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KEY POINTS:

1. Mindfulness, which involves keeping our awareness in the here and now, is a key to mental health and elite performance. 

2. We live in the age of distraction, with e-mail, social media, text messages, YouTube, and our jobs and personal lives all competing for our attention. The idea of mindfulness is to stay in the moment in the face of massive potential for distraction.

3. By practicing mindfulness, you will strengthen your ability to stay in the present moment, develop your capacity to focus, increase the flow of information between mind and body, and enter into and stay in your Zone with more ease.

By Dr. Greg Wells & Dr. Ellen Choi

There are few moments in sport that can compete with the moment when an elite pitcher and clutch hitter square off during the playoffs with a game on the line. The pitcher’s eyes focus on the target while they try to block out the crowd, the TV and the crushing idea that this is a career-defining moment. The hitter breathes deeply to stay calm and relaxed while trying to remain on edge so they can deliver explosive power and energy at that precise moment. Both athletes are entirely present without thinking about the past or the future. They are living purely in the moment, and that is a powerful learning point for the rest of us.

As you know, mindfulness involves keeping our awareness in the here and now and is a key to mental health and elite performance. The idea is to stay in the moment in the face of massive potential for distraction. To quote Dr. Michael Gervais:
 
“When we are in a high stakes or intense situation, it’s not uncommon for our minds to jump forward, going to the next moment and worrying about what happens when this moment doesn’t go well,” Gervais said. “What happens is we give 50 percent to something that doesn’t exist yet and 50 to this moment.”

Controlling your awareness and mind is a central element for success in any area – be it music, sports, drama, or your workplace. Yet we live in the age of distraction. We have email, social media, text messages, and YouTube all competing for our attention, not to mention our careers. The problem is that distraction and multitasking go against how our brains work. In the movie Limitless, Bradley Cooper uses a drug that allows him to access 100% of his brain. But, no matter how appealing that is, the reality is that our brains can only do one thing at a time.

The nerves that make up the brain have very little stored energy. When we think, problem solve or create memories, the brain needs oxygen, glucose and nutrients to work. This “fuel” is provided by blood flow to whatever part of the brain is working on the specific task. But blood flow to the brain is limited and can only be delivered to a few small areas at once. If we activate different parts of our brain by trying to think about the past or future rather than our current reality, we end up shifting the blood flow between locations and never giving the brain what it needs to get a single job done properly.
 
If you practice mindfulness, you will

·         strengthen your ability to stay in the present moment
·         develop your capacity to focus
·         increase the flow of information between mind and body
·         enter into and stay in your Zone with more ease

So as you improve how you manage your mental space, try the age-old technique of being mindful by increasing your awareness of what is happening in and around you. Merely register the data from your senses or thoughts, rather than interpreting them: that means watching and observing without labelling, judging, or analyzing.

Committing to a consistent and daily practice, however long, is a gift that only you can give yourself. Mindfulness has positively impacted people all over the world for thousands of years. By taking just a few moments out of your day you can enjoy the benefits of being genuinely present for your life. Your performance, wellbeing, and relationships will thank you for it.

Today's POWER-UP: Practice Present-Moment Awareness

1. Take a few minutes to do nothing but collect data through your senses. What are you touching and how does it feel (cold, warm, hot, smooth, rough, soft, hard)? What can you see in terms of shape, colour, texture, distance, closeness? What sounds are close by and further away and can you identify them all? What smells are in the air (your cologne, a cup of coffee, someone’s lunch)? What taste do you have in your mouth (sweet, sour, metallic, bitter)?

2. Practice for a few moments each day and you will develop your ability to stay present, develop focus, connect to your body and stay in your flow state.
 
This technique involves being 100% present in the moment with all our attention directed at one thing only. I can do this when I listen to a great piece of music. I also love art galleries, because when faced with a masterpiece, you really can’t think about anything else. You can also do this in a conversation with a friend or family member and be absolutely focused on what they’re saying without your mind wandering or worrying about what you’re going to say back. Just listen and try to understand. One of the deepest human needs is to be listened to – you’ll be amazed by the power of this technique. Sharpening your focus and living in the moment are great ways to dissipate stress. So much of our stress comes from thinking about the past or the future. When we stay in the present, we often realize that things are pretty good.

 

The information and advice provided in this program is intended to assist Sky Regional employees with improving their general health. It is not intended and should not be used in place of advice from your own physician or for treatment or diagnosis of any specific health issue. Sky Regional is not responsible for the content of this program which has been specially developed and is being provided to you by the Wells Group Inc., in consultation with Sky Regional. By participating in this program you acknowledge that undertaking any new health, diet and/or exercise regime involves certain inherent risks, that you assume such risks, and that you release Sky Regional and the Wells Group Inc. from any responsibility or claim relating to such participation.