Mindfulness is the attention or awareness you bring to the present moment. Seems simple enough, right?
I would disagree. The simplest way to describe living in the moment is to begin by illustrating what it means to do the opposite. It is the human condition to think ahead into the future whilst holding onto past experiences, thoughts, emotions and so on. I will say however, that there is a time and place for thinking into the future, especially when you are making dinner plans, scheduling a doctor’s visit, finishing a work project by a certain deadline or other time sensitive occasions. Equally so, there is a time for living in the past. For example, there's having to recall an event that happened a while ago, reminiscing of old memories, remembering what a colleague said in a previous meeting and so forth. So you see, holding onto the past and thinking ahead into the future is simply who we are and can be beneficial in some cases BUT I ask, what about the HERE and NOW?
Now that we know what lies on each end of the spectrum, i.e. the past and the future, it is important to understand that the HERE and NOW lies directly in the center of the two. The present is the moment between recollection and speculation. It is the point in the middle of the essence of time hovering just between a time of the past and a time in the future. It is the moment in which your physical body exists (and you must work hard to train your mind to stay in). It is the space where time does not exist. Living in the present is the key ingredient to living more mindfully. When you live in the HERE and NOW you may experience:
- Decreased stress and anxiety
- Improved self awareness
- Enhanced compassion, empathy and non-judgement of self and others
- More positive and meaningful relationships
- Increased focus, memory and attention
- Less negative emotions and thoughts
- AND SO MUCH MORE!
So how can you begin benefiting from living more mindfully in the present on a daily basis?
Day 1: Go for a twenty minute (or more) mindful walk in nature.Avoid walking for a purely exercise reason. This can be extremely tough especially if walking is a part of your regular routine. Instead, opt to go out into nature with the intention to connect to the world around you and within you by using your five senses: sight, smell, hearing, taste, and touch. Studies show that being in nature can decrease your stress hormone and increase your happy hormone. So today, without any distractions (music, your normal walking partner, your kids, etc.) enjoy your time in nature.TIP: Take the first two to four minutes minutes to tune into your normal breath then transition into a sense that you naturally gravitate toward. Every three minutes or so try to switch senses until your time is almost up. Take your last minute or so to tune back into your breath before your return to your day.Day 2: Try a 20 minute guided meditation.Meditation in general may or may not appeal to you but again I ask that you just give it a try. Either find a class hosted by a certified meditation specialist near you or look up a guided meditation online or via a phone app. Meditation is an ancient holistic medicine used to calm nerves, improve sleep, manage and decrease stress and maintain an inner awareness of self. Without judgement and reinforced positive thought, meditation can be a sacred addition to your more mindful lifestyle.Day 3: Take 20 minutes of your day to Listen more mindfully.You may have heard this before but LISTEN and SILENT are spelled with the same letters. Think about it for a second. What does that even mean? When you and your friend (colleague, spouse, child or someone else) are chatting about things are you really listening? Are you fully attentive or are you distracted by your own thought or the things going on around you? Maybe you are already thinking about how you want to respond? Perhaps you are thinking about something else you want to talk about? Or are you thinking about what you should be doing? Let go of your own agenda, thoughts and distractions. Listen to the conversation. Notice the emotion and body language of your friend. Tune into the deeper need that she(or he) may be sharing with you. Hold space for what your friend wants to share by simply pausing and allowing her to speak when she is ready. SHHH, listen!
Day 4: Eat a mindful meal for 20 minutes.For some of you, this may be no trouble at all, but for others this can be a bit tricky. The key is that you need to be TOTALLY ALONE: no chatting, no email responses, no TV playing in the background. Absolutely zero distractions! So you may need to figure out which meal of the day this is even possible for you. As soon as you take your first bite, the clock begins. Take your time to chew your food. Notice the texture of each bite. Notice the flavors of sweet, savory, bitter, salty and sour. Notice the temperature of the food. Tune into the nourishment you are providing for your body today!Day 5: Unplug all devices 20 minutes before bed. Turn off all of your electronics-phones, computers, tablets and so on and JUST BE with your own thoughts and feelings for a little bit. Research shows that spending tons of time surfing the internet can increase mental health problems, decrease interpersonal communication and negatively impact close relationships. Instead of numbing it with mindless tasks on your devices, allow your mind time to unwind and reach a peaceful, calm state before rest.
Stay tuned for part 2!
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– CASEY EDMONDS, CHC
Health Advisor | Email Casey