Richard Davidson, a professor of psychology and psychiatry, was recognized by Times magazine as one of the 100 most influential people on the planet in 2006, thanks to the research on our brain. His numerous studies have proven the plasticity of our brain. And his conclusion is very valuable: well-being is a skill. Just as much as a skill to play a musical instrument or driving a car. Or rather a set of skills.
Davidson believes that mindfulness is one of the most important in this set. This skill implies a conscious and non-judgmental observation of events here and now. It might seem to be easily formed. Just like any skill or habit can be formed through repetition, with time becoming an automatized habit. But as a rule, we already have an established habit of perceiving events. And this perception includes an evaluation of this event and an emotional reaction to it. For example, your colleague and you agreed how you divide the work to get a certain task done, set deadlines and … he did not do his part of the work on time. What will be your reaction to this news? It depends on the mental habit of reacting to a similar situation that you have developed by this moment. Perhaps your parents taught you to do everything on time from childhood, and you live under the motto “business before pleasure!”. Or maybe you grew up in a family of creative artists, where it was not accepted to be pedantic… So you will react most probably according to the values of your family that had unconsciously formed a certain already habitual reaction in such situations.
Unlike habitual reaction, the skill of mindfulness assumes that you will perceive this situation, rather, as unique. When we encounter something for the first time, and we have no experience with such situations, our brain reacts to it in a completely different way than to a recurring, familiar situation. We pay attention to the situation. And to ourselves in this situation. Mindfulness excludes judgment of the situation according to our personal value scale “good – bad”, allowing to simply observe it and ourselves in this situation. Does awareness mean inaction, passiveness? Not at all. The quality of our action changes because we perceive the situation and decide how to proceed no longer under the influence of our automatic emotional reaction formed by previous experience (“He let me down again! Why all people are so unreliable?” and so on, and so forth). Returning to the example of not fulfilling work by the colleague on time, our usual reaction could be anger and, as a result, a fight with the colleague. If we look at the situation and our reaction to it consciously, we can at the initial stage observe the growing anger in us. Realizing that anger does not help to find the right way out of this situation, we can turn our attention to a constructive search for an alternative. Thus, awareness allows us to be attentive to what is happening around us, and most importantly, to our reactions to what is happening. This gives us a certain freedom of choice. Mindfulness allows us to choose the behavior that we want. Every time we decide in favor of joy, pleasure, sympathy, peace, etc., we make another brushstroke creating a happy picture of our life. Thus, we become authors of our own life, free, inventive and satisfied with our creation.