Mindfulness Retrains Your Brain


I had just finished putting my grocery bags into my trolley and was moving around to pay the cashier when the woman behind me stepped in front of me and went into a long explanation, lasting several minutes, of how she wanted the cashier to put her shopping into her bags. As minutes ticked by I fumed, and in my mind I started judging and criticising her. Rather than change the thought as I normally would do once I become aware, I decided to observe what would happen if I let my thoughts run unchecked. By the time I arrived at my car a few minutes later, still annoyed, there was a car blocking me from accessing my car boot. Within seconds my mind went from berating other people for their lack of consideration, onto thinking about what little support I get. By this time I was feeling resentful.

In the space of six or seven minutes I went from feeling happy and contented to feeling annoyed and resentful, because I allowed my thoughts to run amok. And the worst thing about it is that those thoughts about being unsupported are no longer true, if they ever were. I have always had a lot of support, I just used to focus on what was missing.

We have around 60,000 thoughts a day and those thoughts often take us away from the life that we want to create, but the good news is that you can retrain your brain using mindfulness. We now know that our brains are continuously changing, forming and growing new neurons and connections. That means that we can actually change the way we think and reduce stress at the same time. Most people’s minds run amok as mine did at the supermarket all the time, so just imagine the effect all of those thoughts are having on the quality of your life.

Mindfulness is about being present in your life

One of the most effective ways to retrain your brain is through the practice of mindfulness. Now I must admit that being mindful, as a daily practice, not the meditation, never appealed to me and that is because I misunderstood what mindfulness really is. Being mindful is about bringing your attention back to the present moment, focusing solely on what you are doing in this moment for about 10 minutes, three times a day. It is such a simple yet effective method that can produce life changing results. When you are being mindful, focus solely on that activity. If you are walking take note of where your feet are and how it feels as you put each foot down and lift it up again. Take note of your body and how it feels. Feel the wind on your face, the sun on your skin.

While meditation increases our tolerance to stress, mindfulness eliminates stress.

You can practice mindfulness in everyday life by taking time to breathe deeply and focus on your body. You could be present when carrying on a conversation with another by really listening to what the other person has to say, rather than thinking about what you are going to say next. I’ve found that coaching helps me to be mindful because when I’m with a client my focus is solely on the client and what they are saying. When I supervise students coaching my focus is on the clues, dropped by the client that the coach could pick up on.  If you observe yourself and your environment, without judgement, you will notice that there are instances in your life where you can make mindfulness something that is a natural part of your daily life, so that it doesn’t become a chore.

Be aware of your triggers.We all have things in life that trigger certain emotions. If you observe yourself you will start recognising what those triggers. These triggers provide you with a reminder to be mindful. Just remember that the key to being mindful to be in the moment without judgement.