mindful walking

What Is A Mindfulness Practice? Part Two: Mindful Awareness

In my last post, What Is A Mindfulness Practice, I shared that meditation and mindful awareness are two parts of a mindfulness practice. And I shared some tips to help you get started with daily meditations.

In today’s post we’ll explore mindful awareness. Like meditation, mindful awareness takes practice — but instead of picking one time during the day, as you would to meditate, you can be more mindfully aware of the present moment throughout the many moments of your day. So how do we go about being more mindful in our daily lives and why would we want to do that?

Mindfulness can deepen your focus

Mindfulness can deepen your focus

Practicing daily meditation and mindful awareness will help you focus your attention with greater ease and it will deepen your connection with yourself and others.

When you’re more present in your daily life, you get out of your head and away from all the stories, worries, planning and judging that happen mindlessly. You intentionally place your focus on the sensory stimuli in the moment. Here are some examples:

  • Listening with your full attention when someone speaks to you.
  • Tuning into the feel of the water and soap on your hands as you wash them.
  • Looking intentionally at the leaves, or flowers or cars as you take a walk or drive.

Here are a few ways to get you started with your own mindful awareness practice:

Pay mindful attention to one activity a day.  

You can choose to focus on any one activity, but I’ll use washing your hands as an example. As the water runs from the faucet into the sink, listen to the sound it makes and watch how it flows. As you slowly put your hand under the water, notice how the patterns change and feel the warmth on your skin. Curiously move your hand in and out of the water, noticing the temperature change and the feel of the water. As you add soap, notice the feeling as you lather it; breathe deeply, pulling the scent of the soap into your nose. Feel the lather between your fingers and watch it flow down the drain as your rinse your hands. Feel the coldness of the taps as you turn off the water.  Pay attention to the roughness of the towel and the sound it makes as you dry your hands.

You can do this with any activity you choose and, although it took me a paragraph to write it out, the exercise will take you only a few minutes to complete.

Walk mindfully.

Below, I've included a mindful awareness walk in the recording below. It's downloadable so you can listen while you walk!

 

When conversing, listen with your full attention to whomever you’re talking with.

Be present with whomever you're talking to

Be present with whomever you're talking to

Put down your phone or iPad. Mute the TV or computer. Put work aside and give your full attention to the person who is talking to you. If your mind begins to drift, bring it back to the conversation. Notice your reaction in the moment. Are you anxious that you’ll miss something on your phone? Do your eyes wander back to the TV or computer? Or do you feel more connected to the person who’s talking to you? If you’re face-to-face, notice the person’s expression or movements while he or she is talking. If you’re on the phone, pay attention to the rise and fall of her voice and his speech patterns.

These are just a few example of mindful awareness. You can bring your attention to any activity that you do automatically each day. As you continue to practice, you might notice that you automatically take moments to be fully aware in your day.

Do you bring mindful awareness to activities during your day? I’d love to know your practices. Please leave your comments below on how you’re bringing more mindfulness into your life.


Elizabeth Cush, LCPC is a therapist and the owner of Progression Counseling in Annapolis, Md. She helps busy, overwhelmed men and women manage their anxiety and stress so they can live their lives with more ease, contentment and purpose. If you'd like to know more about how individual and group therapy can help ease anxiety and stress call me 410-340-8469. 

Photos by Khosit Sakul-Kaew and by Bryan Apen on Unsplash

 

 

 

 

 

 

How To Put Mindfulness Into Practice

woman on the beach.jpg

I am fortunate to live near the water. When I take a walk, I try to pause for a few moments to take in the sights and sounds. I find that I feel calmer and at peace with myself even if I stop for just a few minutes. It’s not surprising. Studies have shown that just being in nature, especially near water, can have positive mental health benefits, such as reduced feelings of anxiety and depression.

I took a walk the other day. It was such a lovely day, so peaceful, warm and calm. I captured a minute of it on video.

If you’d like to learn how to be more mindful, or you’re already practicing, here’s a quick exercise on being mindful in nature. First, take a moment to read through the guided mindfulness exercise below, and then watch the video, paying attention to what you hear and see.

About Mindfulness

It’s important to know there’s no right or wrong way to be mindful. The purpose of mindfulness is to be present in the moment, with curiosity and without judgment. Some days, it’s harder to be mindful; other days you feel truly present. And that’s OK.

Mindfulness is not about eliminating your thoughts or cares. It’s not about pretending to be happy when you’re not. It’s about allowing yourself to be here, now, for this moment instead of being caught up in thinking, planning and worrying about past and future events.

