Mindfulness – it seems to be a hot topic of discussion in magazines, social media, talk shows, and even in school curriculum's – but what does it really mean?
According to Jon Kabat-Zinn, founder of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction, Mindfulness is: awareness that arises through paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgmentally.
Many people I encounter through my professional work as a therapist respond to the concept of mindfulness with an expectation of “clearing the mind.” I consistently hear, “Yeah, I’ve tried that, but I just can’t get my mind to shut off..”, “I can’t focus on what they’re saying in those guided meditations on the app because my thoughts won’t stop..”. That’s when I step in to educate and empower – the goal is not to clear your mind, the goal is to just notice without attaching judgment or emotion to those thoughts.
So, once we’ve adjusted our expectations about mindfulness and we’re ready to give it an honest try, where do we start? Well, like most things in life, it depends. For someone with consistent racing thoughts all day long, along with somatic symptoms of anxiety, they may not be able to focus their attention enough from their symptoms to focus on a guided meditation. Luckily, mindfulness is much much more than simply meditating, so here are some realistic ways you can practice mindfulness in your every day life.
Engage your senses: Notice the cool, crisp air as the wind blows while walking to your car. Feel the tickle of your hair rubbing on your face from the wind. Observe the cool air as it comes into your nose, through your nostrils, into your airway and down into your stomach. Notice remnants of flavor from your morning coffee in your mouth. Smell the fresh linen scent on your clean work clothes for today.
**Did you notice? The underlined words above do not attach any judgment or emotion to your routine, they simply acknowledge and note the details of your day.**
Adjusting your daily life to include this practice of mindfulness is not easy, because it’s change. However, like any habit in life, with consistency and persistence, it will come and stick with you. Give yourself realistic goals for practicing mindfulness each day and give yourself grace when you forget or it doesn’t work out. Remember, no judgment