Mindfulness is the non-judgmental awareness of the present moment. Essentially, it's noticing what's happening inside and outside of you at this moment without placing judgment on it. This practice is a key part of self-care because it aids us in creating a balanced and positive mental state. The "non-judgmental" piece of mindfulness can be hard for most of us to grasp. Being present, in general, is difficult for humans.
Our minds love to pull us into the past and the future, and they adore judging whether or not we're feeling right now is how we should be feeling. This constant pull can compromise our well-being as we often fail to nurture our current needs and emotions.
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 fall into both categories, possibly multiple times daily, compromising our self-care.
Mindfulness: A Tool for Mental Balance
Mindfulness is a handy (and well-researched) tool to help us be more in charge of our minds, thoughts, and feelings instead of being at their mercy. It's essential for our well-being.
Practicing mindful awareness helps us be more grounded and peaceful no matter what happens in our lives. This sense of peace and balance is crucial for our overall well-being.
You may have heard of mindful meditation and mindful breathing. These are helpful aspects of practicing mindfulness but are only part of the story. We can incorporate mindfulness every moment of our lives (until our minds distract us again, and then we re-focus on our mindful way of being) as part of our ongoing self-care. You don't have to set aside time to meditate or breathe to live more mindfully. A big part is bringing all your senses into your present experience.
A fun way to start practicing this is with mindful eating, an exercise in self-care that nourishes your body and mind.
Next time you eat something, slow down your experience and really look at your food – noticing its different colors and textures, then allow its smells to wash over you.
When you put the first bite in your mouth, resist the temptation to chew immediately – notice how it feels, 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.
The Shower Exercise
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, and the smells and sensations of lathering your shampoo and body wash.
This simple act of self-care can be a powerful mindfulness practice that enhances your well-being.
Transitioning Your Mindset for Improved Well-being
Practicing mindfulness in these ways 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 be ok. This transition is pivotal for sustaining our well-being and implementing effective self-care strategies.
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