What's the first thing that pops into your head when you hear mindfulness? For many of us, we think of meditation, as the two are often considered synonymous. We think of sitting on the floor with legs crossed, for long periods of time, eyes closed, lightly chanting "ommm." Or we think of doing yoga, downward dog on our mats, taking in deep breaths. And while these are two great examples of mindfulness, there's so much more to it.
Mindfulness is the process of being in the present moment, focusing on what you are experiencing, without judgement. There are so many different ways to be mindful, and not all of them involve a long, guided meditation. Meditation is one form of mindfulness, the active practice of being mindful and settling your emotions. It takes practice. It involves giving yourself grace.
There are multitude benefits around being more mindful, so it's important to know why and how to go about it. The benefits of mindfulness show up in all aspects of our lives. We are more present, focused, and attentive. We learn how to experience ourselves without judgement. We are able to fully experience our environment in the moment. Over time, mindfulness helps us recognize our emotions, and the emotions of those around us. We are also able to recognize our thoughts and feelings, and take a step back from them. Mindfulness and meditation are known to decrease stress, improve focus, and improve sleep.
For those of you thinking "I've tried meditation and I'm no good at it!" know that you are not alone. Meditation, like everything else, is a practiced skill. Many of us try jumping in head first, with plans of sitting still and quiet for an hour, emptying our mind. Then we find that our mind starts wandering (as our minds are known to do), and we give up. Or we get bored. And no wonder! You wouldn't go out and run a marathon when you've never tried running before. Meditation takes time to build up. It's important to start small. Maybe do a 2 minute meditation that's guided. Allow yourself to bring your focus back when it wanders. Learn to be gentle and kind with your journey. Slowly start increasing the amount of time that you meditate.
And for those of you who still don't want to meditate, that's fine! There's so much more to mindfulness than that. You can practice mindfulness at any time of day, for any period of time. Here's some examples of things you can do:
-put your phone down and focus intently on what your partner is telling you
-take a moment to observe an every day object with the curiosity of a child
-use your five sense to experience the world around you in this moment. What can you taste, smell, see, hear, and feel right now?
-Close your eyes, take in a deep breath, and let it out. As you let it out, imagine you are blowing out candles on a cake. Make a wish.
-write down a list of five things you are grateful for today, or five good things that happened today
-think of a happy memory. Remember every detail of it. Spend a couple of minutes thinking about that memory and really reliving it.
-go for a walk and pay attention to everything that's around you. What color is the sky? How does the breeze feel on your face?
-wash your hands in warm water with soap. Really focus on what the soap feels like between your hands as you scrub, or when the water is washing off the soap.
If you'd like to learn more about mindfulness and meditation, check out these websites:
Looking for some great apps?
Headspace (monthly fee)
Calm (monthly fee)
Insight timer (free and subscription options)
Smiling mind (free)
If you'd like to be guided through some mindfulness activities as part of your therapy, reach out to Dr. Shaban for a consultation!