The New Zealand Association of Positive Psychology held its 4th Biennial Conference a couple of weeks ago, and Fleetcoach were proud sponsors of the Mindfulness session.
Heard of Mindfulness but still not quite sure what it is? Here's an example. Have you ever spent so much time preparing for an event or something similar, that when it came around, you didn't really enjoy it? Or looked back on a past moment and realised that had you just been able to be aware of it - that is was actually a very special time? Or maybe, you're so good at planning and scheduling, that you're forever thinking about the next thing, and rarely even remember the current activity?
Mindfulness is about paying attention to the present moment, non-judgementally. It's about stopping our racing around, and allowing our thoughts to just be on what we're doing at any given moment. We all spend quite a lot of our thoughts in the past (that silly thing I said at dinner yesterday, I should have studied more, the weather was better last week) and also the future (I really should go to the supermarket on the way home from work, where will we be next weekend? what if this cold gets worse and I give it to someone else?) Mindfulness is a way of practicing taking control of our attention spans, and directing attention gently back to where it can be most effective - right here and now.
There are endless health benefits, it makes us more patient, and it can actually change our brains to slow down and appreciate the positives. And - it makes us safer. Being mindful behind the wheel means not racing off before checking what's behind us, it means thinking about what we're doing, so we're less distracted. And it means not engaging with a million thoughts about our destinations, but actually slowing down and enjoying our journeys. You can imagine how that translates to being able to see hazards better, train our driving skills more, and not worrying so much about traffic jams or things that will keep us from our next destination.
Mindfulness and other psychology concepts feature strongly across all of our driver training, because it's proven, and it works.
To incorporate Mindfulness practice in your every day life, you don't need to devote hours, go to an expensive retreat, or take lessons. You should start small, with a few moments or minutes here or there, and build up from there. Attention span is like a muscle, and the more it's trained - the stronger (and easier!) it gets.
One exercise you could try right now, is a mindfulness of sound exercise.
Spend a few moments really tuning in on the sounds you can hear around you.
What sounds are nearby? (a colleague typing, a clock ticking)
What sounds are further away (birds? cars?)
Can you switch between these sounds, and place your attention on only one at a time?
Can you broaden your awareness to hear all the sounds at once?
Any new sounds you might have noticed while you were really listening?
Remember - at first, your brain will be tugged in many directions, thoughts popping in from all over. Just notice your thoughts, don't judge yourself for having them, and gently bring your attention back to the sound you were noticing.
We'd love to hear how you got on!