The more, shall we say, cynical readers will recognise the 'buzz words' that constitute the title of this piece.
Mindfulness has been, for a number of years now, the at the forefront of the popular psychological press and, if the hype is to be taken at face value, is a global panacea for mental wellbeing.
Of course I would be one of the first to comment on the benefits of the practice of mindfulness, but to claim it is a magical cure-all is one step too far.
Recently, mindfulness seems to have faded in popularity and we are reading more and more about Resilience.
Resilience and being resilient is the new 'thing'. Of course, like its compatriot buzz word mindfulness, resilience is something that has been around for a long while now.
Let's get our terms defined...
RESILIENCE - is recognized as a developmental process, reflecting the capacity for positive adjustment in difficult life circumstances as opposed a set ability people are born with.
MINDFULNESS - as defined by psychology and not Buddhism, is a skill, which enhances adaptive coping to stressful events by the self-regulation of attention towards the immediate experience, and an open and accepting orientation towards one’s experience of the present (Bishop et al 2004).
One would imagine that an individuals ability to 'bounce back' from life's challenges and the ability to pay attention to internal processes would actually have an effect on an individuals perception of themselves.
This was the theme of a 2013 research paper by Keye & Pidgeo (link below) in which a link between mindfulness, resilience and 'self efficacy' were explored. They found that academic self-efficacy (ability of the individual to take control of their own efficient behaviours) were linked.
To be strict in our definitions, academic self-efficacy is defined as the interpretation individuals give to their own performance and achievement.
In the 2013 research suggests ...
"if mindfulness and academic self-efficacy predict resilience in students, then developing interventions that target increasing students’ mindful- ness and academic self-efficacy may be beneficial in strengthening resilience."
Extending some of the ideas in this paper, we could suggest the following...
Does this cycle suggest a clear link between these four 'abilities'.
This being the case then we might be able to discover points at which we could create coaching and therapeutic interventions.
Of course resilience is a bigger issue, and is something which develops within a framework of personal, social and environmental experiences, but this simple idea could open up some interesting discussion.
Link to the 2013 Research Paper
WATCH THIS VIDEO BEFORE READING ANY FURTHER...
Ask 100 people what they want out of life and invariably there will be the response - to be happy!
(the following is taken from the forthcoming book The Secret to Your Future History)
You need to think carefully about what happiness is for you.
Research has shown that once some basic living needs are met and there is a small degree of financial security an increase in terms of money (wealth) does not increase personal measures of ‘happiness’.
By the same token any relief of sadness obtained through ‘retail therapy’ is both short lived and can lead to personal recrimination for having ‘wasted money’.
In terms of focussing on long term financial gains, studies have shown that individuals often underestimate the time they spend on obtaining such gains, at the expense of other things which have no financial reward (family life and health for example). The end result is a generalised sense of unhappiness.
We also note from research that happiness is not achieved by simply repressing or avoiding the things that cause pain and burying them in overly positive affirmations.
By way of a direct example…
Don’t think of a Pink Elephant…
The mind cannot process a negative, so simply trying to not think about the things we ‘believe’ make us unhappy is a pointless task. The pink elephant proves it - right!
So, practical keys to discovering your own happiness…
Well if we take note of what Buddhist teaching affirm, we need to develop a series of personal values, attitudes and practices which remind us of our own response-abilities. If tranquillity, peace of mind, focus and ability find a middle-path are considered as measures of, or even routes to, happiness then there must be something to consider there.
Mindfulness practices, as shown in numerous studies, are beneficial in terms of stress-reduction - stress, perhaps being a ‘happiness killer’.
Psychologists who have been involved in the study of cognitive behaviourism have noted that ‘attention’ is a far more complex thing than we think it is. Where we place our attention, the unconscious processes which tell us what to ‘pay attention to’ and ‘what to ignore’ are important here.
In what is now a classic experiment observers were asked to watch a video of students throwing a ball. (the one at the beginning of this article).
They were given the task of counting the number of times the student in the white T-shirt caught (or threw) the ball.
At the end of the film observers were asked to report the number of throws/catches they had counted - most of the people were able to recount a number which matched the number in the film.
They were then asked if they had seen ‘the Gorilla’ - almost everyone (around 95%) said ‘no’.
When they were shown the video clip again, a short way into the sequence, a person in a Gorilla suit is seen to walk through the circle of catchers/throwers; stand in the middle, beat their chest, and walk off slowly. This was not a trick - the ‘gorilla’ was there on the first viewing of the clip.
However, because the focus of the activity was the counting of the catches/throws, the mind deleted the information that was ‘the gorilla’.
The original video, is now world-famous and was designed by Daniel Simons and Christopher Chabris. You can check out their book and website for more information (www.theinvisiblegorilla.com)
Conscious Attention is a limited commodity. In a classic piece of work George Millar demonstrated that we can only pay conscious attention to between 5 and 9 ‘chunks’ of information - the rest is processed unconsciously or even ‘deleted’ from your experience of the world.
Noting what you pay attention to in your surroundings, your work, your relationships is a good place to start considering what you are missing. A saying I use frequently, which I believe to be a ‘truism’ and stems from the research of cognitive behaviourists, is - attention goes where emotion flows.
So, if you are in a situation where you feel threatened, your attention will be directed towards possible sources of physical or emotional ‘attack’.
