In several previous posts, (Make More Time to Relax, Improve Your Focus, Avoid Yard-Sticking) I’ve written about the benefits of practicing mindfulness. Mindfulness is a simple practice that grounds us, calms us, and keeps our attention focused on the present moment.
If you feel confused about exactly what mindfulness is and how to practice it, don’t worry! I also find the concept elusive at times, and a bit confusing–aren’t we supposed to think about, and plan for, the future? Isn’t it necessary at times to make sacrifices today for a better tomorrow? Sometimes my goals require me to do things I really don’t feel like doing in the present moment!
Practicing mindfulness can take many different forms. There are times you want to “be in the present moment” and enjoy what that moment has to offer.
For example, if you are playing with a child, practicing yoga, or eating a meal, try to be present in that moment–enjoy what that activity has to offer and don’t let your mind stray. If your mind starts to drift off to stressors, chores, or unhappy memories, gently remind yourself that, right now, the best use of your time is to engage in this moment. Then, refocus on the experience right in front of you.
There are also times that mindfulness simply means managing your physical and emotional stress, reminding yourself why you’re doing what you’re doing, and how your current activity helps you reach your goals.
Or, if your current behavior is not goal directed or promoting well being, mindfulness can help you make a conscious effort to change your behavior.
I seem to recall that this concept used to be referred to as an “attitude adjustment.” The core concept is that we sometimes have to do things we aren’t thrilled about, but if we 1) take a few deep breaths to calm the mind and body, and 2) refocus on the purpose or long term benefit of our present activity, then our attitude, focus, and mood will improve.
To help you practice mindfulness throughout the day, try this “Grounding Exercise” from Philippa Perry’s book, How To Stay Sane.
Ask yourself these questions:
“What am I feeling now?”
“What am I thinking now?”
“What am I doing at this moment?”
“How am I breathing?”
“What do I want for myself in this moment?”
Asking yourself these questions heightens your self-observation skills, which are an important component of emotional well being.
The goal is to momentarily turn your focus inward and make healthy adjustments–maybe you need to take a few deep breaths or shift your negative thinking to your Filler Task.
Try cueing yourself to engage in this Grounding Exercise a few times a day–maybe during your morning commute or right after lunch? Consider using an Implementation Intention: “If I’m driving and at the stop sign near my home, I will ask myself at least one of the Grounding Exercise questions.”
Alternatively, consider setting your smart phone to remind you of these questions a few times during the day–this random approach can be particularly helpful!
If you want to learn more, here’s a 10 minute TEDTalk on Happiness & Being in the Moment.