The Case for Mindfulness … from a former skeptic.
Whenever I broach the subject of mindfulness with a friend, family member or client, I tend to get the same response: “Oh man, I can’t do mindfulness.” My response, “Oh I’m not very good at it either, in fact, I used to think it was the most useless thing ever… until I figured it in the midst of a mindful moment.”
You see, a lot of times mindfulness or achieving a “mindful moment” just seems like a hard task – especially when you’re trying to order your groceries, the movie Frozen is playing in the background, your toddler is scooting around you on her bunny scooter and your husband is calling from the kitchen about whether or not the beef stock in still, in fact, good – not like I speak from experience… not like that wasn’t today. The good news? If you’ve been alive, you’ve probably had a mindful moment – but you might not have realized that is what it was at the time: It was that moment you got to the top of a mountain trail, or took a first sip of a warm latte on cool fall day, or noticed the way you felt trying on a new pair of sneakers. Each of those moments was a mindful moment. The question isn’t whether or not you can be mindful. It’s how to learn to pull it off in this fast paced, hectic world that we currently live in.
What is Mindfulness Not?
Contrary to popular opinion MINDFULNESS IS NOT MEDITATION. Meditation is mindful, but not all mindfulness is meditation.
Mindfulness is not time consuming. There is no time requirement, although 5 minutes probably gets you more than 1 minute.
Mindfulness is not always relaxing… sometimes mindfulness can clue us into some uncomfortable feelings… tightness in our chest, tension in our shoulders, and anxious, mad or sad and lonely thoughts might surface. But this also helps up have a moment to check in with ourselves and figure out what we might need.
So, what is mindfulness? Mindfulness is paying attention to the present moment without judgement. Pro tip: that last part is a little tough. Mindfulness is noticing without reacting or changing anything.
So how can we give ourselves more mindful moments? The easiest way is by noticing our five senses: what do we see, hear, smell, taste, and touch at any given moment. You can pick up an object – a rock, a pen, your keys – and notice it for a few minutes – maybe like three. You may notice thoughts that come up – reminders about that email you forgot to send, negative thoughts about work, maybe even that you aren’t really good at mindfulness. And that’s OKAY. Try not to get sucked into those thoughts, and if you do, just redirect back to those five senses. Mindfulness is a skill- you have to practice it to get better.
Need something more concrete? Here’s three quick ways to practice just a little more mindfulness.
Car mindfulness. Next time you’re driving between Target and Costco, turn off the music, put your phone on silent and just notice: the noises around you, the feel of the steering wheel in your hands, the taste of your drink. Notice your breath. Is it fast or slow? Does it change when you pay attention to it? Location to location allows for a great, beginning and end to your practice. Just avoid getting sucked into thoughts about that car driving in front of you.
Walking to the mailbox. Same deal as above. Notice the way your feet feel in your shoes. Notice how a leaf falls to the ground. What noises to you hear?
Mindful eating. We’ve heard about this plenty of times in regard to noticing fullness – but mindful eating can be tricky. Cheat sheet: start off with a favorite food. Maybe a fun size candy you steal from your kid’s Halloween stash.
I hope these tricks help you find mindfulness a little more approachable. The trick is to just keep trying, even if that good old brain of yours tells you can’t do it.