The concept of "mindfulness" has been buzzing around lately. What does it really mean and what does it have to do with communication?
Let's tackle some FAQ's.
What is mindfulness?
Mindfulness means being present. That can be, present to your thoughts, present to physical sensations, taste, touch, sight, sound, smell, or present to your feelings. What you can notice in a single moment is boundless, but often our minds draw us in to a limited portion of the experience.
Once we start noticing where our mind is, how our mind tends to revolve around the same old thoughts day after day, we grow frustrated, and think we’re failing. Once you start to notice your mind heading back into the same repetitive thoughts, you can acknowledge those thoughts without judgement, curiously explore where they came from, and then flexibly shift your attention to a different aspect of the moment.
What is the difference between mindfulness and meditation?
Meditation is a form of mindfulness, a place where we can be present, tune out other sensations, and simply notice the breath, the body, or the mind. Luckily, it is not the only time and space in which to be mindful! We can also be mindful in walking down the street, in taking a shower, in eating a chocolate. My personal favorite space in which to be mindful is in enjoying a cup of coffee. I bring all my awareness into the aroma before I take my first sip, the feeling of the cool cup on my lips, the warmth on the tip of my tongue and then gliding down my throat, the intense, familiar flavor that lingers- these sensations are all occurring in the present moment. Sometimes as I drink my coffee my mind shifts to memories of drinking coffee with friends, or drinking coffee in France when I was a teenager. Although these are not in the present moment, noticing where my thoughts are brings me to the present, and then I can curiously and openly explore how my mind jumped to each thought, and flexibly choose to either stay in that memory, or choose to shift my attention to another aspect of the experience.
What does mindfulness have to do with speech therapy?
When we learn to observe our mind, we begin to recognize how our thought patterns affect our behaviors. By monitoring these thoughts and behaviors, we can become more conscious of what specific communication behaviors we tend to use, which we are avoiding, and what is most productive in a single moment.
What clients benefit from this approach?
Any client can benefit from using mindfulness in their journey towards better communication. Mindfulness can especially help when working with unproductive thoughts and feelings regarding communication- “I’m going to fumble over my words.” “They’re going to think I’m an idiot.” “I’m going to say the wrong thing.” “They’re not going to like me.” I’ve worked on mindfulness with people who initially came in for concerns regarding a lisp, language disorder, stuttering, social communication issues, and business level communication anxiety.
Does it really work?
We are not in the business of controlling thoughts and feelings. If the goal of learning mindfulness is to get rid of speaking anxiety, you may be disappointed. However, what mindfulness can do is help you change your relationship with these thoughts and feelings. Once you are holding those thoughts and feelings a little lighter, you can redirect your energy to productive communication, you can choose which behaviors to act on, and resist the urge to fall back into the same old communication patterns.
Sit down with a friend and stare into their eyes for 2 minutes. You cannot talk and cannot look away.
What did you notice?
Check out our Mindful Communication course.