Living life to the full: helping you to help yourself to enjoy its richness and what the next moment in time has to bring
We have known since ancient times that the way we think and the way we handle how we feel play a big part in our health, wellbeing and outlook on life. Marcus Aurelius and Shakespeare both observed that the way we see something determines its impact on us.
In our daily lives many of us have been using techniques to alter our thinking in positive ways, including exercise, playing sport in general, walking, meditation, contact with nature, music, dance and philosophy or religion. The truth is all these methods – and others – can help with our physical and mental health and wellbeing.
Now there is new scientific evidence that various specific approaches can significantly improve our mental and physical health and teach us a whole different way of living life or managing the stresses and strains whether it is preparing for school exams, interviews or even playing the sport we all love.
Mindfulness is an integrative, mind-body based approach that helps people change the way they think and feel about their experiences, especially stressful experiences. It involves paying attention to our thoughts and feelings so we become more aware of them, less enmeshed in them, and better able to manage them.
The specific approaches in question are a new group of psychological approaches called mindfulness-based approaches. Despite the jargon this is a very exciting development – showing how ancient wisdom combined with modern science can improve our everyday lives.
Many Mindfulness approaches have even been used in areas such as mental health to tackle recurrent depression but the principles have a much wider beneficial application to our lives.
Changera™ are offering training in this potentially life changing approach and has developed a wealth of practical experience in applying Mindfulness techniques to many facets of people’s lives from workplace to sport.
What is Mindfulness and why is it relevant?
Mindfulness is a way of paying attention to the present moment by using meditation, yoga and breathing techniques. It involves consciously bringing awareness to our thoughts and feelings, without making judgments about them.
It is a method for observing what is happening right now, in our bodies, minds, and the world around us. By paying attention to our thoughts and feelings in this way, we can become more aware of them, less wrapped up in them, and more able to manage them. Rather than struggling with them, we can just notice them in a compassionate and interested way. This creates space for us to make more considered decisions about how to respond to the events in our lives.
How is this different from our usual way of operating? Often, rather than paying attention to our experience, we are swept away by it, carried along by thoughts and feelings, external events, interactions with other people, or memories of the past and hopes and fears about the future.
Our tendency then is to get stuck in “automatic pilot”: we identify strongly with our thoughts and feelings and react to them unquestioningly, with limited awareness. For example, rather than see and accept that we feel angry after a difficult interaction at work, we may fly off the handle at our partner when we get home, perhaps blaming them for putting us in a bad mood.
Mindfulness, then, is a way of experiencing things “as they are”. By paying careful attention to how things are in a non-judgmental way, we can see what is happening more accurately and respond more effectively in all areas of our lives. In this way, it enhances our quality of life and well-being.
Mindfulness and well-being
Research suggests that Mindfulness confers significant benefits for health and well-being and quality of life in general.
People who are mindful are less likely to experience psychological distress, including depression and anxiety. They are less neurotic, more extroverted and report greater well-being and life satisfaction. People who are more mindful have greater awareness, understanding and acceptance of their emotions, and recover from bad moods more quickly.
More mindful people enjoy more satisfying relationships, are better at communicating, and are less troubled by relationship conflict, as well as less likely to think negatively of their partners as a result of conflict. Mindfulness is correlated with emotional intelligence, which itself has been associated with good social skills, ability to co-operate and ability to see another person’s perspective.
People who are mindful are also less likely to react defensively or aggressively when they feel threatened. Mindfulness seems to increase self-awareness, and is associated with greater vitality.
Mindfulness in Sport
Mindfulness can be very powerful mental skill when applied to sport performance. Mindfulness basically means paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally.
Mindfulness can simply be noticing what we don’t normally notice, because our heads are too busy in the future or in the past – thinking about what we need to do, or going over what we have done.
During sport performance there are so many physical, emotional, and mental sensations going on at one time. There is no way that our minds can focus on all those sensations each moment or duration of time, so what we actually do is unintentionally focusing on a few things, usually the sensations that we perceive as most intense, and start making judgments or criticisms based upon where our attention is focused.
