Positive Factors to Being Present
One of our core tools at Fresh Air Fridays is Being Present – experiencing the moment you are in – and it’s good for you. A lack of mindfulness can lessen our ability to regulate emotions and find ways to help with stress, anxiety and depression. A simple practice of mindfulness is using our senses to become aware of our immediate environment. It’s easy to learn and use on a day-to-day basis. It is done by taking each of our senses in turn and using them to notice what is around us. It enables us to be still mentally and, when done in green or blue space, brings a deep connection with nature – which has its own benefits.
By ‘being still mentally’, I mean it helps stop thoughts circling between thinking about things that have happened in the past and wondering about the future. For example, I might be dwelling on a conversation that didn’t go well or ruminating on something that has annoyed me in the past. Alternatively, I could be worrying about an important event in the future, job uncertainty or whether this pandemic is ever going to end. It is natural for our thinking to cycle between past events and possible future scenarios – it’s part of the magic of being human. We have amazing brains that can bring many fabulous thoughts and ideas. However, sometimes the thinking becomes overburdened with negative scenarios and rumination, which can lead to poor mental health and illness.
Adapting to Challenges at Work
In business it is often necessary to look back and reflect on what went before so we can learn and adapt our approach for next time. Also, looking forward – planning, testing the marketplace, looking at trends and being aware of the pressures from the environment external to our organisation – needs to be done. In the uncertain times we currently face it can be hard to make decisions on what needs to be done to stay in business, adapt to changes as they happen, and provide leadership to guide the future strategic direction.
Finding a Balance
The brain has a natural tendency to look for the negatives as it cycles between the past and the future. This can become mentally draining and difficult, particularly as we are surrounded by a lot of negative news. Yet, as a leader and manager, you need to find a balance between addressing difficult and challenging situations which can make you feel low, and keeping your teams motivated. Being honest about what is happening and the challenges the company is facing is often appreciated by staff. This aids in building trust which underpins psychological safety – which we talked about in an article last month.
Taking time to bring yourself into the present moment, either by using the exercise with your senses or another form of mindfulness that works for you, enables you to break a cycle of negative thinking. This restores your body’s natural equilibrium and allows your brain to function optimally. How many times have you had your best ideas when you have switched off from consciously thinking about an issue?
Practice Making Perfect?
In our current situation lots of people are working from home, spending many hours at the computer in online meetings and having to make difficult decisions for their business. Why not spend a few minutes between meetings, or when you have a big decision to make, bringing yourself into the present moment by using your senses to notice what is around you? I love doing this outdoors as I find it easiest to bring myself into the present moment when I am connected to nature. However, this can also be done easily indoors by standing up, moving yourself to a different position and then noticing your environment and your experience of it. It doesn’t have to be perfect – it’s the practice that will make a difference.