Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Mindful Humor

Mindfulness, or being fully present and attentive to the moment, not only improves the way we interact with others but also mitigates the stresses of life. 

How do we remain mindful with a constant barrage of demands and pressures? Learning to meditate as part of a mindful training regime is one way. 

Another way, is to measure and then work on consciously regulating your biofeedback or various physiological functions using instruments that provide information on brainwaves, muscle tone, skin conductance, heart rate and pain perception. Like with meditation, improved health and physiological changes often occur in conjunction with changes to thoughts, emotions, and behavior. 

Mounting paperwork demands and other time and productivity pressures can lead to burnout, which causes a loss of enthusiasm and engagement that can lead to more errors and decreased empathy and compassion toward others. When compounded over an extended period of time, these problems can lead to substance abuse, abandonment of responsibilities and severe depression. 

Over the years, few remedies have alleviated these issues. Traditional medication does not address the skills necessary to handle the stressful events that arise daily in life, nor does it cultivate the emotional and interpersonal intelligence required to form effective relationships even in the midst of these stresses.  

The Five Facet Mindfulness Questionnaire allows you to conceptualize mindfulness as a set of skills that can be learned and practiced in order to reduce psychological symptoms and increase health and well-being. The Association for Behavioral and Cognitive Therapies offers research and assessment tools on mindfulness that can be taken for free online. 

A few Sample Questions

1 = never or very rarely true
2 = rarely true
3 = sometimes true
4 = often true
5 = very often or always true

1. When I'm walking, I deliberately notice the sensations of my body moving. 
2. I'm good at finding words to describe my feelings. 
3. I criticize myself for having irrational or inappropriate emotions. 
4. I perceive my feelings and emotions without having to react to them. 
5. When I do things, my mind wanders off and I'm easily distracted. 
6. When I take a shower or bath, I stay alert to the sensation soy water on my body. 
7. I can easily put my beliefs, opinions, and expectations into words. 
8. I don't pay attention to what I'm doing because I'm daydreaming, worrying, or otherwise distracted. 
9. I watch my feelings without getting lost in them. 
10. I notice how foods and drinks affect my thoughts, bodily sensations, and emotions. 

Increasing our awareness requires training and practice. If you find yourself judging or easily jumping to conclusions, it often times has more to do with your state of mind than it does with the person whom you're judging.

People with self-purported "good intentions" tend to judge others the harshest, telling them what they're not doing, what they should be doing, and touting what they're doing without even asking a single question or truly understanding another's challenges in life. Their limited perception creates an illusion that they can advise effectively from their own experience, which may or may not be relevant to another's life. 

As frustrating as this can be, it's best to simply remember that everyone evolves in their own time. This behavior is not necessarily indicative of another's true level of awareness, but rather a specific need for growth in the area of judgment. 

In this case, just let it go. If it is someone close to you who is doing this, you might consider sharing with them that their judgments make it more difficult for you to reach your goals and ask them to please allow you some freedom to achieve your goals rather than giving you more to carry by pointing out past or incorrectly perceived (on their part) failures. 

The real challenge of acquiring mindfulness is setting aside the time to practice it. 

It's easy to fall back into old patterns, but remaining optimistic and focused on the self-awareness mindfulness cultivates can free you from a case of chronic "Old Schoolness" and bring about the transformation that frees you from the constant chatter of our and other's minds that we carry around with us (technology keeps us connected to the noise all the time). 

Cultivating mindfulness seems almost counter intuitive in an era that makes little room for contemplation. It is an art to cultivate that requires skill, practice, creativity and dedication. If you're committed to becoming more mindful, surround yourself with people who rarely complain, who do not criticize, and who often times, compliment others, inspiring them to reach and fulfill their potential rather than remaining fixated in old patterns. Mindfulness isn't just about thinking positive thoughts, it's about harnessing them to achieve all of our dreams. 

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