The word mindful is becoming a buzzword in today’s frantic 24/7 society, but do we all fully understand what it means to be mindful and is it something which we can integrate into our everyday lives quite easily? Alexis Thompson chats to Gill Hasson, author of Mindfulness Pocketbook: Little exercises for a calmer life, to find out the secret to a successful mindful life
What is mindfulness essentially about?
It’s about recognising only real time in the present world. What’s happened before is down to interpretation – it’s gone, the past is behind us – and the future, you can’t really predict. It’s about understanding that the really good stuff is happening right now, and being aware of it and making the most of it. But also if something bad is happening, it’s understanding that it’s happening now but knowing that it will also pass. Ultimately it’s about making the most of life in the present.
When did you start becoming interested in mindfulness?
I was always interested in mindfulness but I knew that I could never do meditation, as I couldn’t sit still for long enough. Meditation isn’t for everyone but mindfulness is – everyone can learn to be more mindful.
Why do you think businesses such as Google are starting to realise the benefits of mindfulness – even though it’s a practice that has been around for thousands of years?
I think there’s now a better understanding of what mindfulness is. Companies are realising that it doesn’t mean their employees will need to sit cross-legged in a special room, it’s just something people can introduce to their everyday office routine.
How can it benefit busy managers and leaders of companies?
It will make them less stressed and it can also help people to concentrate more. I think that people need to regonise in work that they are best just to focus on one task at a time and give it all their attention. This is mindfulness, but it does take some training and you need to be able to discipline yourself and not get too easily distracted.
Do you agree that a lot of the time the problem is that busy people don’t feel they have the time to be mindful?
Yes definitely. Busy people will often make lists and if they write this list down on paper, then they are externalizing their thoughts. If you write lists on paper or on email, then there’s no reason to still have things running through your mind – all you need to do now is to focus on the task at hand and not worry about all of the things you need to do. It’s all written down on the list, so you don’t need to keep going over it in your mind.
How can people integrate mindfulness into their daily lives and make sure that they don’t slip back into bad habits of worrying and going over stuff?
I think everyone needs an activity in their daily lives which will help them get into a state of flow – this involves doing something they like, such as playing sports and becoming completely absorbed in this. Once you’re in a state of flow, this will give you a break from worrying and getting anxious.
Do you think that part of society’s difficulty to adopt a mindful approach is because we live in a 24/7 society where we’re always connected?
There’s no doubt that technology is a major distraction for us. It’s very difficult not to respond straightaway when your phone is bleeping or you have a message waiting for you in your inbox, but you need to be able to discipline yourself to switch your devices off and give yourself a break from them. I go walking in the South Downs and this helps me to completely detach myself from everything. You could try playing football – I mean you can’t have a mobile phone with you whilst playing football. In work, only check your mobile and personal emails once and then try to go out for a walk at lunchtime and leave all of your devices behind.
Ultimately can being mindful lead to a happier life?
It can definitely lead to a calmer and less stressful life and it will help you to feel more in control. If you adopt a mindful approach then you won’t feel that life is happening to you, you will feel that you’re in control. It’s not about suppressing your thoughts, because we can’t do that, but it’s about challenging and re-directing them and controlling activities that trigger particular thoughts.