We all want to live happier, healthier, and more productive lives. However, we all too often find excuses that prevent us from making a change. It’s easy to blame everyday issues like a lack of time and money as a permanent roadblock.
However, Patricia Karpas, the co-founder of the best-selling Meditation Studio app, host of the Untangle podcast on mindfulness, and former CNBC and Time Warner marketing executive, says it doesn’t have to be that way.
Patricia’s a spectacular teacher filled with deep knowledge about practical, mindful living. She believes that, at its core, significant personal change comes from understanding more about ourselves—as well as about others.
By becoming more curious and aware of what makes our minds tick, everything else often falls into place.
Practicing the Art of Presence
Before diving into the merits of mindfulness, what does being more mindful actually mean?
“Mindfulness is an awareness that emerges by focusing on purpose in the present moment,” says Patricia. “It’s being present at any moment.” However, learning the definition is just the beginning.
Patricia says that living more mindfully is about practicing the tools that allow us to become more present. “Integrating mindfulness is about taking a moment to pause, so you’re not always on autopilot,” she says.
Whether it’s through a regimented meditation practice or just closing your eyes for a few moments during a work break, a short time for reflection gives your brain the experience of letting a moment simply happen.
Research has shown that the practice has the power to transform some regions of the brain. A more active prefrontal cortex, for example, can help you you respond to situations more thoughtfully rather than reactively.
“These reactions are often based on something that happened years ago,” says Patricia. “The practice of being still and letting go can be so helpful. It helps our minds react and respond more productively.”
How to Be Less Judgmental
Mindful practices also help us master one of the most challenging aspects of humanness—judgment. This applies both to judging others and judging ourselves.
How often are we critiquing everything that happens around us? From actions to words to observations, we’re continually nitpicking whatever pops into our consciousness. Patricia believes it’s an incredibly destructive habit.
So, how can we not only quit judging ourselves and others—but also stop taking what others say to heart?
“It’s hard,” says Patricia. “It takes quite a bit of practice. The idea is to get curious versus being judgemental. Step back, be curious and wonder, ‘Why does this person have this opinion? Was it the last job that they had? Was it trauma as a child?’ It could be a range of different experiences that have brought them to this place.
“Thoughts aren’t always the truth. My thoughts are also conditioned from my life, and everything that’s come before.”
In short, the ability to observe judgment from a distance provides us an analytical edge. This edge keeps us from jumping straight into criticism, harsh reactions, or negative self-talk, which ultimately facilitates better decision-making.
It also allows space for kindness and compassion—primarily when that judgment is directed inwards. “Forgive whatever it is that you’re judging yourself.
“We’re all human.”
Get Some Sleep
The struggle for sleep is an issue Patricia and I personally relate with—and I know we’re far from alone.
Too often, we hear phrases like, “I’ll sleep when I’m dead,” or read quotes from entrepreneurs like Elon Musk bragging about how little shut-eye he gets. However, countless studies show that anything less than 7-8 hours of rest is detrimental to our health, and that gets passed off to others in our lives.
That being said, actually getting that sleep is much easier said than done. Even if your head hits the pillow at a reasonable hour, many of us are left tossing and turning as tomorrow’s schedule already floods our tired minds.
“The rates of insomnia and sleeplessness are crazy!” says Patricia. “It’s a lot harder for people then than you might imagine.”
That’s why Patricia has interviewed many sleep medicine professionals on the Untangle podcast, including neurologist and author of The Sleep Solution: Why Your Sleep is Broken and How You Can Fix It, W. Chris Winter, M.D.
More than anything, Patricia wanted a first-hand glimpse into the science of sleep. She knows we’ve all heard advice like avoiding big meals too close to bedtime, limiting caffeine, and turning off those screens. But what else can we do to get a better night’s sleep?
“Dr. Winter said the biggest problem is actually the anxiety we have around not sleeping. It’s those moments when you’re lying in bed at midnight and knowing you have a 7 am meeting while saying to yourself, ‘Oh my God! I’m not going to be able to do it! I’m going to be so tired!”
Rather than get increasingly frustrated, Patricia learned to take a deep breath instead and try to let go of that anxiety. “When I started letting go of that frustration around not sleeping,” she says, “I felt so much better.”
Though admittedly still theoretical, there’s a belief that much of the exhaustion felt after a sleep-deprived night stems from the aftermath of the anxiety itself. Even if you’re destined for a sleep-deprived night, you should at least try to relax and let your body rest.
Worst case scenario—your brain and body can avoid the lingering effects of increased stress on top of a sleepless night. But more often than not, by taking the anxiety and the pressure off your mind, you’ll likely discover that sleep quickly follows.
A Witness Mind
By prioritizing presence, compassion, and sleep, you’ll be well on your way to living a happier, more fulfilling life. However, Patricia believes the key to making these habits a reality occurs best with complete self-awareness—something many of us struggle with.
“It’s important to check ourselves,” says Patricia. “We need to cultivate a strong self-awareness about what our weaknesses and our strengths are.”
After all, if we can’t be honest about, say, our unhealthy sleep routines or our constant judgment of others, how can we motivate ourselves to improve?
Patricia admits that identifying these issues will be a lifelong challenge. “We all have our blind spots,” she says, and that’s ok. Again, we’re human.
So, to counter these natural tendencies, she suggests integrating mindfulness and meditation practices in your life—especially practices focused on increasing self-awareness and self-inquiry.
“There are a lot of different tools for that,” she says. “Can you be curious about yourself? Can you look at yourself with a fresh perspective? Can you observe yourself with what you know?”
In short, can you view yourself with authenticity and honesty, or as Patricia calls it, having a witness mind?
The task is far from easy. Even for the most ardent practitioners, it never will be. However, with a genuine willingness to discover more about yourself and your habits, you’ll be on the perfect path towards a brighter, more mindful future.
Want to hear my entire conversation with Patricia Karpas? You’ll learn how to calm your mind with the RAIN Method, more about the fascinating science of sleep, why self-care is integral to great leadership, and so much more. Listen to the entire conversation on my donothing podcast.
Connect with me on Twitter and LinkedIn and keep up with my company imageOne here. Learn about my mission to show business leaders how mindfulness can transform you and your business in my book donothing. Visit www.donothingbook.com for more information.