How many women do you know who proudly claim to be better at multitasking that men?Research has yet to answer the question of whether women are better at carrying out multiple tasks than men. However, we do know that women multitask more often.
Research shows that multitasking negatively affects performance. We are less efficient, less effective, and more likely to make mistakes when we multitask. When we multitask, our mind switches back and forth between different tasks, which hurts our productivity, creativity, and accuracy by increasing cognitive load and impairing memory.
The good news is that by being more mindful — by intentionally paying attention to the present moment — women can perform better and stress less. To me mindful is being in the present moment, being aware of what is happening around you, and appreciating the little things in life that are happening in those moments.
Fortunately, mindfulness is a skill that can be learned and practiced. And running lends itself to this practice. Running is breath by breath, footfall by footfall, and moment by moment. It has its own calming and clarifying meditative elements built right into it. The practice of focusing your attention on something like your breath, refocusing each time your mind wanders, is an excellent way to strengthen your attention muscle.
The ability to clear our heads and be at one place at one time is an elusive concept. We may think we do it on a run, but often we’re mentally everywhere–solving problems at home and at work–but on that run. Studies have shown that mindfulness counteracts the effects of stress, lowers blood pressure, and provides an overall sense of well-being.
Because a mindful state of mind diminishes stress levels and increases feelings of relaxation, it can also enhance your enjoyment of running.
#1: Focus on Your Breathing
This is the simplest way to quiet the mind and give it some much-needed rest.
Breathing deeply and slowly through the nose triggers the parasympathetic nervous system, known as the “rest and relax” response. This keeps stress hormones at bay, reduces inflammation, relaxes muscles, increase available oxygen and gives you greater endurance. It can also help lower your heart rate and blood pressure, both during and after workouts.
#2: Work to Bring Your Breath and Movement Into Sync
This dramatically calms the body and is a great way to get you in the zone.
When you’re focused on these two things in tandem, there’s little room left for extraneous thoughts. Start by counting your footsteps, then timing them with your breath. Extending the breath makes you more efficient at using air. This lowers your heart rate and helps quiet your mind.
#3: Focus on Dropping Your Thoughts
This gives us many of the great benefits of meditation, particularly for the mind.
In general, it’s only brief snippets in life where our minds aren’t racing and we’re truly present in the moment. But by dropping our thoughts as we run, we gain access to many of meditation’s great benefits. Imagine greater patience, compassion, creativity, focus, and clearer thinking, all coming from your runs! You’ll begin to experience this, plus more relaxed running, reduced tension, and a better ability to see obstacles on your path before you step on them. And ironically, after dropping your thoughts, often your most earth-shattering, million-dollar making, dramatically-improve-your-life ideas come to you just after you’ve finished your run — so keep a notebook handy!
To practice to be mindful relaxes mind, body and soul, giving you more patience, calmness and clarity of mind for everything in your day.