Have you ever been talking to someone but your mind has made so many comments you lost track of the conversation and were unable to reply? Or have you ever been driving and realized you passed the street you had to turn on because you were caught up in your thoughts? We are consistently thinking, constantly analyzing to the point we function out of habit, “on autopilot.” day after day, We race to drop kids off, get to work, then back to pick up kids, get home, to cook, shower, sleep and repeat. Life becomes routine, it gets boring. Life is passing by us yet we’ve missed most of it.
The human mind capable of storing facts, faces and a range of information. It helps us solve small and big problems, an extraordinary problem solver it is. The mind can solve complex problems and be the ticket to success but it can also become our own enemy. Problem solving can turn to overthinking,worry and ruminating. It can create thoughts, all day, all night, everyday, endlessly. Thought after thought, the mind hijacks our attention; it takes us into the future, then throws us into the past, thinking and rethinking the “what if’s” and endless worrying that can lead to anxiety and depression.
Is there a way to stop the mind from thinking? from worrying? from chattering on and on? Yes, there is a way. Mindfulness.
John Kabat-Zinn, founder of the Stress Reduction Clinic at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center, defines mindfulness as “the awareness that arises through paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment and non-judgmentally.” Mindfulness is said to improve both mental and physical health; It helps relieve stress, depression and anxiety.
Mindfulness, in simplest terms, is paying attention, on purpose and connecting with the present moment. When you pay attention mindfully, you are able to enjoy each and every moment in the present as it happens. Washing dishes, showering or eating you completely engage and immerse yourself in the activity, noticing every detail and savoring every aspect of the activity. Staying present quiets the mind and releases you from future worrying and reliving past situations. Now, you can start to fully participate in your life, now, in the present moment.
So, how can you be mindfulness and begin living life? Here are 3 Simple mindfulness exercises you can begin practicing immediately, anywhere and anytime. Keep in mind, as you practice being mindful thoughts will show up. You may get thoughts you’re doing something wrong, this doesn’t work, I can’t do this, and so on. That’s ok, it’s normal. Just notice you had the thought and continue to breathe in and out.
Allow yourself to notice the flow of your natural breath, as the air comes in through your nostrils and goes out through your mouth….in…..out…..in….out. Now notice how your lungs expand as they fill with air when you inhale and deflate as you breathe out and exhale… inhale…….and exhale. Now notice how the abdomen rises as you breathe in and flattens as you breathe out. Allow your attention to gently ride each breath, not thinking about how you breathe, without the need to comment. Simply noticing your breath as you inhale…..and exhale.
Start off noticing the natural flow of your breath. Lets turn your attention to one of your five senses….sight, hearing, touch, smell or taste. Allow yourself to look around the room and name 5 things that you see 1, 2, 3, 4, 5. Next, stay still and listen to the sounds around you. Name 5 things you hear for example the birds chirping, cars passing by, music playing. If there is music playing try to focus on specific instruments playing. Make it a point to distinguish between different beats or instruments. Try describing 5 different things you can touch, smell and taste.
As you walk, focus your attention on any sensations felt throughout your body. Step by step, feel the contact each foot makes with the ground. Step by step notice which part of your foot strikes the ground first at the beginning of each step? Your toes…..your heel… Now, notice which part of your foot leaves the ground last at the end of each step? Toes…..heels……As you continue to walk and take one mindful step after another begin to notice how your knees bend as you walk, notice the flexing and contracting of your muscles in your calves, feeling any soreness or sensation that may arise. Next, notice your arms as they swing front and back….front and back. Notice how they lightly touch your hips as they swing back and forth. Don’t change anything about the way you walk, just notice even the slightest detail of how you walk.
Noticing or describing thoughts as they come and go can be added into any mindfulness exercise, for example, “ I am having the thought that..,” or you can silently note “thinking” and continue the exercise. You can name each individual feeling by name, for example “anger,” “boredom,” “happy.” When thoughts arise, You could use a phrase like, “it’s a thought.” You can be even more specific, and note your thoughts by categories, for example ‘judging’, ‘worrying’, ‘analyzing’, ‘remembering’, Or simply: ‘anxious thought’, ‘sad thought’, ‘neutral thought’; ‘thought about the future’, ‘thought about the past’ etc. If an emotion or feeling arises you can silently notice the feeling or emotion. You could use a phrase like, “it’s a feeling” or “I am feeling __.” Throughout the day be mindful and observe any thoughts or feelings that show up. This is useful and practical in the beginning of your mindful practice when you continuously get distracted by different thoughts, feelings or judgments. Remember, there is no right or wrong way to do this. The point is to practice and be mindful.
Begin your mindful practice today. Curiously Noticing your surroundings, becoming aware and opening up the possibilities right in front of you. Start Living life in the present moment.
Yesterday is history, Tomorrow is a mystery, Today is a gift.
Our true home is not in the past. Our true home is not in the future. Our true home is in the here and the now. Life is available only in the here and the now, and it is our true home.~thich nhat hanh~