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How to Thrive During Uncertainty: Mindfulness and Focus

This lesson is a part of an audio course How to Thrive During Uncertainty by Julia Barbosa

In this lesson, you will learn how mindfulness can help with dealing with uncertainty.

Focusing on one task at a time is very helpful at any time, and it's an ideal practice for when things are uncertain.

Moving from one task to the next can create the impression that we can be more productive by being busy when in truth we are more productive by being focused. After all, it's what we do every day that shapes our lives.

In the 1960s, John Kabat-Zinn and others popularised mindfulness in the West. Bringing knowledge of centuries and removing the focus of meditation as a religious practice, mindfulness became part of the toolkit for busy people and high performers.

It is now a cliche to say that mindfulness can help people be present, but in truth, there is ample scientific proof on the benefits of meditation.

The practice of mindfulness can be hugely helpful in uncertain times. A regular mindfulness practice over time leads to people being comfortable with both good and bad thoughts. Consider how powerful this can be.

Once you learn to simply observe a challenging situation, dealing with difficult situations in the outside world becomes much easier. The situation itself, of course, remains unchanged. It's our perception of it, as well as how we react, which are different. And that is a big shift in mindset.

Mindfulness is a powerful tool in a world where we're constantly bombarded by notifications and the non-stop buzz of our screens. We sometimes forget that the information that comes through our devices is a choice too: we don't need to get all of the noise all of the time.

Lack of control of the world around you is not, as we like to think, a personal inability to deal with things properly. It is part of being human.

The liberation that comes with a mindful approach is not endless happiness, but the recognition that change and uncertainty are part of life.

In his book "10% Happier", Dan Harris, a high-achieving TV presenter, wrestles with his perception that meditating would make him ‘lose his edge'. In his journey with meditation, he realized that this doesn't need to be the case.

Being comfortable with uncertainty doesn't mean being complacent. It means understanding that we don't have as much control as we may want or expect. But we can still make the decision to improve a situation that we don't agree with.

In dealing with uncertainty, mindfulness can help us understand our reactions and feelings, noticing thoughts and feelings without reacting or judging them.

To develop a mindfulness practice, there are many different options.

At the most basic level, sitting in silence and noticing your breath for a few minutes is enough. Every time to notice your mind wandering, bring your focus back to the breath, again and again.

It is this habit of bringing the mind back from thoughts repeatedly which defines the practice of mindfulness. You don't learn to stop thinking, but you learn to observe your thoughts to focus on the present moment, using the breath as the anchor.

It may seem simple, but over time it is a practice that can change many aspects of your life. And of course, it can be very difficult, particularly to those of us who are forever distracted, to sit still and focus on the breath for a few minutes. But it's a good exercise for the brain.

There are plenty of videos online and apps that provide different resources for those new to mindfulness, many of them free. Start with something which appeals to you. And with most habits, the key is to always start small and then build on from that. A few minutes every day, over a few weeks, is enough to see some change. Over the course of a lifetime, it's transformative.

You can start a mindfulness practice with just a few minutes today. Doing this regularly will over time change how you perceive and react to things when they are uncertain. Try it out and see how it goes.

In the next lesson, we will discuss how routines can help us deal with uncertainty.

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Written by

Julia Barbosa

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