Mindfulness is the non-judgmental awareness of the present moment. Essentially it’s noticing what’s happening inside and outside of you in this moment without placing judgment on it. That whole “non-judgmental” piece is so hard for most of us! Actually, being present in general is really difficult for humans.
Our minds love to pull us into the past and the future, and they absolutely adore judging whether or not how we’re feeling right now is how we should be feeling.
If your mind tends to pull you into dwelling on the past, you may lean more toward depression, and if your mind pulls you more into the “what ifs” of the future, you may lean toward anxiety. Most of us fall into both of those categories multiple times throughout the day.
Mindfulness is an incredibly useful (and well-researched) tool to help us be more in charge of our minds, thoughts, and feelings, instead of being at the mercy of our minds, thoughts, and feelings.
Practicing mindful awareness helps us to be more grounded and peaceful no matter what is happening in our lives.
You may have heard of mindful meditation and mindful breathing. These are two helpful aspects of practicing mindfulness, but they aren’t the whole story. Mindfulness is something we can do every moment of our lives (until our minds distract us again…and then we re-focus to our mindful way of being). You don’t have to set aside time to meditate or breathe to live more mindfully. A big part of it is bringing all your senses into your present experience.
Exercises to Get Started:
A fun way to start practicing this is with mindful eating. Next time you eat something, slow down your experience and really look at your food – noticing the different colors and textures of it, then allow the smells of it to wash over you. When you put the first bite in your mouth, resist the temptation to chew right away – notice how it feels in your mouth including the textures and the temperature. As you chew, notice the different flavors present. For example, if you’re eating a sandwich, see if you can pick out the different tastes and textures of the bread, meat, cheese, and veggies.
Another place to practice mindfulness in your daily life is when you shower. The shower offers many ways to bring your senses online – notice the temperature of the water, how each droplet feels as it hits your skin, the smells and sensations of the lathering of your shampoo and body wash.
By practicing mindfulness in these ways, it makes it easier for your brain to shift gears out of anxious thoughts or feelings of despair and back into the present where everything might really be ok.