Get off the autopilot – Mindfulness means listening to your body & mind

At times, the mind is like a waterfall that cannot be stopped. Mindfulness helps us get to the shore of this waterfall and observe it, instead of feeling like we’re drowning.

Trainee: Maarit Takala, Trainer: Eeva Jaakonsalo, Finnish text: Helmi Hämäläinen

Our lifestyles and fragmented working lives promote speed and efficiency. Actually, you are an exceptional case if you can even focus on something for a quarter of an hour at a time. Research shows that in recent times our ability to focus has shortened from 12 seconds to eight.

Maarit Takala is a production assistant at Valio. Her work requires speed and efficiency. At the beginning of the year, additional work is piled on by annual reports, financial statements, and tax returns. This is where mindfulness is important.

‘During hectic periods I need easy tricks to improve my endurance and calm down to avoid panic,’ says Takala.

Takala’s job is a typical modern job where you need to push full steam ahead. For most of the day, our mind runs on autopilot, and many of us long for more awareness. Mindfulness is slowly drifting into our working lives. According to a thesis from the Finnish Hanken University, mindfulness can reduce stress and mental pressure and increase commitment at work. In addition, mindfulness improves our ability to focus, reduces stress and increases restorative sleep.

Mindfulness can be practiced

Maarit Takala cannot change her work conditions but she can use mindfulness to reduce the stress she experiences. Mindfulness helps her mind calm down even in challenging conditions.

Interested in her mental well-being, Takala attended the Academy of Brain mindfulness online training by trainer Eeva Jaakonsalo. Eeva is a mindfulness coach specialized in leadership development.

‘Up until the 1980s mindfulness was not needed at work. Since then, our methods of working have changed and many of us spend the whole day with various electronic devices,’ explains Jaakonsalo.

Many of us continue staring at the blue light even after work, as the screen-time of adults has increased up to ten hours per day.

Why does our brain need mindfulness?

Our brain is neuroplastic, meaning that it adapts to the environment. When our mind gets used to lots of stimuli, it becomes restless and loses the ability to focus. According to Eeva Jaakonsalo, the greatest challenge for people today is the inability to stop.

Mindfulness exercises help us stop and become more conscious. The exercises focus on breathing or bodily sensations and acknowledge the moments when our senses start to wonder. The objective is not to change or eliminate thoughts but to observe these consciously.

‘I do the exercises for example at the end of the day. When work is busy and I need to take care of animals at home, it’s important for me to relax properly,’ says Maarit Takala.

According to Takala, mindfulness has become easier with regular practice but often she still finds her mind wondering during the exercises.

‘The development has happened with small steps. Nowadays we are in such a rush, that living in the moment is worth a try,’ thinks Takala.

Mindfulness is self-leadership

Self leadership is a lifesaver for busy people. Mindfulness means self-leadership even if it’s not often spotted in headlines dealing with the subject. According to Eeva Jaakonsalo, academic research has shown, that managerial mindfulness skills reduce stress in the whole work community.

Just a few years ago, the corporate world was prejudiced against mindfulness.

‘People may have considered it telepathy or something mystical,’ Jaakonsalo laughs.

This understanding has changed and based on research, mindfulness is considered part of brain development. For Maarit Takala, mindfulness also means listening to your body. By developing her mind, she can influence her bodily sensations and increase overall well-being.