Mindfulness is great, in moderation. Does that seem like a strange thing to say? It seems that the most psychologically flexible people are those who are able to switch between mindfulness and a specific kind of mindlessness – intuitive, instinctive decisions and actions based on well-designed evolutionary hardware and years of training – rather than sticking with one mode or the other. When we can integrate these two states of mind, we’re better able to avoid bias or stereotyping. We are better able to make decisions in complex situations (Kashdan & Biswas-Diener (2014).
Benefits of Mindfulness
All this is fascinating stuff. I’m sure you’re well aware of the growing body of evidence that mindfulness practices benefit us in many ways. They boost the immune system, increase positive emotion and help us handle stress in helpful ways (Kashdan & Biswas-Diener, 2014). Engaging in mindfulness practices is indeed a good thing, and there’s a number of ways to do so. meditation and yoga might be ones that first come to mind. I find any activity that uses the body in familiar, repetitive actions can have the same effect. Bicycling, walking or running, and handwork like knitting, crocheting, or “slow sewing,” are some examples of those.
In April, 2015 I took part in a great training on leading others in writing for well-being. The facilitators, John Evans and Karen Jooste, integrated mindfulness activities into the 3 day workshop. I’ve been sharing what I learned in workshops and with one-on-one coaching sessions. It’s been an amazing experience to be present as people make new discoveries, put past difficult events to rest, and find greater connection to their true selves through the writing and arts activities I’ve been offering.
Here’s one of them, a mindful writing exercise, created and shared by John Evansduring the workshop I attended. Perhaps you’d like to give it a try!
The Six A’s of Mindful Writing
You can write on a computer, mobile device or on paper. Use each sentence stem, without taking too long to respond. This writing is just for you, so you don’t have to make it polished or error free. Just write. Settle comfortably, take a few deep breaths, notice what’s going on around and within you.
- Awareness. “I am aware of….”
- Attention. “I pay attention to…”
- Acceptance. “I accept that…”
- Appreciation. “I appreciate that…”
- Affection. “I have affection for…”
- Affirmation. “I affirm that…”
Try this exercise at different times and in different settings, as your responses may change with a change in context. Give it a try and let me know what you learn from it.
[Originally published on 6/6/15. Revised and re-published on 6/12/17.
Todd Kashdan & Robert Biswas-Diener (2014). The upside of your dark side: Why being your whole self – not just your “good” self-drives success and fulfillment.New York, NY: Penguin Group.