be free from suffering. No one is perfect, not you, me or anyone else who has ever walked on this planet. That is what being human is all about – making mistakes and trying to learn from them. If you want to let go of your pain, learn to forgive people who have hurt you, not for their sake, but for yours.
Over the last few years, mindfulness has grown in popularity in the corporate world as directors and managers seek to improve their performance and deal more effectively with the effects of stress. But what exactly is it? And how can it improve work performance?
Mindfulness can simply be translated as the ability to concentrate on one thing at a time without distraction. In the same way that lifting weights regularly in the gym strengthens a muscle, practicing mindfulness regularly strengthens the mind’s ability to concentrate. The more focused our minds are, the easier and quicker it is for us to master new tasks and learn new skills.
The reason it is needed now more than ever is that our brains are becoming less focused due to the huge amount of information we are bombarded with every day. Constant distraction from the TV, computers, emails, newspapers and mobile phones means that our minds are constantly skipping from one source of information to another and our ability to focus on any one topic for more than a few moments is decreasing. This is one of the main reasons why more and more people are experiencing more stress, anxiety, ADHD, panic attacks and a host of other psychological disorders worldwide.
So how does one go about learning mindfulness?
There are various techniques that help focus the mind which can be developed with a 15-20 minute daily mind observation exercise or it can be incorporated into any daily activity. Learning to be fully present in every moment allows us to observe our minds and gain a deeper understanding of how the mind works so that we can use it to our full advantage rather than fight against it. When we have an instruction manual to anything, life becomes easier and learning how the mind functions before we use it is no exception.
Here are 7 ways in which mindfulness can benefit the corporate executive:
- Focusing on one thing at a time saves time! Mindfulness training allows the mind to focus on one thing without being distracted by multiple thoughts at once. Think about it. Throwing a ball in the air and catching it is simple, but what happens when you try and juggle with two or three? You are much more likely to drop one or if not all of the balls. The mind is no different.
- Clarity of thought. When our minds are not distracted and we can fully focus on one thing at a time, it allows us to think, judge and reason more clearly. It allows us to make better decisions based on rationality rather than emotional responses.
- Peace of mind. When our minds are distracted or agitated, the smallest problem in the world seems like the biggest. We have so much going on in our minds that any extra dilemmas or problems feel like added baggage to our already over-burdened mind. However, when we are present our minds become calm, peaceful and the biggest problems in the world seem considerably more manageable.
- Communication. How many times have you been introduced to someone and forgotten their name 2 minutes later? Or you’ve been so eager to express your thoughts during a conversation that you have not listened to the person talking to you? How often has your mind drifted off in boardroom meetings as you think of all the tasks you should be getting on with that day? Mindfulness helps you stay alert so that you can listen to the information happening around you rather than letting your mind drift off to thoughts in the future or past.
- Improve relationships. If we are stressed or under pressure, we can lose control of our emotions very easily which can result in poor relationships with our work colleagues. For a business to be successful co-operation among team members is vital and personal differences must be set aside. Mindfulness allows us to become aware of our negative emotions before they escape our mouths and allow us to stop, take control of our thoughts and react in a more constructive and beneficial manner.
- Increased creativity. When our minds are focused on one thing at a time, we activate the right side of our brain which is connected to creativity. This not only allows us to solve problems more quickly but brings us to the present moment where we can think up new ideas, rather than using our memory which only searches for old solutions.
- Increased energy and vitality. Thinking uses up energy. Every thought you have, no matter how big or small creates a physical reaction. When we use mindfulness and focus on one thing at a time, it enables us to let go of emotional thoughts from the past and future which cuts off our physical response, making our mind and body more relaxed and increasing our energy and vitality.
Mindfulness is not new. It has been used for many thousands of years in the East to attain a peaceful state of mind, a deeper understanding of who we are and clarity as to how best to serve society.
In the same way, it can give us a clearer understanding of how to create a positive work environment, work to the best of our ability and achieve objectives more easily, successfully and enjoyably.
The art of leadership comes from understanding yourself. If you do not understand yourself, you will find it difficult to understand other people. If you do not understand other people, how will you possibly be able to build positive relationships and manage a team?
Learning to be a leader comes from learning to understand yourself – which means taking a step back and questioning who you are, what you are and why you are here.
Unless you have this knowledge, you will always struggle in life and always struggle to lead.
Because people who never stop and question themselves and what they are doing become like sheep. They do not know which direction they should take in life and so blindly follow the herd instinct, sticking together and doing what others do.
But the problem with following the herd is that you cannot think for yourself. You do exactly the same as everyone else, even if it goes against your inner nature and the inner nature of those around you. You give up your freedom of thought, your ability to question and settle for the belief that if everyone else is doing the same, it must be OK.
But by questioning and observing the leadership of others around you and your own motivation for working, you will truly be able to understand how to lead others.
The inner laws of every human being are the same, but the way we choose to react to the world is different.
Inner laws are universal: give to a person, they will be happy. Take from a person they will be angry.
The way we choose to react to circumstances differ. One manager may be supportive and understanding, another may be critical and patronizing.
