Make Better Decisions by Practicing Mindfulness - dummies

Make Better Decisions by Practicing Mindfulness

By Shamash Alidina, Joelle Jane Marshall

Mindfulness takes a radical stand against habitual decisions and is all about making your decisions more conscious and considered — especially the important ones. You make decisions all day long: whether to have toast or cereal, to exercise or watch TV, to check your e-mails or make a phone call. And yet the majority of these decisions are probably unconscious, habitual and automatic.

Become mindful in your choices

Good quality decisions require your brain to be in the right state. If you’re stressed, anxious or experiencing a strong emotion, you’re thinking is heavily influenced by this fact. This fact is particularly worrying when you’re making tremendously tricky decisions with lots of factors to consider, such as deciding whether to change your job, get married, have children or move to a new country.

Consider this example of a small decision and how easily you’re affected. You just won a holiday, and your son asks if he can have that new computer game; you’re likely to agree. But if you had a tough day at work and your boss gave you a hard time, you feel irritated. Your son asks the same question and you say no.

Emotions affect your decisions, and if you’re not aware of this process happening, your decisions are likely to be compromised and perhaps irrational.

Here’s the way mindfulness helps you to make decisions more consciously. Imagine going into a coffee shop and choosing what to buy:

You look at the wide range of foods on offer: chocolates, biscuits, salads, sandwiches and more.

The waitress asks, ‘What would you like today?’

If you’re operating automatically, you may go for the big coffee and chocolate cake without even thinking. But today, you’re mindful, so you don’t rush into a decision.

You decide to just order the coffee, and if, after 15 minutes, you’re still hungry, you’ll order some food.

Finishing your coffee you feel quite full up already, and go on your way.

Mindfulness doesn’t mean that you have to make sensible decisions all the time and can’t be a bit naughty in your dessert choices! Mindfulness is about making conscious decisions — and sometimes those decisions include treating yourself to some guilt-free pleasures. In fact, mindfulness can help to heighten the pleasure if you’re able to focus fully on your chosen treat!

Tune in to your intuition

Mindfulness helps you tune in to your intuition and so helps you make choices; instinct or gut feelings can be a powerful way of making decisions. Intuition isn’t a spooky force: decisions based on what you feel access a powerful part of your unconscious brain, although scientists haven’t yet come to any definite conclusions about this process.

Sometimes your intuitive side is worth listening to, at other times it may be inaccurate. Mindfulness can help you decide when to follow your intuition.

Often you feel intuition in your body, perhaps a gut feeling to follow your heart or the sensation of shivers at the thought of a particular choice. These bodily signals probably come from neurons connected to your brain that are located all over your body.

In fact, your gut contains 100 million neurons! Even your heart is linked to the brain by many thousands of neurons. These brain connections through your body can be signaling subtle clues about what’s the best step for you to take next.

Mindfulness helps to deepen your intuition through its focus on your physical experiences from moment to moment. Through mindfulness, you become more sensitive to and in touch with the sensations that your body is sending you. This practice can result in a greater ability to be intuitive — you notice your intuitive feelings earlier and can therefore decide whether to base your decisions on them.

Write about a time where you had an intuition about something: perhaps about a relationship with someone, a business partnership or just being wary of danger. Note down whether you feel you made a wise decision or not — not an easy thing to do, but have a go if you feel like the challenge!

Record Your Past Experiences of Intuition and Decision-Making
Situation and Your Intuitive Feeling Did You Follow Your Intuition? Did the Decision Turn Out to be Helpful?
Example: Had a chat with a stranger in a bookshop and felt I
should keep in touch. The feeling was of warmth in my chest.
Yes, I kept in touch. Yes it was; we got on really well!