But recent studies show that most of us aren’t “all there” most of the time! In fact one study by Microsoft shows that most people have a shorter attention span (8 seconds) than a gold fish! Here are 5 powerful ways that practicing mindfulness will improve your life and ministry!
But first the research…
Researchers in Canada surveyed 2,000 participants and studied the brain activity of 112 others using electroencephalograms (EEGs). Microsoft found that since the year 2000 (or about when the mobile revolution began) the average attention span dropped from 12 seconds to eight seconds.
Can you see how this might hamper your ability to read, counsel, or remember what your spouse just said?
Amy Morin, author of 13 Things Mentally Strong People Don’t Do describes powerful benefits of mindfulness. I will highlight how these will boost your life and ministry!
1. Insightful Focus
Lord, help me to hear what they are really saying. That is my prayer as I see a student’s lips moving. As I am actively practicing attentiveness I hear more than just the words; I observe the body language and feel the feeling.
As I am entirely mindful of the person in front of me I engage in the moment at a completely different level than when I am watching TV with a phone in my hand.
This strategy improves problem solving because as I give my mind completely over to the situation and refuse to allow it to ramble down rabbit trails I can generate a number of workable solutions and evaluate the merits of each.
2. Improved Relationships
Why don’t you listen to me? This is a common complaint in relationships. According to Morin, “Researchers have found that mindfulness could be the key to relationship satisfaction. –Couples who practice mindfulness report less conflict, improved communication, and a healthier relationship overall.”
Attentiveness is destroyed by inattention. This isn’t just a disadvantage brought on by the digital age, newspapers, televised sports, and day dreaming have long been with us.
Mindfulness in relationships makes us more able to devote our heart and attention to those we love.
3. Enhanced Mental Health
It’s easy to think that practicing mindfulness is Eastern Mysticism or some new age nonsense! Did you know that Christian believers have practiced this for centuries?! (-See Richard Foster Celebration of Discipline!) Mindfulness will make you more aware of God and others.
Studies have linked mindfulness to improved psychological health. Practicing mindfulness can reduce your overall stress level and lower your risk of mental health problems. As you are more in the moment you are less prone to worry, develop anxiety, and stress over things that you can’t deal with. There is nothing helpful coming from a scattered mind flitting from one concern to another, all while trying to participate in a meeting, church service, or prepare a talk. Clear undistracted focus is helpful in all circumstances.
4. Wise Responses not Emotional Reactions
The Canadian Journal of Psychiatry Study shows that “mindfulness decreases the intensity of painful feelings. Even when you’re going through tough times, you won’t experience negative emotions as intensely when you’re able to focus on the here-and-now.” Mindfulness can also reduce harsh self-criticism and help you develop a more self-compassionate inner dialogue.
As you work with others this is hugely important. If we are slaves to our initial emotional experience we are likely to make terrible choices and give very bad advice! As we gain a more objective Biblical approach our responses will be tempered by God’s wisdom.
How to Be More Mindful
As you are hearing from many sources, people can train their brains to be mindful. Similar to other skills, it will take practice to improve.
I like to start by being mindful of God. I recognize that the Holy Spirit is in and all around me. I concentrate on his involvement in my interaction with others. I ask him to provide insight into my problems and my daily activities.
Taking time to still your mind at the start of the day and allowing Christ to carry all of your concerns will free you up to focus on others and the tasks at hand. Learning to turn off notifications on your phone and plan times to deal with email and messages will also help to discipline you to deal with distractions in an orderly manner. At bedtime clear your mind of anxious thoughts reviewing the day and working on tomorrow. Instead begin to thank God for all who he is and what he has done in your life. Go to sleep with thanks and praise on your lips.