Mindfulness - Living in the Now
Living in the Now
So many things compete for our attention every day. We’re busy planning for tomorrow and worrying about yesterday’s mistakes. We multitask, switching back and forth from email to IM to phone calls (and sometimes doing more than one at a time.) But spending all that time thinking about yesterday or tomorrow and multitasking doesn’t leave a lot of room for right now. It can make us anxious or stressed out. Practicing mindfulness is one way to stay focused on the present, and it may be good for your health.
What is mindfulness?
At its simplest, mindfulness is just being completely aware of what’s going on right now. While it has its roots in Buddhist meditation, it doesn’t have to be a religious practice. Think of it as a way of training your attention and creating calm and positive emotions. You can even practice mindfulness while you do other things – just become more aware of what’s going on inside and around you. Are you working on your computer? Hear the sound of your fingers and the keyboard. Walking? What does your body feel like as you take a step? Are the birds singing? Can you hear traffic? That’s being mindful.
What are the benefits of mindfulness?
By focusing our thoughts on the now, mindfulness can help improve your health and enjoyment of life. Among the benefits of mindfulness are:
· Reduced anxiety and depression. According to Psychology Today, mindfulness helps to reduce the symptoms of anxiety and depression by helping you to focus on the present, not worry about the future (anxiety) or the past (depression).
· Stress reduction. Practincing mindfulness, especially deep breathing, can help teach your brain and body to relax, lowering the stress response.
· Better sleep. When you increase your ability to relax, you can call on these skills to help you fall asleep.
· Improved attention. Mindfulness helps you focus, so you can complete your work more efficiently.
· Healthier choices. By paying attention to your thoughts, you might just make healthier choices. For example, many people overeat snacks while watching TV. But if you are mindful while you eat, focusing on what you’re eating and how you feel, you might just eat less.1
Tips to help you be more mindful
Here are some tips for getting started with your own mindfulness practice from the NIH and American Psychological Association:3
- Take some deep breaths. Breathe in through your nose slowly, hold for 1 second and then breathe out through your mouth to a count of 5. Repeat often.
- Enjoy a stroll. As you walk, pay attention to the sights and sounds around you. As thoughts and worries enter your mind, note them but then return to the present.
- Practice mindful eating. Be aware of the flavors and textures of your food and listen to whether your body says it’s full.
- Do a body scan. Bring your attention to each part of your body. Notice the tightness or looseness of your muscles, whether you feel warm or cold. This can help you connect with your body.
- Find mindfulness resources in your local community. Many local organizations or health providers have low-cost yoga and meditation classes or mindfulness-based stress reduction programs.
- Use a mindfulness app or other online resource. Apps and other online resources can guide you through the process.
Not every tip will work for every person, and sometimes what works today might not work tomorrow. Don’t be surprised if you have a hard time staying in the moment – the world is full of distractions. Acknowledge the distraction without judging yourself, then go back to focusing on the moment. Soon, you’ll find it easier.