I started out this journey by sharing a bit of myself with you. Authenticity is of great value to me in my personal and professional life. I hope to keep this space sacred, authentic, and meaningful. I appreciate your open and kind reception of my story and am so glad you decided to join me again. Thank you!
I briefly shared with you the value that mindfulness has added to my crazy, unpredictable, and messy life. It helps me regain control of my emotions on a moment to moment basis. It invigorates the creative side of my soul. This practice has increased my ability to be present and engaged with the people I love the most. I am such an incredibly far cry from perfection in this practice, but I am enjoying the obvious benefits of my ability to achieve presence.
I want to create more understanding of mindfulness and introduce you to simple and practical applications of mindfulness that I have discovered and recommend to clients who come into my counseling space.
Time passes with unforgiving speed and tenacity. Time is just that…tenacious. It is persistent. It exists despite our ability or willingness to acknowledge the moments as they fly by. We cannot stop the passing of time nor can we slow it down; however, we can implement practices that allow us to breathe in the moments in a way that enhances our awareness? Enhancing our awareness (not only of our immediate surroundings) but of our impact on the world around us and our impact on one another.
According to Huffington Post article, “The Mother of All Parenting Epidemics—the Preoccupied Mind,” the average person experiences 35-48 thoughts per minute. With that many tabs open in our brain throughout each minute of the day, how are we expected to focus on what is right in front of us? Our rapid firing brains seek constant stimulation. We have conditioned our brains to function in a manner that often creates an unnecessary stress response in our bodies. This can lead to health problems, desensitization, anxiety, anger, and many other undesirable realities. Taking the opportunity to control our thoughts, enhance our awareness, and slow our systems down, if only for a few moments a day, can counter the potential risks of cumulative stress. This is precisely what mindfulness can do for us.
The Oxford Dictionary defines mindfulness as the quality or state of being conscious or aware of something or the 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. The Greater Good Science Center at the University of California, Berkeley defines mindfulness as:
maintaining a moment-by-moment awareness of our thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations, and surrounding environment. Mindfulness also involves acceptance, meaning that we pay attention to our thoughts and feelings without judging them – without believing, for instance, that there’s a “right” or “wrong” way to think or feel in in a given moment. When we practice mindfulness, out thoughts tune in to what we’re sensing in the present moment rather than rehashing the past or imagining the future.
Mindfulness serves not only as a tool to balance the constant state of stress that we are exposed to, it offers a multitude of benefits. According to the American Psychological Association those include, but are not limited to: reduced rumination, stress reduction, boosts to working memory, focus, less emotional reactivity, more cognitive flexibility, relationship satisfaction, increased intuition and insight, increased immune functioning, and increased wellbeing.
I have certainly been able to recognize the tangible benefits in my life. For instance, I am a little less clumsy. If you know me at all, you know that tripping and spilling (most frequently coffee and/or salsa) come with the territory of being in my presence. Come to find out…this can be a telling sign that reveals stress, distraction, or being overwhelmed in general. My mind was often elsewhere. Now that I am able to be more present in each moment, I have achieved a new level of grace. Another seemingly silly but handy benefit, I have not locked my keys in my car in months. This is a more common occurrence in my past than I would care to admit in this moment. Outside of many medical and psychological benefits, it creates less bullshit (I tried to come up with an alternative here, but this seemed to embody my point most accurately) on any given day. Instead of spiraling out of control from a stub my toe and burn my toast kind of morning, I can hit reset and take advantage of the new and fresh moments moving forward.
Ok, hopefully I have you convinced that this mindfulness stuff is worth a shot. Here are some simple, beginning ways to give it a go…When I am helping my children tune in, become aware, and practice brief mindfulness, I encourage them to bring attention to their 5 senses, one at a time. “Close your eyes. What do you hear?…What do you smell?…What do you feel?…Can you taste anything?…Take a few deep and slow breaths. Now open your eyes, what do you see?” This is quick and simple. Anyone can take a few moments and create a level of awareness and openness that gets lost in the mix of our packed schedules. Únother simple practice is the STOP Method. It is a one minute, breathing space that allows you to hit reset. (S)top when you realize you feel that your thought process or emotional reaction is out of control; (T)ake a breath; (O)bserve what is tangible in your surroundings and in your body finally; (P)roceed onto new possibilities.
I am also a fan of guided meditation for beginners. I will go into further detail about my favorite websites and sources for guided meditation in a later post. For now, perhaps the above brief and straight forward exercises will help you tune in and take control of your moments.
Something to keep in mind: Mindfulness is an excellent tool for moments of anxiety, stress, or anger. However, like prayer, mindfulness is beneficial in times of joy, happiness, and peace as well. Relish is the beauty of your day-to-day life. Breathe it all in.
Peace, love, and laughter,