Let's talk about not focusing on a goal. Why? Because sometimes, the best way to reduce stress and improve performance is to think about nothing at all. It’s called mindfulness, and we learned about it from Psychology Today. Mindfulness is the art of living in the moment, but most of us don’t get it right. We do things like daydream about our vacation while we’re at work, and then worry about the paper piling up on our desks when we’re on vacation. Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn is the scientist who introduced meditation into mainstream medicine, and he believes worrying about the future or fretting about the past hurts the immune system, increases the risk of cancer, and damages the heart. It also decreases performance in everything from raking leaves to writing novels. However, getting out of that mindset takes practice. So, here are a few tips to help you along:
- Savor something. Sonja Lyubomirsky wrote The How of Happiness, and she suggests picking an activity - like drinking a cup of coffee - and doing that and nothing else. Focusing all your attention on something simple improves mood and lowers the level of stress hormones in your blood.
- Breathe. Let’s say you’re stuck in traffic. Instead of doing a slow boil, psychologist Whitney Heppner suggests you focus on your breathing. Studies show that deep breathing gets rid of feelings of anger and worry.
- Verbalize your feelings. Stephen Hayes, a University of Nevada psychologist, says that the more we try to avoid a thought, the more persistent it becomes. So, if you’re nervous about making a presentation, the best way to calm down is to say, “I’m feeling nervous, but that’s to be expected.”
So, it turns out the old joke, “Don’t just do something, sit there,” has a lot of truth in it. If you spend time each day living in the moment, you’ll be healthier, happier and make better decisions.