by Janet Whyte, LCSW
What is mindfulness? To some people, it may sound like something that only “hippies” do. The truth is, everyone can benefit from practicing mindfulness in their daily lives. According to the American Psychological Association, practicing mindfulness comes with many proven benefits including reducing stress, reducing rumination, improving attention, decreasing emotional reactivity, and increasing cognitive flexibility as well as relationship satisfaction. All in all, mindfulness can contribute to better mental health and wellbeing.
How do you actually practice mindfulness?
It starts with being present in the moment, paying attention to what is happening right here and now. Notice your thoughts, emotions, and body sensations, and do so without judgment. Try to accept your current experience without labeling it as good or bad. Remember that thoughts are not facts, and they are not permanent. When you notice your mind wandering, gently bring your focus back to the present moment. It’s okay if your mind wanders a lot in the beginning – this is normal! The more you practice mindfulness, the easier it will become to bring your attention back to the here and now.
Finding ways to incorporate mindfulness into your daily routine can help the practice become more natural. Pick a time of day that works for you, such as in the morning as you wake up, at the end of the work day, or before falling asleep at night. Practicing mindfulness (for at least 10 minutes) at the same time every day will help reinforce a sense of calm focus that can be drawn upon whenever you need it. You can try to practice mindfulness while you take a walk outside, while you are eating, or while you are in the shower. Try to notice your surroundings and any sensations, such as the birds chirping, the taste of what you are eating, and the feeling of the warm water.
Try this 5 Senses Mindfulness exercise if you’d like to become more connected to the present moment through your senses:
There are plenty of resources online that offer guided mindfulness exercises, including apps for your smartphone. If you have additional questions about how to practice mindfulness or about how mindfulness could help improve your life, your therapist will be happy to assist you on this journey!