Mindfulness (Pt. 2): Embracing Mindfulness
In my last blog post, I discussed the connection between mindfulness and mental wellness, as well as how toxic negative thinking can be to our overall health and happiness. Another benefit of mindfulness is that it allows us to take a giant step back from our thoughts to see where there are patterns that don’t serve us, such as brooding and overanalyzing. It’s helpful to be able to stop and ask ourselves, “Is all of this thinking actually helping me?” Chances are, it isn’t.
Mindfulness can even help us to avoid getting caught in a trap of negativity by allowing us to name our negative thoughts and feelings. When we are lashing out or feeling overwhelmingly sad, taking a mindful moment to think about the source of our feelings, and then actually taking a moment to name them (e.g., “This is stress.”) can help us to then deal with them more productively. This type of awareness can also help us to notice signs of depression and anxiety early on so that we can avoid falling deeper into a cycle of sadness and despair. Sounds great, right??
Reminding ourselves to become more aware of our thoughts, feelings, and the world around us is just the first step to mindfulness. Below are a few more tips and exercises meant for becoming more mindful:
Stay present. Start to notice when your thoughts get stuck in the past or the future, and work to keep your awareness in check. Focus on one activity, and one activity only. Take a walk in nature, and notice the sights and sensations around you. Take a meditation class, or practice deep breathing exercises, and focus only on the sound and feeling of your breath. These activities, while not always easy to master at first, will help to align your thoughts and feelings with the present moment, and nothing else!
Recognize thoughts without judgment. When you do notice that your thoughts begin to race, that you’re not focused, or that you’re dwelling on the negative, simply notice it-- without judgment-- and move on! Again, these skills take time to master. Be kind to yourself!
Practice gratitude for the little things. When I find myself trapped in a pattern of negative thinking, I pull out my trusty gratitude journal and jot down at least three things that I am grateful for. It’s hard for me to feel down in the dumps when I am reminded that there is so much good in my life. Try it!
Develop rituals. It can be helpful to pick a regular time, whether it’s the morning journey to work or a walk during your lunch hour, during which you choose to be mindful for an hour and notice the sights and sounds around you. Penciling in an “hour of mindfulness” every day can really put you on the fast track to becoming a zen master of mindfulness!
Try new things. While this may sound silly, mixing up your routine a bit can also help you to become more mindful because it helps you to see the world in a new and different way. Sit in a different seat at your next meeting, or try out a new coffee shop in your neighborhood.
Now that I have given you some food for thought, I hope that you will give one of these mini-exercises a try. Be sure to let me know how it goes!