Distracted? Practice Mindfulness for Better Well-being

Reviewed Jun 20, 2016


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This webinar will help you identify benefits of mindfulness and how to practice mindfulness techniques.

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Distracted Practice Mindfulness for Better Well-Being

Rachel: Welcome to today’s webinar titled Distracted Practice Mindfulness for Better Well-Being! We are very fortunate to have Dr. Samantha O’Connell as our presenter. Dr. O’Connell earned her PhD in Clinical Psychology from Suffolk University and she currently performs neuropsychological assessments for the Integrated Center for Child Development, and works as an outpatient therapist for families, couples, and individuals across the developmental lifespan where she specializes in Cognitive Behavioral Treatment. And without further delay, Dr. O’Connell, I’ll turn things over to you.  

Dr. Samantha O’Connell: Thank you Rachel! Hello everybody! I wish that I could see your faces. But and I know that you cannot see mine, but I am thinking about what you might be thinking about as we begin this webinar on mindfulness. Now many of you when you think about mindfulness may think about an extremely calm, Zen like person, you might even construct the image you know an elderly bald man walking through a peaceful garden. And then insert me, this is where I would like you to all imagine a screeching records layer and imagine me with two toddlers and a few jobs and people outside of my door and emails and phone calls coming in and just a wild woman, a lot of the time. And yes, I may be the kind of a person who may have on occasion at a stop light put on lipstick or listen to music while also trying to do my taxes or may be even prepare for this webinar while I am driving. And before I lose all credibility for giving a talk on mindfulness, I wanted to just prep as a little bit about myself because I am certainly not that Zen man walking through the calm forest and I was once not a believer in mindfulness.

What is this, mindfulness? Stuff, do I have time for that? Am I the kind of person who can do that? And I can’t tell you enough how much it has changed how I go about my day to day activities, my work, my family life and if somebody like me can do it, I truly urge all of you to think about how it might be helpful in your life and it’s not just for those very clam Zens like people, who we may think about when we think about mindfulness, it’s all of us. And I really mean that if you can do it then, I am sure that most of you out there can as well. So I would like to start off with the learning objectives, so over the course of this webinar I hope to define mindfulness, give you guys a good idea about what exactly this is, explain the benefits of mindfulness, identify possible obstacles to mindfulness and describe some mindfullenss techniques.

So what is mindfulness? Mindfulness in its most basic form is intentionally paying attention, paying attention “on purpose” and in the present moment. It’s a very 03:06 feelings from a distance but gently trying to filter out judgment. So, when you mindfully observe your thoughts and your feelings and you don’t judge them to be good or bad, you just sort of let life pass you by, but living in the moment and being in the experience. So, in this way it’s really making a conscious effort to pay attention “on purpose” and be more self aware, it can reprogram your minds to think in a healthier and less stressful way.

So mindfulness is oriented Buddha tradition, but yeah, I’m certainly not Buddhist and you don’t have to be Buddhist to practice it. But the term mindfulness as we have been using it over the last 40 years, it describes non-religious meditation practices, or simply just being in the moment. And if we never remember to practice mindfulness in our daily life, then the development of our mindfulness skills will be limited and as limited usefulness to us, because we do all need to be able to retain this essential instructions whether it be at work or the essential cases of our conversation with one another or the moments with one another, so that we can more fully draw on them when they are needed.

There are ample benefits of mindfulness and it has been wonderful that it has been actually researched more and more in the last 5 to 10 years, what we knew intuitively is now being proven more imperially and what we found through some wonderful research studies is that mindfulness reduces stress and depression. It actually improves sleep, who wouldn’t need more improved sleep, I would like to give another polling question, who gets enough sleep out there? But bringing mindfulness practices into your day to day life, and we’ll talk about this, it doesn’t have to be a huge practice, it can absolutely be just moment, but it can help us achieve more of a clam way of being and that’s improved our sleep.

Some of research studies that I am particularly drawn to where there one set talk about increases in our attention span and reduce procrastination where the biggest barriers that work is attention and procrastination and often some of us maybe more procrastinators than others, but what mindfulness does is to really help us stay focused on the moment and to reduce these other way being. Mindfulness is absolutely been shown to increase the clarity of mind and then it has really great physical benefits such as lowered blood pressure, decreased anxiety, not only in the moment of practicing mindfulness, but longer term effects as well.

Mindfulness certainly in my practice has helped me work with clients to become less emotionally reactive. When we hold, we all have lives and we all histories and we all have baggage and it’s kept with us and if we are not to be mindful of all of that in every minute of our life that certainly wouldn’t be effective, but if we are not mindful in the moment, all of that stuff can sneak out in weird ways, ways that interfere with us working, interfere with us connecting with one another. And so being more mindful in the moment can help us be less emotionally reactive, which can only be helpful at work and in our personal lives. Mindfulness also increases energy and productivity, again, who wouldn’t want more energy and whose boss wouldn’t want more productivity?

