Recently I posted a short clip from my talk at the European Positive Psychology Conference last summer. My thesis focused on mindfulness from the lived experiences of parents of children with special needs. Parents or caregivers of neurodivergent children often face challenging emotions. And a reality they may not want to meet or don't know how to. And don't we all? At moments in our lives, we find ourselves in an overwhelming context we'd rather not be in.
In this short article, I want to share how everyday mindfulness can be a protective mechanism to support your well-being, no matter your context, at work and in life.
Daily life may bring many obstacles. And momentarily, engagement in mindfulness can support us to face ourselves and our struggles in a much better way. The same goes for the opposite—our moments of joy and zest. Through mindfulness, we start savouring precious moments which feed our hearts and souls with genuine joy that can have a lasting positive impact.
My story about mindfulness is somehow from desperation. I wanted to fix a situation that I could control to a limited extent. And after many years of relentlessly attempting to improve some bits, I realised I needed to start seeing and doing things differently. Often we limit ourselves and our possibilities through the lenses and narratives we have created.
I was in a constant state of stress and worry, feeling underwater most of the time. And when you are underwater, it isn't easy to enter mindfulness. When underwater, you can't even breathe properly. And I wasn't. So I had to learn to come above the water to join a reality quite different from underwater. Just like anyone else, I have moments of falling underwater, and now I have some ways to attempt to bring myself above. Sometimes it works, sometimes not; that's life.
What is Mindfulness
‘The awareness that emerges through paying attention on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally to the unfolding of experience moment by moment’ - John Kabat-Zinn
Mindfulness is to recognise what is there in the present moment and allow it to be without any judgement. For most of us, the challenging part is non-judgment. We are so used to labelling everyone and everything in our subconscious minds - whether we realise this or not.
It is essential to recognise that mindfulness is already available to you.
And the mindfulness I like to speak of is dispositional mindfulness by #JohnKabatZinn, one of the leading researchers on mindfulness.
This is about bringing mindfulness into everyday moments, no matter how briefly, through a mindful state of attention and awareness. Like everything else, we can practice becoming more aware through daily activities. When we pay attention to the present moment, we can more easily see our thoughts from the observer's point of view and disengage from the constant stream of thinking.
Mindfulness at work
When we are mindful, we are sensitive to context and perspective. Meaning we are more open to new information and experiences - and more flexible and able to respond dynamically to a given situation.
We have access to creativity and multiple options versus a limited and rigid way of seeing and responding to a situation.
Being in a constant state of stress limits oxygen flow to our brains. We are limiting our resilience, adaptability, memory, concentration and creative thinking. One of the simplest ways to enter mindfulness at work is through breathing.
You can dramatically shift your state from autopilot to a more significant presence in a minute of breathing.
We all have a dominating, often ruthless, inner voice that can become so loud that other voices get suffocated, like our kinder voice. And for most of us, this is a struggle. We are so used to beating ourselves up that we don't even know where to start.
You start by recognising that inner dialogue. How you communicate with yourself through your thinking processes and identifying the narratives you have created.
In short, self-compassion is about being kinder to ourselves and treating ourselves as we treat a loved one who is struggling.
Let's say you lost your job. And let's say someone you care about a lot lost their job. Would you treat yourself in the same kind and understanding way you would treat your friend?
Through mindfulness, we can observe our state of being and become more gentle with ourselves. #KristinNeff, a well-known researcher on self-compassion, says:
Our emotional suffering is caused by our desire for things to be other than they are.
This relates directly to my story, from being underwater to learning how to float. In many ways, I was not accepting things as they were and fighting to change them. And sometimes, this is a good thing. It's all about a healthy balance.
It may begin through acceptance. It does not mean we have to accept a shitty situation. It can be a momentary recognition that there are things at play that are beyond your control and influence. And shifting your attention to what you can control or influence - and treating yourself with kindness.
Consciously notice the good things in your life
In every coaching session. My first question is this. What have been your wins since we last connected? And from one month to the next, my clients began to notice successes that went unnoticed. This creates a better balance between what's working and what's not. And a greater satisfaction of progress and appreciation. The thing is. Our brains are hardwired for negativity. And if left unconscious, we may carry repetitive negative thoughts and limiting narratives over decades.
#BarbaraFredirickson is one of the world's leading positive psychologists who studies positive emotions like joy, gratitude and hope.
A core principle of one of her theories, the broaden-and-build theory, shows that repeated positive emotions accrue into upward spirals of sustained well-being. Her research found that people who experienced more powerful positive emotions became more resilient to adversity.
Everything mentioned may sound easy. Believe me when I say. It is not. Mastering yourself takes serious commitment, dedication, self-awareness and hard work. There is no fancy price at the end. It is not about hitting a goal.
The price is the journey. Experiencing greater aliveness. To have confidence in yourself to navigate times of joy and times of suffering. Life will always be a balance of the two. The difference is how we respond and ride through the waves of it all.
Change is bound to come, whether we want it or not. If we can stay open, curious, and mindful and express kindness towards ourselves during times of joy, change, or struggle.
Noticing our thoughts, emotions and sensations. We will be better equipped to navigate any situation - through broader lenses of possibilities and greater peace of mind.
Gudrun Lind is an Executive & Team Coach with two decades of experience in Talent- and Leadership Development within multinational corporations. As a catalyst for human potential, she supports leaders and teams in expanding their capabilities to thrive at work through better conversations that lead to better outcomes.
If you want to explore how I can support you and/or your team - you are very much invited to contact me.