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Mindfulness is your tool for healthy productivity and management: Dr. Nina Radcliff

Mindfulness is your tool for healthy productivity and management: Dr. Nina Radcliff

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From day-to-day work and relationship demands, to processing ongoing news about COVID, to thoughts on how the Delta variant is impacting your daily activities and projects — your mind may be playing a constant chatter of concerns on a loop or working overtime on problem-solving thoughts.

A common trap people can fall into when problem-solving is to send their minds spinning around in circles — trying to think of ways out of arising problems and hoping that more thinking will eventually lead to the answer. This over-active thinking, whether ruminating thoughts or constant problem-solving, can add up and have many negative effects on your mind and body.

Good news! While everyone overthinks things occasionally, there are ways to quiet a constant barrage of thoughts and manage your inner monologues with mindfulness.

Experts agree that to say COVID-19 has been an emotional roller coaster is an understatement and that strong emotions from fear, sadness, anger along with more decisions are ongoing now. All this, along with daily life demands, can especially perpetuate ruminative thinking and overactive thinking.

Cultivating a mindfulness practice can help you connect with awareness while letting things come and go without your attention getting stuck on it. Studies show it helps in making better choices. Some tips:

Awareness is the first step. Paying attention to the way you think. When you notice yourself replaying events, going on and on without a break, mulling things in your mind or worrying about things you can’t control, acknowledge it and shift to mindfulness.

Commit to living in the present, in the moment. Mindfulness thinking is the practice of being present in the now and aware of your thoughts, experiences, feelings and senses. Too often we are distracted by “tasks ahead,” thinking about what needs to be done or has been done. In the process, we’re missing out on the beauty and strength in the present moment.

Mindfulness takes practice, like any other skill. But over time, it can decrease overthinking and stop the mind’s constant chatter.

Studies have linked mindfulness skills to a decrease in a number of stress-related illnesses including: heart disease; hypertension; depression and anxiety; and obesity and obesity-related diseases such as Type 2 diabetes. Additionally, there can be improvements in general wellness: cognitive function, memory, concentration, and focus; sleep quality; empathy, compassion, and altruism; relationships with others; and better school, home and work performance.

The business magazine Inc. aptly wrote on mindfulness, noting: “How our greatest gains in productivity are often derived from less productivity, not more.” A formal practice means specifying at least one time each day when you will put other concerns aside and focus only on the practice, be it meditation or another technique. Here are some ways experts share on becoming more mindful:

Mindfulness doesn’t have to involve meditation. It’s all about intentionally paying attention to what’s happening in the present moment; observing what’s coming at you from the outside and what’s coming-up inside. Taking it in, observing, and not reacting to it at the time. With extended practice, you can begin to let go of what’s coming at you.

Tune-in to Your five senses: Throughout the day, take notice of things you see, hear, taste, smell and touch.

Meditation: Take a few minutes, find a quiet spot, meditate on a favorite verse, devotion, or passage.

Unplug. Take time with no phones, no computers, no emails, taking in the moments whether you’re inside or in nature.

Breathing and walking. Focus on the movement of your body or breathing. Moving away from busy-ness, into the moment.

Raisin exercise: Observe what is essentially a dried out, shriveled grape, in detail. Experts encourage the process to include feeling it by holding it in the palm and rolling it between your fingers. Examine the folds and ridges, smell and taste it.

Take time: Putting aside distractions and focusing fully engaged on an “open, pleasant” moment has been shown to improve creativity, productivity and communication.

Eat mindfully: Stop distractions like emails, phone calls and other multi-tasking projects. Take the needed moments to appreciate the appearance of your food, textures, tastes, smells, and chewing or drinking.

Along with the other health benefits mentioned, research underscores you can reduce your anxiety and stress with simple mindfulness practices. And, one of the greatest advantages of mindfulness is you can practice it in sessions just a few minutes long. And you don’t need any special equipment or expensive apps or apparatus.

Here’s to finding moments throughout your day — free of distractions — to clear your mind. And like all healthy habits, this is not a one-time or short-term practice. It’s a commitment to being a healthier you that requires cultivation and repetition throughout your day, throughout your week and for a lifetime.

Dr. Nina Radcliff, of Galloway Township, is a physician anesthesiologist, television medical contributor and textbook author. Email questions for Dr. Nina to editor@pressofac.com with “Dr. Nina” in the subject line.

This article is for general information only and should not be used for the diagnosis or treatment of medical conditions and cannot substitute for the advice from your medical professional.

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