So, these are some other wonderful benefits of mindfulness. In an addition, you know, when we are more concentrated and more connected and more in the moment, our relationships can be improved as well, and finally one of the great benefits of mindfulness is that it has been shown to promote resilience. Okay, so before we get into how to do some of these, I would like to just start with, okay, what gets in the way? You all heard about my life that has certainly not been with little people tugging on me, and people jumping in to my office in and out and emails and phones and just perhaps the more inattentive style as it may be with just me, we may think about, what’s again the way to be mindful? Well, one of the biggest barriers is physical pain. You know, some people unfortunately perhaps many of you, whether it be headache, back ache, pain from the jaw, pain from anything that can interfere with being really mindful at the moment, you know, pain brings in its own experiences and its own thoughts. When this happens, when we are trying to be mindful we just need to simply note the sensations that arrive, but then try to bring our attention back to the area of focus, but physical pain certainly is a distracter.

Distractions doesn’t sound physical distraction, you know, its normal to get angry or frustrated when the noises outside of the office or outside of the room or anything is happening when we are really trying to put efforts for being mindful or whether it be doing a breathing exercise that you are concentrating fully on the task ahead of you, it’s really hard when you are working and living in an environment that has inherit attraction which most do.

So, one of the ways to combat that is to just know that we can’t prevent this, sort of accepting that this will happen, notice, and let it go. You will see that that sort of noticing and let it go is a theme for all of this mindfulness. And it’s much easier said than done, let me absolutely preface that, it’s much easier said than done. But it definitely is doable. Some mindfulness techniques may make you bored, they may not be the ones for you, or you may be the kind of person who is inherently more restless. And so it’s hard to sort of bring yourself to that mindset of the call and mindfulness in noticing, if you are the kind of person who just feels more restless in your natural state.

Finally, sleepiness, you know, the goal of mindfulness techniques isn’t actually that make you relaxed, although that is a nice side effect, but often, and especially if you are engaging in a breathing exercise or some of the more in-depth guided imagery mindfulness exercises, you may become sleepy and while it will be wonderful as you make it more sleep and certainly wouldn’t be helpful on the job, but to remember that there will be certain mindfulness techniques and certain ones will work for you that may not work for another person, so keeping that optimal level of arousal will be important.

Emotional obstacles often get in the way, it’s really hard to be mindful and in the moment, especially if you are trying to be in the moment when having a conversation with somebody who you may have interpersonal conflicts with, those feeling of anger, sadness, jealousy being resentful, all of those typically come from experiences that happen in the past, and mindfulness is about being in the moment, in short really hard to brush those off and to remove them from your mind, even the automatic thought is negative.

So that certainly could be an obstacle to be mindful. And then finally doubt, I work with a lot of people on mindfulness and even myself when I started, I don’t know if this is the kind of things for me, but I urge you to consider that, it might be, and it might be something that can help you to not only be more productive at work, but also happier and more in peace in general. So how do we do this, what is this mindfulness? How do we do it? Well, there is all kinds of techniques, we will talk about some of the pretty simple ones, but if you feel like this is something that you are truly interested in, I would urge you to go online.

There are some wonderful additional mindfulness webinars that we have or there are different readings that you can engage in and there are places you can go, you can go to a Zen monastery and engage in some more in-depth mindfulness techniques that are pretty cool. But let’s talk about just some simple mindfulness techniques. So, basically walking, we all have to walk, whether it be to get to work, or go to the bathroom or go get drink water, walking can be a time to use mindfulness and one of the techniques would be just breathing in and out with every three steps. So for every three steps you take, you breathe in, and you breathe out and you’ll notice the sensation of walking.

Now that may seem very simple, just walking, but how many of us rush around from one thing to another and never even think about it? So, that might be a simple thing that I urge you to try, just be mindful in the moment when walking, wherever you are walking, breathe in and then breathe out with every three steps, just notice the sensations. One day you may be noticing how your feet feel against the ground. If you are walking through leaves, you may notice the crunch and really acutely notice the sound. Just noticing everything you can about simply walking, while just noticing the breath, and concentrating on breathing in and out with every three steps.

So, that’s a simple one, another one that we all need to do with ea and one of my colleagues practices a technique where once a week he finds himself in silence. And research shows that interestingly you eat less this way and you digest your food better as well. But there is something about eating by yourself where you notice and you make a point to really notice, you eat slower, you may play a game with yourself or if there is somebody else there with you to see if you can taste individual ingredients. I don’t know about many of you, but I have eaten lunch with many of lunch break, and I am not sure I am actually getting more in that way. But if you take the time even if it’s a short lunch break and be in the moment really taste your food, see if you can taste ingredients, it’s something that certainly won’t change your life, but it’s a step on the way to becoming more mindful.

