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Mindfulness 101

I read a book a few months ago that has really changed my perspective on life, and so this seems like a good opportunity to share it with you today. The book is called “10% Happier,” written by Dan Harris, and talks about how he was able to get control over his mind and the constant voice in his head. There were a number of life lessons that I took away from the book, including:

1. The idea of creating distance between the input data and the response. This is a big one for me, but it is the idea that we have control over our ability to respond to stimuli, even when such stimuli are annoying or troubling. We can use that control to create distance between the annoying stimulus and the response that we choose, so that instead of simply reacting to the stimulus (“You @#$@ idiot driver! Why can’t you get out of the left lane or drive faster?”) we are able to thoughtfully respond. This takes a lot of practice to do well, but I have been working on counting to 10 in my head before responding to anything (positive or negative) with a reaction that I may regret later.

2. Mindfulness and meditation. Mindfulness is the idea of trying to be present in the moment, which I think is a great goal, and meditation is one way that can apparently help achieve such mindfulness. I say ‘apparently’ because even though I read this book a few months ago, I still have not tried meditating yet. I know there are a number of apps that can help with beginning meditators (Headspace, Calm), although I do not actually have any experience with using them.

3. Controlling worry to things where it is productive. This goes back to the first point, and the fact that we do have control over the things we think about and the things that we say and do in response. It is the idea that if I am worrying about something that I have no control over, then all the worrying in the world isn’t going to change the outcome and will result in simply wasted mental energy. Recognizing the things that I have no control over has enabled me to stop worrying about those things and instead save that energy for focusing on things that I can control and outcomes I can change.

Do I do all of this? No, not really, at least not every day. But keeping these three points in mind has been really good for getting a perspective on things and taking a little more control over my own voice in my head, which talks about as fast in my head as I do in real life.

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