Your unconscious will select where to place your attention and you will be on ‘high alert’. Such an internal state will affect what you see, hear, feel and understand.
If you are aware of this possibility, you can allow yourself to direct your attention (consciously) elsewhere and so, perhaps, have a completely different perspective on the same situation.
In one experiment psychologists asked volunteers to end each day by creating a list.
One group were asked to list five events that had happened during the day; another group was asked to make a list of five things that annoyed them and a third group were asked to make a list of things they felt grateful for.
Follow-up questionnaires relating to feelings of ‘happiness’ and ‘personal value’ found that those who had made the list of things they were grateful for scored more highly than the other two groups.
What could be easier than creating your own daily ‘gratitude list’?
Earlier it was suggested that ‘retail therapy’ produced a fairly short-term change in terms of ‘being happy’.
Well that is generally true, with one key exception. The ‘purchasing’ of ‘experiences’ has a longer term ‘happiness’ factor than other forms of buying therapy. So, if you are going to spend, purchase those experiences which create positive, social emotional memories.
In a parallel study, it was found that engaging in Random Acts of Kindness also resulted in higher scores on personal measures of happiness, satisfaction and valuing of self.
Finally, then comes the notion that happiness is not an emotional state nor a commodity. It is a range of experiences, attitudes and practices which are reported to ‘the self’ as being happy. There are no limits to the amount of happiness and it is best considered as a personal journey, not a destination.
You are responsible for your own happiness, since it is about how you perceive yourself and your interactions with others and your environment. Other ‘things’ and ‘people’ can influence your immediate sense of happiness, but ultimately it's about you not getting in your own way when it comes to your journey towards it.
(Taken from a draft version of The Secret toy Your Future History to be published early 2018)
Dr Alan Jones : Personal Alchemy
In the previous two posts there was the invitation to consider the importance and value of Silence and Stillness in your life.
In many ways Silence and Stillness are precursors to what we could call Mindfulness.
Mindfulness has been described as that 'state' where the mind is fully attending to what’s happening, to what you’re doing, to the space you’re moving through.
How many of you remember a parent or a teacher suggesting that you 'pay attention'?
Well in one sense what they were asking you to do was to focus on the thing that you are doing.
In the last blog we met 'Domino' and "Dorey', two characters who manage their attention in, complementary ways.
Domino placed all of her tasks in a row, one after the other, sequentially.
Dorey considered and tackled tasks in a more random, scattered way.
A number of years ago the Anton Gregorc created an inventory, a measure, of thinking skills he defined as being Abstract, Random, Concrete and Sequential.
Concrete thinkers dealt better with 'concrete' things - practical, down to earth as it were.
Abstract thinkers dealt better with ideas, concepts, - the more intangible things.
Random thinkers, well they're Dorey and Sequential thinkers are surprise, surprise Domino.
So we can be Concrete Domino's or Concrete Dorey's...
Abstract Dorey's and Abstract Dominos.
Which best describes you?
Again it's not that one is better than the other, though it may be that in specific contexts one is more effective than the other.
WHICH in many ways has very little to do with mindfulness, since mindfulness is less concerned with how you are thinking, but more concerned with WHAT you are thinking - the focus of your attention.
Learning to be fully present 'in the moment' is about being able to become aware of your sensory experiences of 'the now'; not the plans for tomorrow or the memories of a yesterday. It is about becoming aware of your ability to 'focus' and how you can 'own that focus'.
We will explore this more in a later post...
For now consider where you place your attention from moment to moment and ask yourself who or what is making the choice to direct what you are paying attention to.
Sitting in silence, and being still whilst pondering this question may lead you to some interesting places...
So , you've cracked SILENCE (see last post) and that allows you to develop a sense of stillness - physical and mental.
Not only are our worlds full of sounds, they are full of 'actions' too.
We need to be here, there and everywhere...
Our minds are reviewing, rehearsing, doing, planning and acting - often all at the same time. Some of us have our tasks and therefore focus fixed our dominoes. A series of actions and plans lined up like dominoes. Some of us work on clusters of tasks at the same time, apparently multi-tasking. Those familiar with the Pixar film 'Finding Nemo' will be familiar with Dorey.
So are you Domino or Dorey?
Neither is better than the other, they're just different.
Domino folks take things a task at a time and could lose track of the 'big picture'
Dorey's move from task-to-task, use a lot of energy and whilst holding onto the bigger picture, may end up with numerous half-started - half-completed tasks.
The issue is not about effectiveness, but about 'attention'.
Where is attention being placed?
Cognitive Psychologists are very interested in the nature of 'attention' and in particular how we decide where to place our attention (focus). If we can accept that it is our unconscious mind that selects what our consciousness 'needs to focus on', the we can question the nature of the values, attitudes and beliefs which inform that unconscious filter.
Whether the glass is half full or half empty is a matter of perception based upon values and attitudes.
So just as we can practice silence, we can practise stillness.
Take a few moments to focus on being still, the quality of the moment and being passive within it.
Silence, Stillness are the building blocks of mindfulness.
I'm happy to be sharing these blog postings with White Wolf Inspirations and Wise Words for You. Welcome readers of that blog and come join me on www.dralanbjones.com and www.alanjonesmindcoach.
Dr Alan B Jones
Director Inspire NLP
Coach, Trainer, Author