a mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations, used as a therapeutic technique.
Do you ever feel yourself reacting overly strongly to something that is happening and you aren’t sure why? Do you wish you could take a step back and see a situation from another perspective? Do you ever lose yourself in worry or anxiety about the past or future and miss out on what’s happening in the moment? You would probably benefit from mindfulness practice.
Mindfulness is a practice of being fully aware of your present moment, body sensations, and emotions. It is a quality everyone possesses already, we just need to access it and practice bringing it into our everyday experience. There are many different ways to practice mindfulness, but the goal is always to bring your mind into the current moment.
Mindfulness is a practice that many of our therapists teach to their clients to help promote mental wellness. Mindfulness can benefit people who are experiencing a wide range of issues including depression, substance abuse, eating disorders, couples’ conflicts, anxiety disorders, and obsessive-compulsive disorder. Mindfulness has also been known to improve physical health in ways like lowering blood pressure and improving sleep.
Practicing mindfulness is not just a mental game. It is an integration of the mind and body. In the process of drawing awareness to the present moment, we begin by paying attention to different parts of our body and how we experience the world through their connection to the Earth and the things and people around us. From mindful breathing to mindful eating, almost all mindfulness practices are rooted in paying attention to the body’s physical experience of the world.
This primarily has to do with making it a priority to do one thing at a time. Many people are tempted to multitask while eating. Whether you work through lunch while munching on a granola bar or watch TV during dinner, these bad habits take us out of the moment, distract us from our experience of the sensations of our food. When you take the time to pay attention to the color, flavor, scent, and texture of the food you are eating, you can truly appreciate it more.
When you are out and about, spend some moments paying attention to the feeling of your feet on the ground. Notice your muscles supporting and moving you. Which muscles are working? This mindful practice leads to gratitude for your body’s capabilities.
“One conscious breath in and out is a meditation.” – Echkart Tolle
Paying attention to the rhythm of your breathing can take you out of a moment of stress and anxiety and remind you of your inner spirit.
Use your 5 senses to intentionally pay attention to how you are experiencing the world around you. Pay attention to how the fabric of your shirt feels against your skin, listen to the sounds around you that make up the white noise of life. Sometimes it can be helpful to give yourself something to react to, like popping in a mint or lighting a candle to increase your sensations.
Put a miniature pause before you follow through on an action throughout your day. For example, pause to feel your hand on the door handle before you open it or let your phone ring for an extra 3 seconds before you answer. These pauses give you a moment in time to prepare for the next moment by experiencing your present one.
In conversations, most of us get lost in our thoughts of what to say next, making judgments about what is being said, or even being reminded of something else entirely. Make your best effort to listen with your whole consciousness when you’re in conversation. Internalize what is being said, and then take a pause to gather your thoughts before responding.
Think of those activities you can do without thinking. Then you can get in the “flow” and let your body take over. During flow activities, we return to a pure inner self, letting go of worries or anxious thoughts and allowing ourselves to live in and enjoy the moment we are in. Whether it’s painting, baking, or building IKEA furniture, intentionally incorporate more flow activities into your week and notice your mindfulness increase.
Even 10 minutes of calming meditation has a huge impact on your physical and mental health, and increases your capacity to practice mindfulness. The ability to sit quietly and listen only to the sound of your breathing takes practice. Start with one or two minutes or a guided meditation video or podcast and work from there.
When you surround yourself with new sights, sounds, and other stimuli, your mind and body are automatically more present. This is most obvious when we go on a vacation and are out of our regular routine, but simply changing up your route to work, making a new type of coffee, or even something as simple as wearing your jewelry differently can bring you into a state of mindfulness.
The ability to be aware of your thoughts and emotions and observe them without judgment shows that your thoughts do not define you. They are something separate. They flow through you, and you get to choose whether or not to engage with them.
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