By Amalia Pryor, LCSW
“If you are depressed, you are living in the past, if you are anxious, you are living in the future, if you are at peace, you are living in the present.” Lao Tzu
Society has many demands and expectations of us. Whether it is career, relationships, finances, family or social life, we are always occupied with something. With constant planning, checking tasks off our lists, and always being in motion, it is difficult to make time for ourselves and put our mind at ease.
I often hear from people that they are constantly stressed, always anxious and having difficulty finding overall peace and happiness. Sad and depressing thoughts often occur from rumination over past situations or waiting for the future to happen and trying to make predictions about scenarios that we simply will not know the outcome of at this point in time.
There is only one time and place where you can be and have any control over:
the here and now.
We hear the word “mindfulness” discussed when it comes to the topic of mental health and the road to wellness, and how to be more calm and content. So what exactly is mindfulness and what does it entail? The definition in the dictionary states that mindfulness is the “quality or state of being conscious.” It’s the simple act of just “being.” Mindfulness allows us to understand that the present is where we are most powerful and in control. It is “the now” and the only moment in time where we can seize opportunities and where our choices prevail.
There are many layers and ways to practice mindfulness. To ease into the process, here are a few of my favorite and simple ways of practicing the art of being in the moment.
- Take 20 minutes to do nothing– As mentioned earlier, we are constantly on the go. Our brains can go into system overload. Turn off your brain for a bit so it can rest. Take 10-20 minutes to sit in pure silence. Turn off all distractions (i.e phones, TV, music.) Lie down and breathe. Challenge your mind not to wander. Quiet your thoughts and be still. It takes practice, but try to incorporate it into a daily routine.
- Practicing gratitude- The simple practice of being thankful. Even on our worst days and moments, we always have many things to be grateful for. By practicing gratitude, we think about what makes us happy and calm. Examples consist of good health, family, opportunity to travel, etc. By writing down our reasons to be grateful or saying them out loud, we are taking the present moment to highlight our blessings.
- Tuning into your senses- Smell, touch, taste, sound, and sight are necessary to tap into being present. When we give focus to our senses we are taking a moment to appreciate what may be stimulating us and taking our mind off of the past or fear for the future. If you are in a coffee shop, tune into the aroma of the smells around you or admire the fantastic people watching the public has to offer. When going for a jog, take a moment to feel the fresh air hitting your skin or listen to the to sounds around you. Stretch your body and notice the sensation in your muscles. The list is endless. You can do this any time and anywhere.
- Changes in daily routine- It’s very easy to fall into a daily or weekly routine. In fact, many of us thrive off of routine, because it gives us structure and comfort. For many, routine brings general stability, which is a positive thing. However, when it comes to stress and anxiety, the same ritual at the same time everyday can perpetuate the cycle of anxious thoughts or sadness. Routine becomes mindless, and therefore doesn’t require effort, we always on the “go go go”.
Small adjustments or change requires us to be mindful and present. The goal is to focus on the task at hand. Examples can range from changing our usual mode of transportation. If you often take the bus, trying walking or biking. Showering at a different time of day, eating meals at a different time or place, wearing a new hairstyle, or even dressing differently. The point is to complete the task with new and present perspective.
If you’d like guidance and help practicing mindfulness please reach out to a therapist at Encircle Psychological Services!