Plenty of attention is placed on the physical aspects of training but all too often not enough on the mental or emotional influences and responses.
This is understand, though not necessarily advantageous, since most fitness training programme and sports tend to focus on the physical benefits and measure achievement and ‘performance’ in term of the fastest run, the heaviest weight lifted. Apps on our smart watches and phones that monitor things such as pace and heart rate and measure achievements like PBs but, as yet, I don’t know of any apps the obviously show us how we are feeling.
But what if we are missing out on a whole other dimension of training the can really help us achieve these measurable goals? By focusing on the psychological and well as the physical aspects of training you’ll be more aware of what you can achieve, you’ll discover a whole range of new emotional goals that you can set and you’ll be more able to implement the steps within the process that will help you achieve your goals both your emotion and physical goals.
The key to achieving goals is the practice of mindfulness. Being present and aware of what is going on in that moment within your body, in your mind and in the space around you. If your goal is to run faster, paying attention to what is slowing you down psychically and mentally will help you achieve this. If you take a mindful approach to your training not only will you reap the benefits physically but also emotionally. And not just in training but in your everyday life too. Put simply mindful practice means paying attention, being present and listening and responding to mind and body.
Here is a precis of an article that describes the concept of mindfulness by Larry Cammarata, Ph.D., a licensed psychologist and instructor of qigong and tai chi. It was written back in 2016, but always worth a revisit.
Author Jon Kabat-Zinn defined mindfulness as “paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally” (Wherever You Go, There You Are: Mindfulness Meditation in Everyday Life).
Mindful practice will improve your communication
Intention and attention
That definition involves three main elements: intention, attention, and a nonjudgmental attitude, which can also be framed as acceptance. The formal practice of mindfulness meditation has been associated with a variety of health benefits including stress and pain reduction. Beyond health benefits mindful practice creates conditions for being present to yourself and others with acceptance, openness and a sense of calmness. Through an intention to pay attention, mindful practice trains you to be aware of what’s happening in the present moment with openness and acceptance. One of the simplest ways to strengthen your ability to pay attention is to focus upon the sensations of the inhalation and exhalation of the breath. Your attention is guided by your intentional choice to focus on one thing (your breath) over another (your thoughts). When attention is focused on one thing for a sustained amount of time, it becomes concentration. Concentration is an antidote to distraction. Mindfulness allows you to know the state of your thoughts, actions and speech. Mindfulness informs you when you are distracted, which will support your efforts to pay attention to what you choose to focus upon. Therefore, mindfulness supports the development of concentration. Mindfulness can be cultivated formally through the practice of mindfulness meditation. Outside of meditation, it can also be cultivated by intentionally focusing your attention upon whatever you’re doing.
Intention is the first step to becoming more mindful. A self-reflective question such as, “How do I wish to express myself to others?” is a way of clarifying what you value and how you would like to communicate. Openly and honestly looking at how your behaviour aligns with your intentions and values can help you stay connected to them with integrity. You always have a choice of adjusting your behaviour so that it’s consistent with your intentions and values. The next step is to focus your attention in a way that supports your intention. For example, if your intention is to communicate in a kind and caring manner, then paying attention to the words you say and the tone of your voice will support that intention. Paying attention to your thoughts, speech and actions can provide you with important information to make yourself accountable to your intentions. However, it’s important not to judge yourself when you don’t live up to your ideals. Simply observe your inconsistencies with an attitude of curiosity and openness, which will make your learning process much more enjoyable and effective.
When the mind, body and heart are not in alignment, they could very well be communicating things that are not intended. Just as good posture helps you stay in physical alignment, mindfulness is the posture that helps your mind, body and heart to be in alignment with your intentions. In mindful communication, the mind is involved through the process of attention. Attention creates connection. The body expresses itself through physical posture, gestures, eye contact and tone of voice. The heart is involved in the sense that mindful communication is infused with acceptance, kindness and compassion. Listening closely to what others are communicating is the foundation of mindful communication. Listening, not speaking, is the core skill. It’s also important to observe your thoughts and speech in the process of mindfully communicating to others. However, listening comes first, especially when you’re in the role of serving others.
The key to mindfulness
The process of remembering is the master key to mindfulness. Remembering your intention, remembering to pay attention to what you would like to cultivate, and remembering to listen deeply with openness and acceptance will serve you well on the path of health and healing.