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Mind Body and Soul: In the Moment: The Benefits of Mindful Living

 By Brian Sodoma

Many people would agree that life is better today than it was 50 years ago. Everything seems faster, lighter and more organized. We’ve traded our rotary phones and clunky address books for all-in-one iGadgets. On the down side, that speed and efficiency can also bring unwanted stress and tension to our bodies, relationships and careers. But with some pause and reflection, many of these ugly side effects can be avoided, and you’ll be amazed at how much happier and productive your days can become by taking a moment to reflect on the small things around you.


The idea of “mindful living” entails being conscious of the present moment. It involves stripping away the mental clutter, to-do lists and worries of tomorrow and yesterday in order to focus on the now. Above all, it’s a realization that the little thoughts and fleeting moments we often deem as unimportant can have a tremendous effect on the way we live our lives. By practicing mindfulness in our personal and professional lives, those moments can become significant.


Mindfulness in Relationships


Mindfulness has an important place in all our personal lives. A simple act of kindness can alter the dynamics of any relationship for the better.  Kathleen Hall, founder and CEO of the Stress Institute in Atlanta, believes that mindfulness is an opportunity for all of us to help create positive energy in our interactions. “Think of how good we feel when someone just says a kind word to us,” Hall says. “You’re more inclined to treat someone else like that, too.” To that end, Hall likes to use the acronym ACE (Awareness, Choices, Energy) to help people seeking to use mindfulness to improve their relationships. Let’s take a closer look at these three steps:


  • AWARENESS. You can help yourself be more “aware” of your likes and dislikes by creating a simple two-column list. Once you’ve got it laid out, take a look at both sides, the things you are passionate about and the things that bother you. Don’t pass judgment,  just take in what you’ve written down and think about why it’s there.


  • CHOICES. Once you’ve listed and analyzed the things you don’t like, start figuring out what “choices” you can make to change them or move them over into the “like” column. If some of those dislikes are the result of relationships with family, friends or co-workers, have a candid talk with them to help iron out the issues. Now you’re putting mindfulness into action by taking charge and bringing about real change.


  • ENERGY. Thanks to the choices you’ve made and the actions you’ve taken, you’ll feel invigorated with a new “energy.” In Hall’s words, you are “listening to your life” and those choices you made will lead to other choices. More mindfulness breeds more action, more reflection breeds more results. Increased awareness is your new power.


After a few weeks of following ACE, you should be feeling a new level of control and a greatly reduced amount of stress. By making changes within your individual self, you’ll be building a strong support system of family and friends that will only help create more personal awareness.


Mindfulness in Business


While it may be easy for most of us to practice some degree of mindfulness in our personal lives, it can be difficult to find a break from the pressure and headaches of the nine-to-five grind. But whether you’re a minimum-wage gas station attendant or Warren Buffet, mindfulness can be an important part of any individual’s workday world. Being aware of how your actions can impact each situation, positively or negatively, can have a huge influence on your career.


Stress from work can be a literal killer. Projects pile up, deadlines creep closer, demands come down from the home office, and before you know it, you’re strapped to a heart monitor and eating stale meatloaf from your hospital bed. If you take more stock of your work surroundings and bring some mindful living practices into your professional life, you’ll not only lower your stress, but also boost your immune system and reduce feelings of anxiety and depression.


The best way to practice mindfulness at work is to simply take a break. Staring at a computer monitor or lifting heavy boxes for hours on end can weigh you down, both physically and emotionally. A two-or-three minute break just a few times a day can help pull you out of the pressure cooker and reshape your focus. Find a quiet, secluded place at the office and bring a visual or auditory aid that will help you escape – a picture of a tropical beach, a soothing track on your MP3 player. Enjoy your solitude. Breathe. Detach yourself from your obligations.


After some treasured peace and quiet, you should return to work with all-new energy. You’ll find yourself better equipped to analyze all those stock portfolios, sort through endless sheets of payroll or stock all that merchandise with a much more directed, relaxed approach.


Mindfulness through Meditation


Whether it’s at home or on the job, mindfulness has often been associated with meditation. In trying to create a shift from mindless activity to something more productive, it’s important to turn your focus from physical action to thinking and reflecting on the moment. Dedicating a few minutes to meditation each day might take you away from household chores or other responsibilities, but it has been known to dramatically increase awareness and self-realization. If you want to get the most out of mindfulness through meditation, here are some tips to follow:


  • Don’t sweat the specifics. The place you choose to meditate or the time you spend there isn’t as important as being consistent. Pick a time of day that works best for you, whether it’s first thing in the morning or right before dinner, and make sure you stick to it.


  • Keep the focus on yourself. Concentrating on something as simple as breathing can help reduce stress as you move toward a more mindful state. Extend that process to the rest of your inner and outer self. Think about the way your feet move, the little noises your ears pick up, the feel of your clothes on your skin. An increased awareness of yourself will enhance your mindfulness of other people and things around you.


  • Find a process that works for you. Some people use music when they meditate, while others prefer silence. Some may recall a pleasant childhood memory or turn their thoughts to a beloved family member. Find a calming approach or point of focus that keeps you in the moment. Knowing what works best for you may be a journey in itself, so give yourself time to help find your own meditative comfort zone.


Mindful living may not be the key to solving all your problems, but it can provide a break from the daily grind of the world. By pausing to reflect on the moment and being more aware of your surroundings, it’s easier to let go of stress, take things slow and get the most out of life.  


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