Practicing mindfulness can help us lead healthier, happier lives. This year, I discovered a few hacks to practice it more easily every day.
Mindfulness is the psychological process of purposely bringing one’s attention to experiences occurring in the present moment without judgment.
Autopilot is our mind’s default state. In autopilot, we are less aware of the present, we allow thoughts about the past or future to run through our mind, we are easily distracted, and we act based on habits or assumptions. Our thoughts in the autopilot state are commonly focused on disappointing events from the past or worries about the future.
On the other hand, mindfulness has been linked to many physical and mental health benefits, and the good news is we all have the power to achieve these benefits. The only cost is our time and attention.
Through practicing mindfulness in my own life journey, I’ve found that:
- My roles, relationships, and responsibilities have become more complex and important.
- My free time is increasingly scarce.
- My emotional regulation, positive attitude, empathy, and perspective-taking are more important than ever before.
No Time for Mindfulness?
I’ve always struggled to prioritize time for mindfulness.
I used to think that meditation or yoga were the only ways to practice it. These dedicated practices would start to seem like one more thing to do during a busy day, and then I’d fall out of practice.
Earlier this year, I attended a two-day Search Inside Yourself Leadership Institute (SIYLI) workshop. SIYLI was developed at Google from a vision to change the world through mindfulness, neuroscience, and emotional intelligence.
The SIYLI workshop I attended was coordinated through the Center for Positive Organizations (CPO) based at the Ross School of Business. CPO’s mission is to inspire and enable leaders to build high-performing organizations that bring out the best in people.
I was surprised and happy and to see over 200 people from the business community embrace mindfulness, neuroscience, and emotional intelligence. Mindfulness is clearly getting mainstream traction and being taken seriously as a positive differentiator in business settings. The SIYLI instructors and program do an excellent job showing how mindfulness creates significant, positive impact for individuals, groups, and organizations.
My biggest takeaway from the SIYLI workshop was the value of developing a portfolio of integrated and micro-mindfulness practices. In contrast to dedicated practices, the integrated and micro-practices can be more easily woven into my day.
Another key insight from the workshop was that my former approach to meditation (closed eyes and a clear mind) was more like escapism. In contrast, many of the integrated and micro-practices take an external focus. The externally focused practices create positive feelings of connection to others and being part of something greater than self.
I’ve felt a sustained, positive impact on my life from attending the SIYLI workshop and using some of the practices I learned there. Others have noticed a positive impact on my thinking, attitude, and behavior. I have a greater capacity to be patient, focus on the good instead of imperfections, and turn conflict into positive dialog.
After you attend an SIYLI workshop, you receive a portfolio of practices across multiple categories including mindfulness, self-awareness, etc.
Below are three of the practices I commonly use. They illustrate how easy it is to include the integrated and micro-practices in your daily routine.
Open Awareness involves keeping your eyes open and your senses aware of the world around you. You focus on letting your mind rest, being present, and taking it all in while not fixating on any given thought or sensation. This practice has helped me settle my mind and find renewed energy during the day.
SIYLI describes Open Awareness as a dedicated practice, but I view it more as an integrated practice as I bundle it into my bicycle commute to/from work or during a short walk in the afternoon.
Minute to Arrive
Minute to Arrive involves starting a meeting with a minute of silence to help everyone be fully present. Most of my internal meetings at Atomic now begin with this practice.
We start the meetings by prompting everyone to focus on their breath, getting present, and setting an intention for how they will engage with others during the meeting.
I’ve found that this practice sets the stage for more effective meetings. I believe that it helps participants be present, more self-aware, intentional, and able to let go of unrelated stress.
Just Like Me
Just Like Me is a practice where you bring someone to mind and silently wish them well. You can also do this out in public. It would be weird to openly wish strangers well, but you can silently wish people well that pass by you. I’ve extended this practice to also think about how others have hopes and goals just like me and are trying to do their best to get through their day.
Building a practice of wishing others well and considering their perspective has increased my patience and desire to listen when I’m working through disagreements or hearing different perspectives.
Building hard skills related to a particular discipline is the common focus of professional development. The hard skills don’t really help when your responsibilities change from being an individual contributor to working more effectively in groups of people.
I encourage you to try a few integrated micro-practices in the coming month and reflect on the effect they have on you. The Search Inside Yourself book is a great way to learn more about mindfulness.
I also encourage you to attend one of SIYLI’s two-day workshops which are scheduled every few months. Check out the SIYLI calendar to learn more.