Practical Mindfulness and the Wellness Coach

practical mindfulness

How a regular practice of mindfulness can make you a better coach

Even we wellness coaches can get caught up in the stress and anxiety of daily life, just like our
clients. We are human after all, and it’s important for us to keep ourselves in healthy balance so
that we can be more intuitive to our clients, and thus, better wellness coaches. This is where a
practice of mindfulness can help us pause, refocus and better connect.

What is mindfulness?

In a broad sense, mindfulness is simply slowing down, letting go and truly being in the
moment–which isn’t always easy in the fast-paced world that surrounds us. We have to work at
it.

Mindfulness can be broken down into three basic parameters:
1. Observation of thoughts, feelings and body sensation in the moment, but without
judgement or expectation.
2. Making no attempt to quiet or empty the mind.
3. Letting go of any effort to change, push away or distract from the present moment’s
experience.

It’s important to recognize that this is a lifetime engagement and practice. We never
“accomplish” mindfulness with any finality. Think of it more like a meditation, or a relaxation
practice.

Practical mindfulness can make you a better coach.

For starters, practicing mindfulness on a regular basis has been shown to decrease anxiety,
stress, depression and physical pain. It has been associated with improved immunity, self-
esteem and empathy as well as increased optimism and overall life satisfaction. All of these
make you a better you, which makes you a better coach.

Practicing mindfulness slows down our own minds so we are better able to give our full
attention to the client and really focus on what they’re saying. We can listen more deeply, so
we’re better at sensing those subtle shifts in tone of voice that cue us into change. Your clients
can sense when you’re distracted and not giving them your full attention, even over the phone.
A regular practice of mindfulness keeps us more responsive to our clients in more thoughtful
and meaningful ways. Thus, our sessions become much more personalized and individualized,
and our clients feel connected.

How does mindfulness actually work?

About 99.9 percent of the time, most of us exist in a completely safe environment and are not
in any true physical danger. There is no saber-toothed tiger or angry bear chasing after us.
However, the amygdala, the primitive part of our brain that controls the fight or flight response
to threats and danger, has the mentality of a three-year-old. It can’t discriminate between real
and imagined danger. When we’re worrying about something we shouldn’t have said, or
fretting about an upcoming presentation, the amygdala is fooled into thinking we are under
threat and the body’s stress mechanisms react. Alternatively, if we could spend more time
training our minds to be in the present moment, where we are safe and okay, we would
experience fewer stress responses.

Mindfulness practice is also a way to boost your own neuroplasticity, which is the ability for our
brains to grow. On average, most people have about 90,000 thoughts per day, and about 95
percent of those are the same ones we had yesterday and the day before. However, if we can
work on slowing down and thinking about new things, really focusing on what’s happening in
the moment, we’re not replaying those same old messages. (For more on neuroplasticity, Dr.
Norman Doidge has a series of books on the subject.)

Though researchers are still trying to document the evidence behind mindfulness, using MRIs to
show how the brain is working and improving, what we’re seeing in practice is that it’s a
powerful tool for managing stress at the nervous system level.

Starting a mindfulness practice.

Mindfulness is all about managing and directing our attention. Begin by spending a few minutes
each day purposefully focusing your attention on the present moment. An easy one is to simply
pay attention to your breath for about 10 minutes. From there, you can progress to short
mindfulness walks, purposefully noticing the details of the environment–flowers, leaves,
buildings, etc. Find an outdoor spot at lunch to sit and close your eyes, then tap into a sound
and really focus on what you hear. Pick the most pleasing sound and direct your attention to it.
Find opportunities for sensory experiences like these throughout the day, while performing
mundane tasks like showering, washing dishes or getting the mail. Focus only on the sensory
information coming in, and don’t let your mind wander off into the past or future.

If you can personally cultivate a mindfulness meditation habit, even just 10 minutes a day,
you’ll see a huge impact. Don’t underestimate the power of a small commitment of time. Then,
integrate that practice and calm into your coaching practice.

For more on practical mindfulness and coaching, see our webinar with Laura Henelund.

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