Mindfulness Exercise

When you watch the video, be in the moment. Here are some ways to do that:

  • Notice the different sizes and shapes of the boats. What colors do you see?
  • Try to pick out the different sounds that you hear. Can you hear the wind, the birds, the sail riggings, someone doing work on a boat or the dock? What else do you hear?
  • Pay attention to movement. What do you notice about how the reflection of the boats and houses move on the water?
  • If you were there, what smells might you notice?
  • Finally, check in with your body. What are you feeling? Pay attention to any tingling, warmth, coolness, numbness, or discomfort. If you’re sitting, notice the contact of your back and bottom with the chair. Whether you’re sitting or standing, focus on your hands and try to soften your hands. Can you feel your feet on the floor? How about your toes? What sensations are you noticing?

Now I want you to click on the video above or watch the video here. Just allow yourself to be present in the moment and observe what arises. What catches your attention? How does your body feel?  What thoughts do you notice? Can you feel your breath?

Coming Back To Presence

When you’re finished watching the video, take a few slow, deep breaths. Take a look around and notice what’s in the room in front of you. You’ve just spent a few minutes being mindful. It was that easy. It’s easy to be so busy, or caught up in thoughts, that you miss the things that are right in front of you.

If you’d like to bring more mindfulness into your daily life, try taking a few minutes each day to stop and notice your sensory input (sight, sound, smell, touch and taste) and your body’s sensations. Leave a comment below and me know how you do.


Elizabeth Cush, LGPC is a therapist and the owner of Progression Counseling in Annapolis, Md. She helps busy, overwhelmed men and women manage their anxiety and stress so they can live their lives with more ease, contentment and purpose.

Stress Relief After Election Day

Today's blog post is a quickie. Regardless of your political affiliation this election season has been filled will stress. tension and negativity.  Post-election I think we all need to take a moment to breathe, relax, and ground ourselves. To go forward with positivism and hope.

Mindful Grounding To Relieve Stress

As I mentioned in my last post, nature can help to clam frazzled nerves, calm anxious minds and ground us in the present. I hope you enjoy listening and watching.

If you're feeling as though you could use some extra help managing your anxiety and stress counseling can help you learn more about what drives your anxiety, and incorporate effective coping and relaxation skills into your daily life. If you'd like to know if counseling might help you, call or email me so we can talk.

How To Use Your Environment To Calm Your Anxiety

I usually spend Sunday as an “off” day. I try not to work on my business or think too much about work. It’s the one day I try to disconnect from work, because on Monday the work week begins and I want to enter it feeling refreshed and ready.

When Your Racing Thoughts Get In The Way

Last Sunday I had trouble letting things go; I was feeling anxious about the week ahead. Thoughts kept popping up that led to other thoughts and, sure enough, soon I was completely distracted and mentally chewing over what I needed to do in the coming week.

Mindful walking can ease anxious thoughts

I decided to take a walk to clear my head and get some exercise. It was sunny and windy in Annapolis, where I live. Leaves blew and swirled down the street, and the wind whipped my hair around. I like walking because it helps to ground me, and it physically relaxes me. I try to pay attention to what I see, hear, smell and feel while walking.

This Sunday, I was still caught up in thought about half way into my 40-minute walk. I live near the water, so during my walks I always try to pause at a scenic spot to take in the river, the boats the birds — whatever might be present. Just a few minutes of reflecting can really soothe and nourish me.

Being Mindful Of Nature Can Ease Anxious Thoughts

I decided that because my mind was so reactive, I would take some extra time to appreciate where I live and what nature provides. I stood for a minute and a half, allowing the wind to blow against my skin, feeling the sun on my face, listening to the sounds the wind made blowing the rigging of the sailboats, the water lapping at the shore and the leaves as they rustled in the wind. That minute and a half calmed my mind and allowed me to continue on my walk without my head full of work. I decided to capture some of it on video because I wanted to share how alive and nourishing the environment can be. You can watch the 30-second video below.

I hope you enjoyed the short video and will consider using mindful presence to help ease your stress, to help you feel grounded and to help you become more aware of the world around you.

If your stress or anxiety makes it too hard to get out of your head and into the present moment, maybe counseling can help. Counseling provides an opportunity to talk about your stressors in an accepting compassionate space; it helps you to recognize your triggers and allows you to see a future where stress and anxiety no longer rule your life.

Mindfulness groups start in October with early bird pricing happening now. If you’d like to talk about how therapy or mindfulness might help you, please call me at 410-340-8469 or email me.


Elizabeth Cush, LCPC is a therapist and the owner of Progression Counseling in Annapolis, Md. She helps busy, overwhelmed men and women manage their anxiety and stress so they can live their lives with more ease, contentment and purpose.