An activity that I like to do with the kids is I love jelly bellies, jelly bellies, jelly beans and you know, you may shove a handful in your mouth, but if you really taste each one of the different beans, they really taste like the flavor and really tastes like a pear, pear one is I don’t if they particularly like it, but I am amazed that how much it actually taste like a pear. But you may have some fun with that and blindly try a jelly belly, jelly bean or whatever it is that you like, and see if you can really focus on the texture and the taste. It maybe something simple that we all don’t really think too much while eating, but you may enjoy your food more and becoming more mindful about even how it feels in your teeth is a mindfulness exercise being in the moment.

Other things that you can do is think about how we are interacting with somebody and it may be a lot if you go and say, okay I am going to pay attention to every single interaction I am having with everyone, that’s not just realistic at least to start, but before perhaps you have an interaction with someone, just be mindful, take a sort of scan of yourself, think about your postures or any tension in your body, truly pay attention to the things about yourself in that moment, are you having some tension in your neck, could you do just a few deep breath. But really being mindful before you interact with someone, consider what you like to accomplish through this interaction, what is the goal? And could it be just the simple goal and could that be what we are really focusing on?

A Post Interaction Reflection, thinking about after you stop the conversation or the interaction with somebody, think about, okay, what just happened, what should we say? How do they react? Sort of just be more powerful about the process. And think about this is your goal, get accomplished in that interaction. I like to do mindfulness while I am talking to somebody, really notice what they are saying to you. This certainly will be one of the mindfulness techniques I will be talking to the manager’s about, because often this is a place for managers are very concerned about getting things done and they are not listening so much to their employees. So really listening to one another when we have conversation makes sense, and it increases productivity and increases mutual feelings of enjoyment throughout the day as well.

So, when you are talking, be present also. Simply breathing, mindful breathing, we all have to breathe and really noticing, the air go in your mouth and out. Noticing that perhaps you are more of a chest breather and that the air fills your chest and notice the sensation. Try to move it more towards what we call Diaphragmatic breathing, isn’t that a fancy word, where you feel the breath go into your nose, let your abdomen expand and then breathe out. But not judging, not judging if you are not breathing right or wrong, just notice your breathing. Taking even if it’s 30 seconds, notice how you are breathing can be really important in your day, that can help with all of those positive side effects that we talked about, such as lowering your blood pressure, your anxiety, all of that.

One of the mindfulness meditation can be a whole slew of things that comes to be very, very in-depth and I urge you, if you are interested certainly speak out the mindfulness meditation. But the activity of noticing is the most important in any aspect of mindfulness practice. So without noticing, without intentionally paying attention to what’s happening in our experience, there is no mindfulness. So, when you are facing a stressful situation at work, for example, I want you to really think about noticing what’s going on inside of you, just noticing, it’s the activity of purposefully keeping ourselves open to the unfolding of the experience of every moment, even when it is challenging.

The next step to any mindfulness exercise is opening yourself up, so being curious about the detail. Being curious about our stress reaction, what’s happening when we’re sort of getting stressed out at work? What is with that impulse that we want to say something hurtful to a colleague or to a partner, to friends, you know, what is that they are curious about that, don’t touch it, it’s natural to be curious about it. Opening ourselves up may be the opposite of what many of us do, especially it it’s negative feeling, close it down, hide-it-away, but just connecting, you know, the opposite of opening up, just closing, it feels uncomfortable in the long run.

If we’re just connected to what’s going on inside of us, we really end up more stressed, end up being more impulsive, and all of the stresses that we carry throughout our day sneak out in interesting ways that aren’t typically self-productive at work. So finally, in any mindfulness meditation, there is the turn, this is for you to decide to turn any feelings or thoughts that come up and to instead of fighting them, rejecting them, you just notice it, you accept it and make a step toward whatever we’re thinking or feeling and being part being present. You let go off the struggle and in this way releases a huge amount of energy and this in turn can lead to insight or even the bolstering of our skills.

The final technique that I have on here is the sensory grounding technique and this technique in one where we become more aware of our senses. This is the one that I urge you to do if you find yourself becoming really emotional at work or just and it’s a state where you know it’s not super productive. You call on your senses. It may take 3 minutes to do all of these. If you really take that 3 minute, you may feel like you're in the middle of a stressful day and you can't make time to do it, 3 minutes, and it can change the whole course of your day. So, the 5,4,3,2,1 technique is, using all of your senses, so the first sense might be visual sense. So think about, your eyes, your nose, your taste, your touch and hearing.

