“Wherever you go, there you are.”
-Jon Kabat Zinn
Mindfulness has been used successfully to help people reduce pain, lose weight, enhance memory and cognitive function, develop healthier relationships, and perform better in athletic events.
In a study of menopausal women, those who took a mindfulness class reported being less bothered by hot flashes. They had better sleep, lower stress and anxiety levels, and a higher quality of life.
Wow, for being such an easy thing to do, mindfulness packs a powerful punch. But what is it anyway?
Basically, mindfulness is experiencing the present moment – not worrying about the future, or fretting about the past. Mindfulness is being fully present in the now.
Remember when we fear something that might happen in the future, or think about something nasty from the past, we not only lose out on our chance to live in the present moment, we turn on the stress response.
We don’t want that!
Here are some tips to be more mindful and enjoy the moments of today.
1. Remember the mind can only focus on one thing at a time.
2. You are always free to choose what you think about.
3. Observe your thoughts rather than react to them.
4. Stop thinking and start noticing. You may need to actually say “stop” out loud when your thoughts start racing and the mind chatter wants to take over.
5. Take a few minutes to notice the details of where you are and what you are hearing, feeling, or seeing. Say to yourself, “I am observing . . .” or “I am noticing . . .”
6. Turn off the television while you eat. Slow down and notice what the food looks like, smells like, and how it tastes.
7. Close your eyes and breathe deeply. Notice the colors on the inside of your eyelids, or what your breath feels like going in and out of your body.
8. When talking with someone, listen for what they are feeling. (Words rarely say what we want them to.) Observe their body, tone of voice, and gestures closely to see what their emotions are trying to tell you.
9. Drive so that you notice the details. What is happening around you? What kind of stop lights, road signs, other cars, trees, homes, businesses, and people do you pass on your way?
10. Focus on your body to fall asleep. If you have trouble falling asleep, it is probably because you are “thinking.” (Your mind does not know the difference between a future event and a present one, so thinking about the day or what is happening tomorrow will keep your mind active and awake.)
Instead, move your awareness slowly through your body, beginning at your feet and moving up toward your head. Passively observe how each part of the body feels, release the tension, and move to the nest part. (You may want to try the autogenics relaxation exercise, which will guide you through this process for an excellent night’s rest.)