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How to be mindful when you’re short on time

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A woman practicing a quick mindfulness exercise at her desk.

Reduce stress and increase calm in just a few minutes

In this video, Andrew Marty, our Managing Director, introduces a quick and practical form of mindfulness activity designed for individuals with busy schedules.

He explains the concept of mindfulness as being fully present in the moment, highlighting how the mind’s narrative often hinders complete engagement.

Andrew presents a technique called “five, four, three, two, one” which involves focusing on specific sensory experiences to enhance mindfulness quickly.

This approach can be particularly beneficial for reducing anxiety and improving concentration in various situations, including public speaking.

Learn how to practise mindfulness in just a few minutes

Discover how you can experience mindfulness using this quick activity that brings you into the here and now, reducing stress, creating calm and quieting your mind.

If you know of anyone who would benefit from this video, please share it with them.

Mindfulness in a few moments

Hi, Andrew from SACS.

This is a brief video to introduce you to a short form of mindfulness activity.

What is mindfulness?

Firstly, I just want to talk about what we mean by mindfulness.

Mindfulness, I’m sure you’ve heard of, but I wonder if everybody knows what that actually means.

And in fact often people, when they talk to me about mindfulness, there’s a variousness of what people mean by that.

Mindfulness is about being in the here and now, but why is that so important?

You see from this diagram that let’s say a person has 100 units of mental energy to spend on a particular task.

They rarely actually use the full 100%.

Reducing the mind’s narrative

And the reason for that is that there is a narrative running in their mind, which kind of distracts from being in the here and now.

So let’s say you’ve got to make a speech.

It’s best if you’re making a speech to be in the here and now so you can concentrate on what you’re going to say and you can concentrate on how the audience is responding and modulate your approach and all that kind of stuff.

The narrative can derail, but it can also cause negative emotions like anxiety or depression.

And so in response to this, researchers indicated that people who practise being in the here and now kind of expand their capacity to be in the here and now.

And as part of that, it sort of shrinks the narrative.

Historically, people would often try to concentrate on the narrative and suppress it.

As it turns out, neurology of all of this tells us that if you try to suppress something in the human brain, it typically makes it stronger.

So that doesn’t work.

The benefits of mindfulness

Now, practising being in the here and now can be demonstrated to reduce anxiety, depression, to make people happier, and so forth.

And that’s really why there’s a worldwide trend towards mindfulness activities.

But not all of us have 15 minutes to sit down and meditate, and also some of us don’t like that.

So alternative approaches to mindfulness have been developed, and these are sometimes called ambulatory mindfulness methods, and ambulatory just means you can do them as you’re walking around.

And I want to show you one called five, four, three, two, one, which is very simple and very quick, and has been used with success in a range of different settings.

A quick mindfulness exercise

So five, four, three, two, one.

Five is five things to look at.

So in a room, make sure that you won’t be interrupted and you look around the room and you notice five separate things.

Now, as you notice those five separate things, a really important part of mindfulness is that you will notice thoughts come.

And the thought might be, “Hey I forgot to do something at work,” or maybe, “Mary said something to me that made me upset,” or something like that.

That’s all narrative.

So when those thoughts come you don’t fight them, you notice them but you let them go and you refocus your attention on the here and now, five things that you can see.

The second thing you do is you close your eyes and you notice four things that you can feel.

And so it may be the pressure of the floor on your feet, it may be the temperature of the air, whatever.

You notice four things that you can feel.

Then still with your eyes closed, you notice three things that you can hear.

Then still with your eyes closed, you focus on two things that you can smell, two separate aromas.

And then finally, you focus on one thing that you can taste.

Feel calmer at any time

Now, if you do this activity, you’ll determine for yourself how much time you need to spend on the five, the four, the three, the two, or the one.

But one of the things that you’ll find is that after you do this activity, you will be a lot calmer.

When I’m coaching people about public speaking I often encourage them to use this technique because it’s the kind of thing that you can do.

Let’s say you’re sitting there and you’re about to go up and make the speech and you’ve got five minutes, do a five, four, three, two, one.

It can make you a lot calmer.

So this is mindfulness for busy people.

Learn more about reducing stress

Watch this video to find out more about dealing with stress at work:

Stress management techniques

And if you’d like some help identifying contributing factors and managing stress in the workplace, contact us about our Staff Wellbeing surveys.


Originally posted: August 29, 2023

Andrew Marty

Managing Director at SACS Consulting

Andrew is a qualified psychologist who has over 25 years of human resource management consulting experience, including extensive senior executive search and selection experience.

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