How to Focus on What Really Matters
Using mindfulness moments to build resilience during COVID-19.
Posted Apr 14, 2020
During these uncertain times, how do you stay focused on what really matters to you? Noticing what you’re doing right now is one way to be more mindful.
Study after study shows the benefits of mindfulness for health and well-being (Goleman & Davidson, 2017; Siegel, 2011). And tentative evidence points to the impact of mindfulness on strengthening the immune system (Black & Slavich, 2016).
Without mindfully pausing to notice life’s moments, we are not as self-aware, interpersonally aware, or effective as we can be. When we forget to occasionally pause to notice the moments of our days, it’s as if we’ve turned off our internal cellular phone. There’s lots of data coming in, but we can’t hear the messages. To gain access to the information, we need to pause, notice the phone is off, and activate it. Without pausing to notice our internal awareness, we can be deaf and blind to life’s messages, whether simple or complex. We don’t notice the heartbeat of what’s most meaningful – we don’t notice our own internal reality or realities of the people with whom we’re interconnected, the organizations in which we work or volunteer, and the world in which we live.
The bottom line is that mindfulness is really just about noticing. It’s so simple that all we need to do is pause and pay attention. And what is noticing? Noticing involves simply focusing our attention. This pause empowers us to get out of autopilot and to become aware of our internal processes without being blown away as frequently by the winds of life. Mindful leadership author Maria Gonzalez (2012) writes that mindfulness principles can be woven into every aspect of our personal and professional lives, helping us build focus and awareness, effectiveness, and better decision making.
Anyone can notice. Pausing to notice is a skill we can learn and practice. Rather than being an all-or-nothing experience, noticing can be developed step-by-step, moment-by-moment. Noticing is not just for the old or the young, or the leader or the worker, or the believers or the non-believers – noticing is for all of us.
Moreover, compelling evidence shows that mindfulness can help us change our lives in powerful ways. Mindfulness and related practices are learnable and support well-being in the mind, the brain, and the body (Goleman & Davidson, 2017; Siegel, 2011). Mindfulness can benefit us as individuals and interconnected travelers in the world in which we live. Even short daily mindful pauses can shift our lives and well-being at deep levels.
Recently, I tried a noticing experiment. Each day for a week, I paused three times during the day for less than a minute to just notice. I set the calendar on my phone to remind me to pause, take a breath, and just notice where I was and what I was experiencing. The results from my personal experiment were simple yet remarkable. That few seconds several times daily helped me feel just a bit calmer and gain greater clarity – and I found that after a few days I began to pause and notice at other points throughout the day.
18 Ways to Build Resilience with Mindful Noticing
At its essence, mindfulness is simply noticing. Here are 18 ways to help you practice this simple, powerful strategy for transforming your moments.
- Pause while you wash your hands or brush your teeth.
- Turn off electronics for an hour.
- Notice when you are smiling.
- Listen carefully with no agenda.
- For just a few breaths, observe that you are breathing – in-breath, out-breath.
- Pay attention to what you’re doing right now.
- Notice your surroundings.
- Say a quick blessing or prayer.
- Stop for a moment and just sit or stand quietly.
- Stretch and notice how you feel.
- Read an inspiring poem.
- Sing a song in the shower – just for fun, no judgment.
- Observe the sunrise or sunset.
- Listen to music.
- Appreciate someone in your life.
- Pause between bites of food.
- Write a personal note of gratitude.
What ways to simply notice can you add to this list?
***This post is for educational purposes and should not substitute for psychotherapy with a qualified professional.
Black, D. S., & Slavich, G. M. (2016). Mindfulness meditation and the immune system: a systematic review of randomized controlled trials. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 1373 (1), 13–24.
Goleman D. & Davidson, R.J. (2017). Altered traits: Science reveals how meditation changes your mind, brain, and body. New York, NY: Avery.
Gonzales, M. (2012). Mindful leadership: The 9 ways to self-awareness, transforming yourself, and inspiring others. Mississauga, Ontario: Jossey-Bass.
Siegel, D. (2010). Mindsight: The new science of personal transformation. New York, NY: Bantam Books Trade Paperbacks.