Mindfulness and Self-Compassion
Powerful Tools for your Life & Leadership Toolbox
Some days do you have less focus than you would like?
Life is loaded with distractions. Sometimes we get to what’s important – and sometimes we don’t. Without creating “breathing space,” we can find ourselves drifting or overwhelmed, rather than present and balanced.
Don’t just wait for inspiration. Consider including mindfulness at the top of your life and leadership toolbox. Mindfulness can power up self-awareness, calm, productivity and focus, as evidenced in numerous research studies. Practicing mindfulness trains the mind, empowering concentration and the capacity to relate more effectively to what’s happening right now.
These potent effects require much less time than most people imagine – just minutes a day of practice can have benefits – observe Daniel Goleman, PhD, and Richard J. Davidson, PhD in their book, Altered Traits.
The powerful value of mindfulness has garnered broad acceptance across academia and workplaces – from Google to the U.S. Army. Meditation curricula now show up in numerous organizational toolboxes. More than 6800 scientific articles have been written on meditation and the number is rapidly mounting (Goleman & Davidson, 2017).
One study conducted by leading meditation researchers, Jon Kabat-Zinn and Richard Davidson, at a bio-tech startup company, asked participants to use the Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction program (MBSR) daily for 30 minutes daily during an 8-week period. Their findings showed remarkable changes in regions of the brain related to positive emotions and energy (Goleman & Davidson, 2017; Salzburg, 2014).
How are mindfulness and self-compassion connected?
According to psychologists, Rick Warren, Elke Smeets and Kristin Neff (2016), mindfulness is one of the key components of self-compassion. Self-compassion skills, treating ourselves with care and kindness even in challenging situations, can be learned, helping us be aware of our experiences in a balanced way that recognizes thoughts and emotions, but doesn’t dwell on or exaggerate them (Warren, Smeets & Neff, 2016).
“You come to realize that thoughts come and go of their own accord; that you are not your thoughts… Mindfulness is about observation without criticism; being compassionate with yourself” (Williams & Penman, 2011).
Mindfulness can be practiced for moments or longer periods. We can intentionally decide where to focus attention. When the mind wanders (which it always does), we can gently bring it back.
Mindfulness Strategies for your Life and Leadership Toolbox:
1. Following the Breath
Simply pause taking a slow, deep breath – and notice that you’re breathing. You might say to yourself “breathing in” (as you inhale), “breathing out” (as you exhale). No need to change your breathing, just notice. This simple approach can help improve focus and calm — preparing for a presentation, before an interview or meeting, when feeling upset or worried, or simply waking up in the morning. Breath awareness can be practiced for one inhale/exhale cycle or a longer period.
2. Loving-kindness Meditation
A method of meditation called Metta, or Loving Kindness Meditation, was brought to western culture by leading meditation teacher, Sharon Salzburg (2014). Lovingkindness practice invites us to repeat phrases offering goodwill and compassion, first to ourselves and then to others. These simple, yet powerful phrases may be repeated silently, sitting or lying down with eyes closed or open: “May I be safe. May I be happy. May I be healthy. May I live with ease.” The phrases offer compassion for oneself and then may be extended with a more global intention for compassion toward others or even all human beings everywhere (Salzburg, 2014).
3. Mindful Pause
Try a mindful pause to reduce feelings of stress. This strategy to help you pause and engage your strengths is described by Ryan Niemiec (2018). (1) Pause and point your full attention to your breathing for 10-15 seconds; (2) Ask yourself which of your character strengths you can utilize in this particular moment. You can discover your signature strengths by taking the brief, scientifically-validated Values in Action survey at http://www.viacharacter.org/www/Character-Strengths-Survey.
4. Mindfulness at Meetings
Begin meetings or work sessions with a moment of mindfulness. If you’re collaborating with a colleague, team, or family member suggest a 60 second pause for people (including yourself) to turn attention to the breath, or a repeated phrase to help focus and become present.
Where do mindfulness, calm, and self-compassion fit in your life and leadership toolbox? You don’t have to be a yogi to benefit from mindfulness meditation. Just like learning to swim, mindfulness is a learnable skill you can access in any moment.
The moment is NOW.
Learn More with these Mindfulness Resources:
- Berns-Zare, I. (2016). Mindfulness, Balance, and Confessions of a Life-Work Coach.
- Berns-Zare, I. (2017). Mindfulness, Self-Awareness, and Calm – Powerful Tools for the Effective Leader’s Toolbox.
- Goleman D. & Davidson, R.J. (2017). Altered Traits: Science Reveals How Meditation Changes Your Mind, Brain, and Body. Avery, New York, NY.
- Gonzales, M. (2012). Mindful Leadership: The 9 Ways to Self-Awareness, Transforming Yourself, and Inspiring Others. Mississauga, Ontario: Jossey-Bass.
- Kabat-Zinn ( 2012). Mindfulness For Beginners: Reclaiming the Present Moment – and Your Life. Sounds True. CO.
- Kabat-Zinn, J. (2007). Video: Mindfulness with Jon Kabat-Zinn: Kabat-Zinn Leads a Session on Mindfulness at Google.
- McGrath, R. E. (2017). Technical report: The VIA Assessment Suite for Adults: Development and Evaluation. Cincinnati, OH: VIA Institute on Character.
- Niemiec, R. (2018). Character Strengths Interventions: A Field Guide for Practitioners. Boston, MA: Hogrefe.
- Peterson, C., & Seligman, M. E. P. (2004). Character Strengths and Virtues: A Handbook and Classification. New York: Oxford University Press and Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.
- Warren, R., Smeets, E. & Neff, K. (2016). Risk and Resilience: Being Compassionate to Oneself is Associated with Emotional Resilience and Psychological Well-being. Current Psychiatry 15(2), 19-33.
- Williams, M. & Penman D. (2011). Mindfulness: an eight week plan for finding peace in a frantic world. Rodale Press.
How Can Coaching with Ilene Help You Call Yourself to Action?
Ilene Berns-Zare, PsyD is a life and leadership coach, psychologist, and educator. Ilene has dedicated much of her career to the personal and professional development and integrative well-being of others. As a life and leadership coach, psychologist, and educator, she inspires others to find fresh perspectives and access their full potential as creative, resourceful, whole persons. Find Ilene online and access free resources at http://ileneberns-zare.com.
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