Five Ways to Practice Mindful Pausing

by Diane Berenbaum

Many of us think we’re great at multi-tasking. Give us more to do, and we jump at the chance to demonstrate our energy, commitment and ability to get a plethora of things done…fast. Typically, we have good intentions; perhaps we want to be perceived as helpful, resourceful, or someone who consistently exceeds expectations. But, sometimes it can come back to haunt us, because of over-promising, quick decisions or impulsive actions.

According to the organization, meaning to pause®, we all move too fast today. We’re busy trying to “get it all done,” instead of getting things done in a thorough and thoughtful way…every time. Our minds are filled with goals and objectives, to-do lists, deadlines as well as a multitude of work and family responsibilities. We may not even realize what’s going on in our heads, and what it is doing to our brains.  

Research has confirmed that pausing several times during the day to reframe our thoughts will help each one of us live our best life. The challenge is—how do we do it and how can we make sure we remember to practice it on a regular basis?

Mindful Pausing Techniques

There are a multitude of mindful pausing techniques to reduce stress and cultivate well-being. Below are five exercises recommended by the Mayo Clinic: 

1.  The Five-in-Three Technique

Beth Kurland, Ph.D. clinical psychologist and author, recommends this technique, which focuses on three senses:  vision, hearing and touch. Here is the process:

  • Find five different things around you. They can be something grand, like a mountain, or something small like a pen, book or cup.

  • Listen to your surroundings. Close your eyes, so your vision doesn’t take over. Aim to hear five distinct sounds.

  • Feel five sensations in your body. Examples could include warmth from a summer breeze or the softness of a puppy’s fur.

2.  Pay Attention

As Rick Hanson noted in his book Buddha's Brain: The Practical Neuroscience of Happiness, Love and Wisdom, attention shapes the brain.” What we pay attention to is literally what we will build in our brain tissue. Our neurons wire in response to what we focus upon.

So, pay attention to how much you pay attention. When you meet someone, listen closely to his/her words. Think about the meaning of those words, as well as their intention and uniqueness. Resist the temptation to interrupt or state your point of view before letting the other person finish his/her thought. Aim to develop a habit of understanding others first, and deferring your own judgments and criticisms.

3.  Focus on your Breathing

According to Dr. Alison McConnell, taking six to 10 deep, slow breaths per minute for 10 minutes a day will improve your heart rate and blood pressure. And, if you do it for six to eight weeks, those benefits may last even longer.  

Here’s another way to focus on your breathing:

  • Sit in a quiet place. Relax and feel your breath move in and out of your body. Notice the feeling when breathing from your diaphragm. 

  • Put one hand on your chest and the other on your stomach. Then, take a deep breath…in through the nose and out through your mouth. Be sure your diaphragm (not your chest) inflates with air to create a stretch in the lungs. 

There’s also an app for that! It’s called the McConnell’s Breathe Strong app and it can help you remember to breathe slowly and deeply every day.

4.    Awaken Your Senses

Find a small, familiar object. Any object will work. As an example, use a raisin. Look at it, smell it and feel it. Anticipate eating it. Then, taste the raisin, and slowly and deliberately chew it. Notice how the taste changes, and your impulses to swallow or savor the raisin. Pay close attention to all five senses (sight, smell, taste, hearing and touch), how you experience them in a deeper way as well as your body’s reaction. 
And lastly…

5.    STOP!

What I mean by that is the S.T.O.P. Method for Mindfulness, developed by Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D. Here’s how you do it:
  • S – Stop what you are doing. Put everything down for a minute.
  • T – Take a breath. Breathe normally and naturally. Follow your breath coming in and going out of your nose. You can even say to yourself “in” as you’re breathing in and “out” as you’re breathing out, as that can help with your concentration.
  • O – Observe your thoughts, feelings, and emotions. Reflect about what’s on your mind.  Notice that thoughts are not facts, and they are not permanent. If the thought arises that you are inadequate, just notice the thought, let it be, and continue on. Notice any emotions and just name them. Recent research out of UCLA says that just naming your emotions can have a calming effect. 
  • Then notice your body. Are you standing or sitting? How is your posture? Any aches and pains?
  • P – Proceed with something that will support you in the moment, such as talking with a friend, confiding in your favorite relative, or just rubbing your shoulders.

The Mayo Clinic recommends practicing mindfulness every day for about six months. After that time you may find it effortless and enlightening. 

Why Practice Proactive Pausing and Mindfulness?

Here are just a few of the reasons and benefits for doing so:

  1. Gives you psychological distance from the topic or the issue 

  2. It’s restorative

  3. Helps you demonstrate confidence

  4. Helps ensure you’ve thought through your response 

  5. It will stop you from judging too quickly 

  6. Provides time to reflect on your motives and assumptions

So remember to stop and pause for a moment. What do you have to gain?

“Whatever phase of life you’re in, make time to pause and reflect where you are heading. It’s a good time to insert a comma now and realign yourself to your inner self before your life ends up in a full stop.” - Dr. Roopleen, Author of “Principles of Success Made Easy” and “Words to Inspire the Winner in You.”

And as Calvin (from the Calvin and Hobbes comic strip) once said, “We’re so busy watching out for what’s just ahead of us that we don’t take time to enjoy where we are.”

Diane Berenbaum is a long-time contributor and former editor of the MAGIC Service Newsletter. She has more than twenty-five years of experience as a consultant, coach, and facilitator. Diane is the co-author of How to Talk to Customers: Create a Great Impression Every Time with MAGIC® .
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