Whether a professional or amateur athletes all face various challenges in their sport on and off the field. Sport psychologists have been teaching techniques to help athletes to cope with these challenges which stem mainly from psychological skills training (PST), which is influenced mainly from cognitive-behavioural theories. Recently, interest in mindfulness-based interventions has increased in sport psychology to help the mental and some times physical aspects of sport; these under careful guidance are available to whatever level of sport you play whether individual sport such as golf, horse riding or squash or team sports such as rugby, football, or netball.
Good opportunities for practicing mindfulness are when:
- Doing stretching exercises
- Prior to training to shake off the day
- Pre-match preparation
- Post match reflection
- Recovery from injury and management of pain
Why is Mindfulness helpful?
Mindfulness may aid well-being through a number of mechanisms:
- Greater insight. By taking a mindful perspective, we observe our experience but don’t get caught up in it;
- Improved problem-solving. By slowing down and investigating our thoughts, feelings and experiences more carefully, we create space for coming up with wise responses to the difficulties in our lives by making considered and creative decisions;
- Better attention. We can concentrate better on tasks, maintain our focus and reach goals. We are less distracted. Experience can become fresher, lighter, clearer, richer and more vivid;
- Less selfishness. We are less wrapped up in our own thoughts and feelings and so have greater ability be more considerate, empathic, compassionate, sensitive and flexible in our relationships;
- Greater enjoyment of life. We can become more aware of pleasant experiences that were previously unnoticed because of our mental focus on the past and the future;
- Less “beating ourselves up”. Mindfulness reduces our identification with negative thinking patterns; and
- Better mind–body integration. Many of us have a tendency to live “in our heads” and ignore what is happening in our bodies. Mindfulness makes us more aware of what is happening both in our bodies and in our minds, so we can experience and take into account the full range of our thoughts as well as our feelings.
Being mindful helps us relate to others. Mindfulness is positively associated with better ability to express oneself in social situations, greater empathy, better identification and description of feelings, lower social anxiety and less distress contagion.
More mindful people enjoy more satisfying relationships, are better at communicating, and are less troubled by relationship conflict, as well as less likely to think negatively of their partners as a result of conflict.
There are also correlations between Mindfulness and emotional intelligence, which itself has been associated with good social skills, ability to co-operate and ability to see another person’s perspective.
Mindfulness seems to promote secure attachment, which has also been associated with compassion, altruism and tolerance. People who are mindful are also less likely to react defensively when threatened.
We offer a holistic approach that listens to and assesses your needs and considers the right way forward given your unique situation.
The support provided encompasses all aspects of a mindful approach in your area of interest along with a process way of thinking as to how your performance can improve in a given sport for example.
Our Mindfulness courses or adaptive coaching can drive a variety of positive outcomes, including improved performance, enjoyment, agility, increased acceptance of outcomes and commitment.
We’ve learned that to succeed and remain positive and enjoying life or sport to the full, stepping off the treadmill of life is an absolute must.
A typical programme begins by building a 360 degree view of the perceived need to improve or just change our perspective on life. The output is used to:
- Create a personal development plan outlining process driven or Mindfulness strategies that will deliver lasting improvements.
- Identify the areas to consider changing whether mentally, physically eg biomechanically or both
- Gaining an overview of self analysis approaches for continuous performance improvement.
The result, a composite change picture, is then used as either a take away self implemented plan or more beneficially, an actively coached plan that enables ‘present moment’ performance correction.
Enjoying life to the full
Critical to our enjoyment of life is our ability to remove our negative mindset worrying about what can go wrong.
At Changera™, we have seen from coaching sport and general life skills that the way people think about themselves and others will ultimately define the true realisation of enjoyment and satisfaction.
We can therefore teach individuals and teams effective to learn techniques that will help them improve sporting performance or just to design coping strategies to help manage the stresses and strains of their everyday life.
Some of the strategies that we offer are general awareness workshops on working with everyday pressures to build resilience through to full blown Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) programmes or Mindfulness in the Sport courses tailored to the needs of the individual or team allowing them to:
- Understanding being in ‘the zone’ or experiencing “flow”
- focus/concentrate better
- improve decision making
- communicate more clearly
- improve team working or creativity
- be able to self analyse
- lead healthier lives with fewer instances of illness
Mindfulness is a skill that takes time to develop. It is not always easy, and like any skill it requires a certain level of effort, time, patience, and ongoing practice. However, whether you are 8 or 80, the time has come to take a different perspective on life and learn to be mindful!