Updated: May 12, 2022
If you’ve spent any time at all studying self-help books, there’s probably been a chapter on mindfulness. Mindfulness is a recent buzz-word often associated with self-care gurus. However, mindfulness is much more than a trend. In fact, it is a psychological coping resource that is generally supported by research to improve psychological wellbeing. You might be saying to yourself, “That’s great, but what is it?”. Think about mindfulness as less of an object or task and more as a state of being. Mindfulness is being aware of you--of your environment, your internal experiences, your physical body, and ultimately, of your existence in the present.
Let’s break this down. Essentially, your mind can be full or you can be mindful. Throughout the day, we have many thoughts and emotions. Some of the thoughts might be about the day, like what’s on the to-do-list? Other thoughts might carry a bit more weight, like thoughts about past mistakes and struggles. Focusing on the past might bring up feelings of sadness, guilt, and shame. Just as easily, we might experience worry and fear about the future. Focusing on the past and future is the mind’s way of trying to navigate life, but sometimes these serve as distractions that keep us from living in the present. From here, it’s easy to get hooked on feelings and avoid living in the present.
The present is where life happens. Contact with the present moment helps you to live life to the fullest because you can experience life as it happens, rather than focusing on the past or predicting future events. Mindfulness is a state of being, in which you are in contact with the present moment. This is a habit that one builds over time; it’s a lifestyle, and it’s a coping tool. You can be mindful by checking in with yourself, or by seeing yourself in the present moment apart from the thoughts and feelings that you have. Mindfulness can help you remember that you are not your thoughts or feelings. Instead, you can BE you.
Here are some simple exercises that you can do to become more mindful. First, you can check-in with your breathing. Taking deep breaths can help you stay in touch with your physical body. Pausing to breathe can help you become aware of emotions as you experience them. Another way to practice mindfulness is to set a timer, sit, close your eyes, and just be. During this time, focus on your breathing. If your mind wanders, gently remind yourself to come back to breathing and being in the present moment. While these tools take practice, you may be surprised at how “being” can help you navigate life.
By Mackenzie Brackett-Wisener