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Learning mindfulness

Written by Kirsikka Kaipainen (22 Oct 2014)

Mindfulness is the skill of calming down, being present in this moment, and focusing on what you're doing right now.

Multitasking is still admired in some circles but in reality it's no good. If you're trying to do several things at once, you usually only succeed in failing to concentrate on any of them. Studies indicate that multitasking actually results in 40% less productivity than doing one thing at a time. That's because multitaskers' brains are forced to switch lanes all the time between different tasks and this consumes time and resources.

Think for a moment: when you're chatting with your friend, partner or colleague, are you really listening or do you go through other things in your mind at the same time? What does this usually result in? And, when do you enjoy yourself the most? Is it when you're frantically trying to do thousand things at once, or when you're fully focused on one single task?

Practicing mindfulness is training your brain to be present here and now without getting distracted. Mindfulness has many other benefits as well: reduced stress and clearer mind, increased creativity, and it can even relieve pain.

Mindfulness exercises don't have to require burning incense, lotus positions or hours of meditation. For example, I'm practising mindfulness every day in small ways, just closing my eyes for a moment and focusing on my breathing or surrounding sounds. I feel this helps especially when my mind is whirling with thoughts that are difficult to grasp, or when I notice I'm almost starting to wallow on some negative experience of the past. After a moment of calmness my thoughts become clearer and I'm able to remind myself what I really want to accomplish here and now.

At first reaching a mindful state can feel difficult. I remember the first time I did a breathing exercise: I felt I had failed because I couldn't empty my mind or become completely relaxed. Then I realized that training your brain is pretty much like training your muscles. It requires regular practice and a bit of patience. Emptying your mind isn't necessary, it's more about not getting stuck to thoughts that fly through your mind. They can come and go without distracting you from what you're doing here and now.