Updated: Mar 10
Do you ever feel like you’re just existing and not living? Do you get in your car and all of a sudden you have arrived at your destination but don’t know where the time went?
A lot of us go through life on autopilot with the constant distraction of school, work, friends/family, and general everyday busyness. Our days continue to pass us by. What if there was a practice we could tap into/learn to shift out of this daze and learn to be more present in our daily lives? The practice of mindfulness allows us to be grounded in the present moment with awareness, acceptance, and non-judgement.
What is Mindfulness?
Mindfulness is a skill that allows us to be in the here and now, i.e., observing and naming our internal experiences (thoughts, feelings, physical sensations) and external experiences (things happening in our environment, relationships, etc.). When we are mindful, we are able to fully engage with ourselves/the world around us and appreciate the opportunities available to us in the present moment. We are also able to accept our current situation without additional suffering. While pain is a part of the human condition and is unavoidable, we can contribute to our own suffering by trying to control the uncontrollable through denying, ignoring, or suppressing our experiences.
Mindfulness is a way of living we have already engaged in as children. Do you remember the days of being fully immersed in an enjoyable activity? As adults, we can get distracted by technology, societal pressures, and daily stressors that our enjoyable moments are stolen from us. It can take practice to retrain our brain, but the good news is that basic mindfulness is a skill we already have and can tap into/grow in.
Benefits of Mindfulness
The ability to notice our experience is powerful, because we get the space to process and understand what is happening; this permits us to respond thoughtfully rather than react/feel overwhelmed by the situation. Mindfulness also helps us relate to our thoughts/emotions differently, so we are not as driven by reactivity but rather noticing what is there, sitting with it, and watching it pass by. Practicing mindfulness can bring on feelings of calm as we acknowledge our thoughts/emotions, which can help us let them go. This can help with reducing depression, anxiety, and stress. Another benefit is we learn to develop openness and non-judgement. With increased openness, we allow our thoughts/feelings to be there and recognize the messages they are communicating to us.
Formal meditation. One type of mindfulness is meditating. You can find meditations through apps like Calm, Insight Timer, and Youtube. You can find additional meditation resources here.
Mindful check-ins. Sometimes we don’t have time to do a formal meditation, but we can do brief check-ins throughout our day. We can take a few deep breaths, name an emotion we feel, or notice and loosen any tension we feel in our body. This can be when we are stopped at a red light, before we take a bite of food, taking a shower, and/or whenever we take a pause in our busy lives.
Slow down and savor life’s moments. This can be going on a walk and noticing the beauty of the world around you, or making time for quiet mornings to enjoy your coffee/tea.
Let go of multitasking. Try to focus on one task at a time.
When you are overwhelmed, remember you can always pause and take a breath. Try the STOP technique, which stands for:
Stop and take a pause
Take a breath (or several breaths)
Observe thoughts, feelings, physical sensations
Proceed mindfully by focusing on one thing at a time
As people, we are prone to worrying about future events or ruminating on past negative events; while this is normal, it often robs us of the here and now. When we can harness the practice of shifting from past/future focus to the present, this is where our power lies. In the present, we can problem solve, engage in self-care, and fully engage in life.
If you are interested in mindfulness and want mental health support, feel free to contact us by clicking here.
“Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, but today is a gift. That’s why it’s called the present.” -Master Oogway, Kung Fu Panda
Stay tuned. The next topic is "Self-Care."
Written by Susanna La, Ph.D.
Edited by Elena Duong, Psy.D.