Mindfulness meditation has been studied a lot in recent years, and it's been shown to have all sorts of benefits. In particular, we know that mindfulness reduces stress and anxiety.
But "mindfulness" does not just refer to meditation - it's a state of conscious awareness, the opposite of acting like a robot. It's possible to be mindful as we go about our everyday lives - and this type of mindfulness too can have amazingly beneficial effects.
Psychologist Ellen Langer has just published a book: "Counter Clockwise: Mindful Health and the Power of Possibility" which talks about small changes that can have big effects in our lives.
Mindfulness Reduces Stress
When psychologist Ellen Langer asked participants at a seminar to talk about someone or something that just drove them nuts, one woman spoke about her husband always being late for breakfast — a minor, everyday annoyance that Langer suggested might be reframed: Focus on the gift of a few moments alone.
A small thing maybe, but over more than 30 years, Langer has conducted a series of ingenious experiments that show how small and seemingly simple changes in our lives can reduce stress and help us lead healthier, happier lives.
One of the things she found that made a big difference was choice. If you feel that you have a choice, immediately you are empowered. One of the ways she looked at this was with chronic illness - because chronic illness makes people feel there is nothing they can do about the condition. Yet paying attention - mindfulness - immediately makes people aware of the more subtle dimensions of what is going on.
"The first is you see you don't have it all the time, so it's not quite as bad as you thought. You know, people are depressed, they think they're depressed all the time. No one is anything all the time. People who are dyslexic, it turns out that most words, over 90 percent of the words, they're reading they tend to read correctly, yet they define themselves by their illness.
"So what happens is first you see you're not as bad as you thought you were. Second, by seeing that sometimes it's better, sometimes it's worse leads you to ask the question — well, why? And you may well come up with a solution. And the third, even if you don't, that whole process is mindful, and the 35-or-so years of research we've done shows that that kind of noticing new things leads to health and longevity."
You can read the whole article in NPR here... you can also find an excerpt from Ellen Langer's book "Counter Clockwise", that will get you thinking more about the power of possibility...
The article asks:
Has there been a stressful situation in your life that you turned around by reframing your outlook?
Perhaps an even better question for you:
Is there a stressful situation in your life that you could reframe - look at differently in some way - in a way that makes it less stressful? less serious? less personal?
Play with this!
You can buy Ellen Langer's book on Amazon: