Understanding the Connection Between Body and Mind
The practice of mindfulness has been around for a number of years and its significance is growing amongst business leaders and entrepreneurs.
By cultivating mindful awareness, we discover how to live in the present moment rather than brooding about the past or worrying about the future.
When practiced with consistency and diligence, mindfulness enables us to connect with the present moment and relinquish any worries we may have about the past or the future. This is a useful technique to master if you have a tendency to ruminate about past events or over-think the future.
How is this possible? Well, mindfulness teaches us how to relate to things, and by extension how to relate to ourselves, differently by bringing awareness to the things in life over which we have control, such as the present moment, instead of dwelling on the things in life over which we have none or little control, such as the past or future.
How is mindfulness achieved?
Mindfulness is a combination of maintaining focused attention, developing your capacity for concentration, and sustaining a state of increased awareness.
Mindfulness can be achieved through a formal process of meditation, whereby you practice sustaining attention on the body, breath or any sensations that may arise at that moment. Mindfulness can also be achieved informally by being mindfully attentive in everyday life. For example, by paying close attention to the taste and texture of your food while you eat.
At its core, mindfulness helps us put some space between ourselves and our instinctive reactions, breaking down our habitual responses and enabling us to see things for what they really are, rather than what we think they are.
When mindfulness is achieved, your mind and body act together as one. You breathe in and out mindfully; you bring your mind back to your bodily sensations and the cycle continues again and again. When your mind is there with your body, you are established in the present moment, with an overall feeling of being centered and grounded.
The breath is quintessentially significant for mindfulness as it provides an anchor point for your practice; if the mind begins to wander, you come back to the breath, noticing each inhale and exhale, moment by moment without judgment or self-criticism.
By its nature, mindfulness practice should be enjoyable, not an effort or an obligation. This is why paying attention without any judgement is so vital for mindfulness practice; if the mind begins to ruminate, we can simply come back to the breath; and in doing so we simultaneously bring our attention back to the present moment and regain our focused attention without critiquing ourselves too harshly that our minds began to wander.
What are the benefits of mindfulness?
Numerous studies have shown a statistically significant correlation between mindfulness and the psychological and physiological benefits on the body:
- Continued practice reduces anxiety and any feelings arising from worry, nervousness or unease, by increasing the ability to regulate emotions and manage the stress response
- Mindfulness improves our cognitive abilities, including visuospatial processing, working memory, and executive functioning
- By cultivating focus, concentration and awareness through the practice, mindfulness helps create new neurological pathways in the brain, strengthening the brain's ability to continue to cultivating focus, concentration, and awareness again and again
Understanding the Connection Between Body and Mind
To create a connection between the mind and body, mindfulness usually occurs in the following sequential manner:
- You create a state for mindful breathing by focusing on each inhalation and exhalation.
- Whilst paying attention to your inhales and exhales, you concentrate on each breath from beginning to end. As you breathe in, you follow your in-breath from the start to finish, and as you breathe out, you do the same.
- Next, as you follow the breath all the way through, you draw awareness to your body: by recognising the rise and fall of the abdomen, taking each inhale through the nose and exhaling through the nose or mouth, the very quality of your in-breath and out-breath will be improved and your heart rate will begin to lower, your blood pressure will stabilise and this, in turn, increases the efficiency of nutrients to the cells.
- Next, by bringing awareness to the body, we can begin to release any tension we find in the body. Using the breath as a guide and anchor, notice how the body responds to every inhale and exhale. Is there any tension in the neck? Do any muscles feel tight? By noticing how the body feels in the present moment, we can, without judgement, continue to use the breath to relieve the tension.
Mindfulness and Coaching
There is a body of growing research which demonstrates the positive impact of integrating mindfulness techniques within life, business, and sports coaching. Virgili (2013) highlighted the importance of present-moment attention and non-judgemental identification to enable clients to increase their self-awareness and overall knowledge of their behavioral preferences. Passmore & Marianetti (2007) proposed that maintaining focus during the session and remaining emotionally observant, rather than emotionally heightened, helps clients to focus on their goals, whilst (Kinsler, 2014) demonstrated a significant correlation between those clients who engaged in mindfulness techniques and those who developed authentic leadership styles.
Mindfulness & Business
Many business leaders are engaging with mindfulness in the workplace, either as part of their leadership development curriculum, executive coaching programmes, or as part of their employee well-being offer. Whilst much of the content of these programmes will differ from one provider to the other, the vast majority of programmes enable employees to develop strategies to stay focused on tasks without being distracted by thoughts about the past or future, to find a sense of calm in the midst of stressful or challenging situations and to manage their own internal emotions and impulses with greater self-awareness.
Mindfulness and Yoga
When we think back to our earliest understandings of mindfulness, one cannot fail to mention Jon Kabat-Zinn, the creator of the Stress Reduction Clinic and the Center for Mindfulness. Through his work, Kabat-Zinn demonstrated the connection between yoga & mindfulness practice by combining each yoga movement (or Asana) with mindful awareness, as each movement is practiced slowly and gently. For many of us, the central message of yoga is to learn how to listen and respond to bodily sensations. This awareness helps us move towards a heightened state of “physical and mental development” as we focus our attention, and practice, on the present moment.
The Future of Mindfulness
The application of mindfulness is limitless; it will continue to influence the worlds of clinical and academic study, the business world, and even the field of sports psychology. As a qualified life coach and yoga instructor, I have seen the positive impact of mindfulness for a range of clients and truly believe that future research into mindfulness could unleash a source of rich data from which we can continue to understand the connection between the body and the mind and its implication for our personal, professional and physical development.
About the Creator
As an Life Coach, Business Psychologist and Yoga Instructor, I work with creatives, athletes, business leaders & corporate clients to achieve their personal, physical & professional goals.
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