We all get stuck, stuck in our thoughts, stuck in our routines, and stuck in our feelings. The invention of electronic devices often robs us of opportunities to experience the complex beauty of the present moment. Though our bodies are physically present rarely are our minds. The term mindfulness was coined not too long ago, (1979), however mindfulness practice originates thousands of years ago from Eastern religions including Hinduism and Buddhism. Mindfulness is defined as intentional consciousness of our activities and surroundings. Just by being aware of the sensory world around us, we experience mindfulness. Mindfulness comes with countless benefits including clarity of focus, decreased stress, lowered heart rate, and lowered anxiety levels. Mindfulness is one of my favorite counseling tools to use because with regular practice, it regulates anxiety, stress, and anger. The great thing about mindfulness is that it can be incorporated into almost every daily activity!
Something routine as eating can be turned into a mindful activity. Instead of eating your food in a rush, give yourself the time to savor the meal. Sit down at a comfortable spot, and experience the taste and texture of the food. Allow your tongue to welcome any fusions of flavors from your meal. Most important when eating mindfully is to put away electronic devices. These devices only serve to distract us.
GET LOST IN THE FLOW OF WHATEVER YOU ARE DOING
My favorite time to get lost in the flow is when I’m cleaning or writing. Whether you like to clean or do something else, any activity you are immersed in is a great way to be mindful. If you find yourself being distracted away by your thoughts, gently acknowledge it, and guide yourself to what you were doing. Mindfulness does not mean avoiding every thought, but observing these thoughts like passing ships and returning to the present.
TAKE MENTAL PICTURES
Many of us take countless pictures to share on snapchat, Instagram, or Facebook, but how often do we fully experience the awesomeness of what is in front of us? The next time you are at a concert, a festival, or some other event, take one picture and then put away the phone. When you are not fidgeting with your phone to take the perfect picture, you allow yourself to experience the moment to its fullest. Use your senses to snap “mental pictures” of your surroundings.
PRACTICE MINDFUL DRIVING
If you are anything like me, I have a habit of listening to music or NPR (National Public Radio) on my way to work. Usually I am present enough to pay attention to traffic lights and oncoming cars, but rarely do I drive in silence and observe all that is around me. The next time you are driving to or from work, take the first five or ten minutes of your drive to practice mindfulness. Take notice of your breathing, how your body feels, the road, and traffic around you. Check out this link: https://www.wildmind.org/applied/daily-life/mindful-driving for ten ways to practice mindful driving.
JOURNAL DISTRACTING THOUGHTS
Thoughts getting in the way of you being present? Write them down! Our minds get so cluttered with mind chatter; often we end up in endless cycles of thoughts that make it difficult for us to be focused on the present. Don’t think of what to write or how you are going to write, just write! Doesn’t matter if it’s scribbles, words, or phrases. Writing for five or ten minutes each night before bed is a great way to release any lingering worries and thoughts that may make it difficult to sleep.
Most of the activities listed above are ones we do on a daily basis. The only ingredient which makes these activities into mindful activities is awareness. Practicing mindfulness doesn’t mean avoiding unwelcome thoughts, but rather acknowledging they exist and focusing back to the present.