Knowing the inner laws that motivate you and other people will allow you to act in alignment and appropriately with them, such as knowing how to treat others so that you can get the most out of them.
But this can only be achieved by questioning, analyzing and drawing your own conclusions. Blindly following the management skills of your predecessors without questioning or knowing the inner laws of human nature will lead to unnecessary battles – both with your team and within yourself.
So take some time out now and again to think about your own inner nature. Get to know yourself and you will get to know and understand others.
I have lived in South East Asia for more than 13 years, most of which has been in Thailand. And from the first day I worked here, I noticed something completely different about their work ethic.
- Sanook – “Sanook” means to have fun. Nothing in Thailand, including work, is worth doing if it isn’t fun. The atmosphere in any establishment I have worked at is all about having fun. Thais love joking around and teasing each other, in a playful, fun and friendly way. It creates a good bond between team members and makes going into work a genuine pleasure
- Greng jai – “Greng jai” means having consideration for other people’s thoughts and feelings. It means that you don’t just think about yourself and what is best for you, but rather what is best for the team and people around you.
- Kao rop – “Kao rop” has a similar meaning to “Respect”. Huge amounts of respect are given to all employees and rank means little else than a higher salary. Elders are always shown the utmost respect, so even the top managers of a company will still place their hands together and lower their head to show respect to an older cleaning lady mopping the canteen floor.
- Jai gwang – “Jai gwang” means Generosity – Thai people always share the things they have. At lunchtime, everyone brings in their food – usually way more than they can eat themselves and it is placed in the centre of the table for everyone to share. It is this sharing that generates a feeling of togetherness, almost like a family bond that it is at the heart of Thai society.
Such simple things make working in Thailand an absolute pleasure. Thai people often work long hours, 6 days a week and only have 10 days annual holiday a year which they will spend not on luxurious holidays, but with their family. They are happy with what they have and don’t really understand the concept of needing to have a holiday to de-stress. Why would you if every day at work is fun and spent with a group of people who you genuinely respect and care for?
Over the years, this attitude has rubbed off on me. The last time I took a 10 day holiday I found I couldn’t wait to get back to work and see my friends. I love the work that I do, the people that I work with and the sense of satisfaction I feel at the end of the day.
If you genuinely love your work and working environment, then work is not work….it is just a fun part of living.
We in the west have a lot to learn……….
Is it possible to develop our concentration so that we can work more efficiently and prevent our mind from being distracted? Is it possible to control our thoughts rather than let our thoughts control us? Is it possible to learn how to let go of negative emotions such as depression, fear, anxiety, stress and anger? Is it possible to improve our memory, learn things more quickly and become a more calm, friendly and confident person?
The answer to all of the above is a definite ‘Yes’, if you learn to practice mindfulness.
What is mindfulness?
Mindfulness is the process of living in the present moment and focusing all your attention on one thing at a time.
How does this boost our brainpower and help us think more clearly?
When we focus all our attention on one specific action at a time, whether it is brushing our teeth, washing up, doing the ironing or in the case of meditation, observing the breath, then our thoughts do not run away with us, resulting in a more focused and clear mind. Unfortunately for most of us most of the time, this is not the case.
If you have ever stopped and observed what you are thinking about, you will realise that we are constantly having a conversation with ourselves in our minds. If you have a strong emotion attached to a thought, such as anger, fear, sadness or even love, the thoughts become very strong, resulting in constant internal dialogue repeating itself over and over again in the mind like a broken record.
Every time you replay these thoughts in your mind, no matter how big or small, your body reacts to it. Your breathing changes, your heart starts to beat faster and you release hormones into the blood which are chemicals that create your emotions. The more you allow your mind to wander, the more hormones you release and the stronger your emotions become.
If you are angry with someone and you allow yourself to dwell on that anger for days on end, your body will think that a threatening situation has arisen and it will continually release hormones into the body preparing it for a fight or flight response, making you feel constantly irritable, even though the angry situation passed by days ago. As a result, your emotional response will impede your thought process and affect your judgment.
When you practice mindfulness, you observe your thoughts and emotions, let them go and constantly bring your mind back to the present moment. This cuts off your body’s response to the emotion, slows down the breathing, the heart rate, the release of emotional hormones into the body which in turn calms down the mind.
When the mind is agitated, the smallest problem in the world seems like the biggest problem in the world. When the mind is calm, the biggest problem seems to like the smallest problem and we can deal with it much more efficiently.
To practice mindfulness, you really need to do three things.
First and foremost, slow everything down. Stop rushing things and observe what you are doing with all your attention.
Secondly, notice everything that is going on around you, the sounds you can hear, the sensations you are feeling, the smells around you and really look at everything you see as though you are observing them for the first time.
Finally, everything you do, no matter how big or small or how insignificant it seems, try and do it perfectly. By doing small things perfectly, you will soon start to notice how much easier it is to do the larger and more important things in life perfectly. By practicing mindfulness, you will realise that you become more focused on everything you do without being distracted by irrelevant thoughts and internal chit chatter, resulting in a more relaxed, calm and focused mind.