The Secret to Successful Mindfulness
We often hear about mindfulness, a specific state of mind characterised by a sense of calm and how effective it can be to reduce stress, gain more focus and clarity, live a healthier and happier life.
Mindfulness, with its focus on the present moment, can aid us in challenging situations to find a moment of peace, access our inner strength and then get back to action with more energy.
This sounds very promising, right? Even though mindfulness has been linked with health benefits (see for example this study published in the Journal of Complementary and Integrative Medicine on the stress-reducing effects of meditation) including more clarity, better focus and more positivity, not everybody uses it in daily life. One of the reasons is that just like going to the gym to get fitter, practising mindfulness requires time and commitment.
Mindfulness For Stress Management
When clients come to me for stress management they often mention they don’t have time to meditate or they can’t sit still for an hour to “empty their mind”. We have many commitments and are exposed to various sources of stress, so that’s understandable.
While we are too busy being busy we might miss out on the power of letting go, which is one of the by-products of mindfulness. In other words, we miss out on experiencing joy in life because we feel obligated to keep going, filling up our schedules without planning some downtime, holding on to negative or limiting thoughts (e.g. “That’s the way it is”, “There’s nothing I can do about it”) and generally feeling exhausted and dissatisfied. Slowing down actually creates more time for ourselves.
As a Sophrology practitioner, I always explain to my clients that letting go is important because it helps us grow, it allows us to disregard that doesn’t serve us and our values, and it helps us connect with our own infinite potential.
If we don’t listen to our body when it’s too tired we might enter a cycle of tension, sleeplessness and tiredness that can become chronic. We exhaust our energy instead of replenishing it through mindfulness and other healthy lifestyle choices.
A mindfulness practice can help clear the debris of all unnecessary thoughts that can cloud our thinking, regulate our sleep and start the day afresh. Through mindfulness, we might discover something we hadn’t thought about, tap into our creativity and problem-solving skills and work to create a better, more positive future.
So, what is the secret to successful mindfulness?
What does successful mindfulness look like? Even though it’s difficult to picture something intangible like mindfulness, a successful mindfulness practice is effortless and brings results quickly. This usually happens after a few consecutive days or weeks of practising regularly: the mind and body recognise the positive sensations deriving from slowing down and we enter a state of calm. Successful mindfulness is about the way we feel: after a good session we feel lighter and calmer.
It might take a while to build up a routine, setting time aside to meditate and keep track of progress. Being consistent is key and in the course of a few weeks you will notice positive changes: mindfulness can also help us to make a conscious decision to eat healthy, reduce stimulants like coffee and sugar, and exercise.
You can build a mindfulness routine by listening to a guided audio session every day. Through repetition you can work through a sequence you have memorised. Just like we check our phones automatically for notifications, we can check in with ourselves to connect with our mind and body to enjoy a few restful moments.
Notably, Arianna Huffington described how getting burnout was her wake up call to a more holistic lifestyle. She often explains in talks and articles that not only does mindfulness help in daily life, but it also has a positive impact in the workplace. By prioritising health, getting a full night’s sleep, finishing work on time, both employers and employees can make better decisions and increase productivity. Huffington calls sleep the best performance enhancer. She has been an advocate for practising Sophrology as a modern way to meditate, suitable for busy people from CEOs to top athletes.
A traditional mindfulness session can take an hour but Sophrology is a more modern alternative, suitable for busy people. Sophrology is a dynamic relaxation technique that combines elements of eastern traditions like yoga and Zen Buddhism but also western approaches like psychology.
Compared to mindfulness, Sophrology can help achieve a sense of relaxation in a relatively short time frame by using breathing, visualisation and gentle movement. By synchronising breath and movement, the mind is completely focused, leaving no space for stress and worries.
A Sophrology practice can last between 10 and 15 minutes and it generally includes a body scan, exercises where you tense and release muscles in sync with your breathing, visualisation and, notably, integration pauses. An integration pause is a time interval between exercises to stop, let go, take stock of what is going on in the body, listen to sensations and get in touch with your inner self. Integration pauses are powerful mindfulness moments allowing the mind to settle and can be instrumental in discovering new ideas and new perspectives.
This is why Sophrology can be a good solution for busy, restless people, but of course, it can be suitable for anybody at any level of stress, any walk of life or any age. One of the key messages in Sophrology is having a non-judgemental attitude: there’s nothing to succeed at, so it’s perfectly fine if you only manage to spend five minutes quietly to regroup. You can actually pick one Sophrology exercise in isolation and just practise that for a few minutes if that’s all the time you have.
How To Build A Holistic Lifestyle Around Mindfulness And Well-being
We inhabit our body but we are not just our body, our outer shell. We may live in our heads but we are not our mind. Our mind and body are connected and the awareness of this connection is what makes us who we are.
When we realise that we can use our breath to connect with our inner self we can listen to what our body needs and we ease our mind from worry. A sense of awareness makes us act quickly when we feel that something is not right, either in our body or in our mind. We don’t ignore constant pain but seek advice on how to manage it and find its root cause. We can build a more holistic lifestyle by noticing the sensations in our body, choose healthy foods that nourish us instead of eating to soothe anxiety or even skipping meals and exercise to raise our energy.
Accessing green spaces can also help to have mindfulness moments and lead a more balanced lifestyle. If you tend to get too distracted, especially by social media, spending time in nature is a great way to meditate. A mindful walk in a park can bring similar calming benefits as sitting in a quiet room.
Journaling is a rewarding way to see how far we’ve come and how we are processing our emotions. Looking back at problems that afflicted us months before may seem more manageable now and we can acknowledge how we overcame them. Writing down the way we feel can help us to reach our inner calm. We can also use journaling to express our gratitude for what we have, it helps put things in perspective and build a more positive attitude towards life.
A holistic lifestyle takes into account our values and having a sense of purpose. It has less to do with intellectualising or rationalising everything that happens in our life, but rather with focusing on the present moment, feeling in touch with our body and staying true with what we believe in. If our key values are vitality, energy, creativity, connection, then we will do anything to keep our energy up with every choice we make.
Learn to access a sense of calm every day, wherever you are in the world, with our online stress course.