Have you ever been so engaged with an activity that you completely lost yourself in it? As if time and space no longer mattered, you became one with the activity, and thought of nothing else until you were finished. Maybe it was a sports game, a dance performance, or a favorite song that kept you entranced and enraptured. The experience of being present in the moment can be akin to experiencing the state of being mindful. The practice of mindfulness involves increasing your awareness of the present moment and doing so in a manner that is non-judgmental.
Mindfulness can be highly beneficial when we are experiencing anxious thoughts about the future such as “what if” thoughts. “What if I don’t get that promotion, what if I don’t pass that test, what if I mess up during that presentation?” Oftentimes our brain goes into hyperdrive trying to predict a future that has not yet come. Sometimes our brain does this in an attempt to protect us and help us “control” future outcomes. However, these predictions of the future turn out to be incorrect more often than not. Mindfulness assists in reducing the attention we give towards future oriented thoughts and increases the attention we give to the present moment.
A few things to remember when beginning your practice of mindfulness: Mindfulness is not always an easy state to achieve as it often goes against what our mind is used to doing. If you find yourself having a difficult time staying in the present, this is not cause for concern. Practicing mindfulness can be challenging, especially in the beginning. Be patient with yourself, take a deep breath, and reset if you find your mind and thoughts wandering from the present.
One of my favorite mindfulness exercises is to view my thoughts as if they are passing clouds. Do you remember watching clouds as a child? This exercise mimics cloud watching as you realize that our thoughts, like clouds, float into our minds, stay for a little while, and then pass on by. An important part of this exercise is to not get caught up in our thoughts as we observe them and avoid giving our thoughts a value such as this is a “good thought” or that was a “bad thought”. Our thoughts are fleeting in nature: they float into our consciousness and then eventually float out. I envision my thoughts as they come and go, the words being incapsulated in a cloud form.
Another exercise I regularly practice to keep my mind honed into the present is using my five senses to take in my environment. I do this by going through each of my five senses and using it to identify something in my current environment. Name one thing you can see, name one thing you can hear, name one thing you can touch, name one thing you can smell, name one thing you can taste. I pause between each sense as I fully use that sense to take in what is going on around me. Doing this exercise is incredibly grounding and helps me pay extra special attention to wherever I am.
The beauty of using these exercises is that you can use them anywhere and without others knowing. Keep up your practice, as mindfulness often becomes easier over time.
“Health is wealth”, a mantra Jessica’s mother regularly repeated throughout her childhood. Jessica values achieving balance and wholeness in both arenas of mental and physical health. As a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and a practicing mental health therapist, Jessica promotes healthy living, self-care, mindfulness, and above all, kindness towards self.