So, first take 5 things that you can see, and you really look at them. So you notice things in a way that you have never noticed. You may look at a plant sitting on your windowsill and really notice the color, the texture of the leaf, how the stems then bloom into the leaves, you just really notice it, you notice it in a way that you’ve never noticed it before. And then you shift your attention to something else visual and you really take the time in between each of these different things that you are looking at in a unique way, so just ground yourself to the moment. You may even find some beauties that you haven’t seen before. Sense four, you take four things that you can touch, and you may feel, you know, you may depending on where you are at your job, you may just feel the table that’s sitting in front of you, notice the grain of the wood or the metal.

Notice the temperature, is it cold, is it hot? Is the feel rough or is it smooth, just really noticing and being in the moment can really be helpful in grounding. And then you take three things that you are going to then say smell, so that can be your own emotion that’s on your hand or the fabric softener that’s in your clothes. So really smell it in a way that you’ve never smelled it before, it's really be in that moment. And you do that for three separate things and then there may  be two sounds that you will notice. You may just become completely silent and see what kinds of sounds you can pick up. There are millions of sounds that happen and we just tune them out, we habituate to them, because it’s not adapted to pay attention to all the sounds at once, but there’s so much that we miss, and so really paying attention, whether it would be footsteps down the hall that you are truly noticing and being in that moment or the ticking of the clock.

And then finally you’ll take one thing that you can taste, this is my favorite, and this is where you have something on you where you can just taste it whether it would be a mint or candy or a cake and cheese serve, you know, use your own and you just truly taste those flavors again. So the 5,4,3,2,1 technique is a bit longer, although you can do it all within a few minutes, but it really grounds you to the moment, grounds you to the presence. So when can I fit this in? Well, I urge you to fit it in during times like waiting in line or at a red light, instead of you know, checking the email or text messages at red light, just notice, do your breathing, just stare at the light and notice that how that light actually looks there and notice -- maybe notice how you are sitting in your chair, notice the feel of the car seat beneath you, I would urge just at red light do breathing, do a simple breathing exercise at every red light.

When walking, again the step technique, so every three steps breathe in and breathe out. I am really big on pairing the mindfulness techniques to something that you do every day, but hopefully that’s brushing your teeth, so every day when you do your teeth brushing maybe that’s the time you practice your simple mindfulness, where you either do the breathing, either noticing or do you restate a mantra, something. When pouring coffee, anywhere, basically anywhere. Waiting for appointment, sitting on the train in between customers, I urge you to, you know, in between the different tasks of your day, whatever it is that your job is that you do is transition, whether a peak between seeing one client or the next, or searching one customer and then the next, or putting together this widget and then the next, in between each one take a moment to be more mindful, you’ll make fewer mistakes, you might enjoy yourself more and you’ll probably be more productive if you take that moment.

I really urge you to anchor your day with one morning practice, so I like the pouring your coffee because that’s something I certainly do every day or brushing your teeth or just getting into the car when you hear that shutting of the car door, that’s when you take 5 deep breaths. So here is the challenge to you, get your pen out right now, I’ll wait and I want you to really write down maybe in the date book, because they want you to record it one small mindfulness goal, and I’d like you to use these guidelines. So if you visit the people out there, they may notice these are the marked guidelines, that’s measurable, time limited, but I want it to be realistic, not being mindful in every aspect and every interaction with everyone that you know but to really pick one time, while pouring your morning coffee, breathe in and breathe out five times. I want you to measure, I want you to write down, so that we can actually see if it happens, make a time limited, track it.

Well, look the next slide, make a checkmark in your date-book if you did it that day, then if you did after four days reward yourself, you know, principles of behaviorism is that we’re going to do things more if we reward ourselves most like that. Here are some our company has lot of different articles if you interest in topic related webinars. I urge you to look on at some of these articles and webinars. It would stick to you and you can – just – there is one thing you take from this presentation I hope it’s just you know, awareness that the only moment we can control it now, it’s not that happened in the past, it’s not what’s happening in the future, it’s just moment, it takes practice and at the close of the workday I urge you to review, be mindful, and let go. So that you’re present at home and work is not with you, then you can be happier, and if you are happy in your personal life, you’re happier at work, and if you are happy at work, you probably do a better job. This is our contact information, if you ever need it, and I like to thank you all for having me.




By Samantha O'Connell, PhD ©2015-2017 Beacon Health Options Source: Baumeister, R.F., & Heatherton, T.F. (1996). Self-regulation failure: An overview. Psychological Inquiry, 7, 1-15; Mindfulness in Plain English: A Practical Guide to Mindfulness of Breathing and Tranquil Wisdom Meditation Shapiro, S.L., Carlson, L.E., Astin, J.A., & Freedman, B. (2006). Reviewed by Rachel Pauli, MA, CHES, Angie Leek, LCSW

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