Lately, mindfulness has been a popular topic in the news and on social media. Psychologists and mental health therapists like mindfulness because research shows it can reduce anxiety and depression; it aids in reducing addictive behaviors, and can also help with eating disorders, chronic pain and stress reduction. I encourage clients in my Annapolis therapy practice to work towards becoming more mindful in their daily lives.
One way mindfulness can help in daily life is by allowing people to remain in the present moment during daily activities with thoughtful, non-judgmental attention. It also helps reduce stress by rewiring our neural pathways. These brain circuits can get stuck in the “always-on” position, so we are always in a reaction mode.
Appreciate What’s Here
Being in the moment can help you catch yourself when your thoughts stray to the "what-ifs" and "if-onlys"— the thoughts that make you anxious, by causing you to wonder how you might have done things better, or what you should do in the future. When we constantly worry about the past or future, we miss what’s happening in the present.
Staying present helps you to appreciate what's happening in your life each day, each moment. Maybe your child or partner is talking to you, maybe the birds are chirping, or the sun shining on your face, and a warm breeze is blowing your hair. When we are present, we can mindfully attend to what is happening in our lives right now.
Being More Mindful In Daily Life
I've been practicing mindfulness and meditation for over a year, and there are times when it’s really hard to be mindful. Because we’re human, our minds are always thinking about the next thing. On the days when I'm extremely busy, I'm overwhelmed, or have a lot on my mind, it takes a little more effort, but I find it’s on those days that I get the most out of my mindful practice. It gets me to slow down. Using mindfulness, I can get out of my head, and I find I react less to stress.
The goal with a mindfulness meditation practice isn't to stop your thoughts or get rid of them. It’s to let your thoughts come and go while being present and paying attention to your breath. When you recognize that you’re lost in thought, then you gently, without judgment, bring your attention back to the present moment.
Mindfulness In 10 Minutes Or Less
Here are three ways you can become more mindful in 10 minutes or less. As you become accustomed to the practice, I encourage you to increase the time you spend being mindful.
- Practice mindful breathing. Set aside five minutes per day. That’s a great starting point. As you focus on your breath, let your thoughts come and go like waves in the ocean. Each time that you notice your mind wandering, you bring it back to your breath. Try not to be hard on yourself if this isn’t easy. As I mentioned above, it’s a practice. You will begin to become aware of how your thoughts can take you away from what’s happening right now. You can use my guided meditations or there are apps for your phone that can guide you if needed.
- Pay mindful attention to your surroundings for one to two minutes each day. Pay attention to the sights, sounds and smells in your environment and the feel of things that touch your body. Your senses are always in the present moment, so mindful awareness of things they are already noticing can help keep you grounded right here, right now.
- Be kind to yourself. When you find you’re being hard on yourself, passing judgment, or putting yourself down, take a minute or two to offer yourself a kind word. Think of the things you might say to a good friend and offer yourself those same compassionate phrases.
Let me know in the comments below how you do, or how you create mindful times throughout your day.
If you would are interested in living a more mindful life, Mindfulness Groups will be starting this Fall, 2017. Of you'd like more information on group or individual counseling call or email me for a free 15-minute phone consultation today- 410-340-8469.