Paying attention to what you’re doing right here, right now, can have remarkable benefits. Studies show that it can have a powerful impact on parenting, workplace productivity and wellbeing. We asked the experts how you can tap into it in every area of your life and reap the rewards.
1 At work
Work-based mindfulness programmes have been proven to lead to increased concentration, better memory recall and improved focus, so it’s no wonder some major companies are using ‘wellness’ retreats and meditation pods.
High-profile advocates of the power of meditation include everyone from the late Steve Jobs to Madonna. Try tuning in to an app such as Headspace or Calm, or find a quiet five or 10 minutes in the middle of the day for a guided mindfulness meditation.
In addition to boosting concentration and focus, mindfulness also frees up creative thinking and makes you more empathetic, so your relationships with colleagues will benefit too.
2 In your relationship
“Whether it’s your partner or your best friend, the single most mindful and loving thing you can do for another person is to give them your undivided attention,” says UK-based life coach Pete Cohen.
“We are all so habitually distracted now that the ultimate luxury has become focus. It’s striking for many people that when they first commit to do this, it feels really difficult.”
Cohen suggests a few house rules. At home, keep a basket for devices. Switch phones to silent and keep them away from the table during mealtimes and important conversations.
3 At the gym
Taking a mindful approach to workouts can pay serious dividends, says Mireille Ryan from Health Guru Boot Camp on Australia’s Gold Coast.
“When you approach fitness and wellbeing mindfully, your motivation comes with a healthy intention. If you’re adopting a reactive approach to fitness, motivated by a self-critical imperative – ‘I’ve pigged out, so I need to sweat’ – it’s more likely to backfire at a subconscious level. Your motivation is punishing rather than nurturing.”
To redress the balance, she suggests focusing on your breath as you work out, visualising it filling your body with the oxygen it needs to work.
“Breathing is something we do without thinking. But focusing on the breath is a great way to manage negative thoughts – you can simply breathe them away and bring your focus back to your breath and your muscles as you work out.”
4 With your kids
Becoming more mindful will benefit your parenting. It is also a simple, yet powerful, life tool to teach your children how to enjoy the present moment.
In his book 100 Ways To Happy Children, Dr Timothy Sharp from The Happiness Institute says, “Being a mindful parent will help you reduce and manage the stressful moments and more fully enjoy the positive moments.
To help your children become more mindful, start off with simple things they understand: encourage them to focus on the taste of food as they eat, and turn off the television during meals,” he says.
“Persuade them to spend a minute listening to their breathing, quietly with their eyes closed. And when they walk to school, encourage your child to tune in to the sounds and sights around them,” he adds.
Organisations such as Goldie Hawn’s The Hawn Foundation are making great strides in introducing mindfulness programmes into schools across five continents. Research reveals that her MindUP programme has been shown to make children feel more positive, empathetic and less stressed.
5 In the bedroom
Tantric sex is another term for mindful sex. Tantric techniques are all about focusing your attention on breath, sensation and connection. What’s more, mindfulness itself has been found to have impressive results in the treatment of sexual dysfunction.
Lori Brotto, a professor of gynaecology at the University of British Columbia in Canada, has demonstrated in studies that mindfulness increased desire and led to greater sexual enjoyment in women.
Diane Riley, from the Australian School of Tantra, says that “mindful love-making means that each touch becomes enriched. It’s as if you’re seeing, touching, feeling and tasting for the first time. Look one another in the eye.
Begin by telling each other what you love most about them. Then tell them, maintaining eye contact, whatever it is that they do in bed that turns you on the most. Then say, ‘I’d love for you to do x,’ and share something you’d like to try together. It’s a great way to reopen sexual communication.”
6 For weight loss
If you’ve been struggling to shed weight for as long as you can remember, rethink your approach to eating. Nutritionist Kathleen Alleaume, author of What’s Eating You?, says: “Mindfulness applied to eating is simply listening to your body and picking up natural hunger and satiety signals.”
It’s the opposite of a diet with restrictions and ‘rules’; it’s about giving every meal your full attention. “Evidence shows that mindful eating improves digestion and helps to regulate appetite,” she says.
A recent study found that obese women who underwent a mindfulness-based weight-loss intervention reported significant reductions in weight and food-addiction symptoms.