Mindfulness: Your Best Tool for Grounded Daily Living

Written for & published by In Her Shoes Foundation (2013)

 http://inhershoesfoundation.org/

By Melissa Doman, M.A.

 “If you are depressed, you are living in the past. If you are anxious, you are living in the future. If you are at peace, you are living in the present.” - Lao Tzu.

He makes it seem so easy and logical, right?

Well, if you constantly run from pillar to post, feel like you don’t have a minute to spare in your day, and can’t seem to catch your breath – congratulations – you live the prototypical high-stress American lifestyle that we all know too well.

Unfortunately, through no fault of our own, it’s sometimes hard for us to take the words of Lao Tzu to slow down, breathe in the air around us, and be grounded in the now. We're so constantly on overdrive in our daily lives that we literally don’t have time for basic self-care, checking in with how we feel, or remembering how to advocate for what we need.

If what you've read so far resonates with your situation, you can rest assured that this template I’m using accurately describes a lifestyle A LOT of people can easily relate to. The good news is – there are awesome ways to manage it and tools you can use for the rest of your life.

The biggest one of all is learning how to be mindful – i.e. the power of the now. I’m sure you've heard the mindful buzzword all over magazines and in the media. You may also have heard about mindfulness when folks refer to self-care or personal wellness. To practice mindfulness adequately, it’s good to have a basic understanding of what you’re striving for. 

Mindfulness can be defined as bringing one’s complete attention to the present experience on a moment-to-moment basis and paying attention to your awareness in a nonjudgmental way while focusing on a thought, feeling, or sensation. Mindfulness is not only a way to keep yourself in the now and pay attention to things happening right in front of you, but it also becomes a great check-in method to help you pay attention to what your mind and body are telling you that you need.  

Often times when we the signals our bodies give us, this is when problematic emotions, physical symptoms, and disruptive thought patterns come up that are intrusive on our everyday lives. Don’t ignore these occurrences – it’s your inner compass telling you something is amiss.

Did you know that you have five awesome-sauce senses that specifically equip you to take in the world around you? No way you say?! Yes way I say! Often times we have so much going on in our lives that we even forget how to check in with our five senses (smell, taste, touch, hearing, sight).

If you take the time to lay on the grass, smell the essence, feel the blades of grass between your fingers, look at the green color, hear as your clothes move around on the greenery, and taste the air breathing in and out of your mouth – you’d be shocked how relaxed and present you will feel. Sounds funny – but try it! Mindfulness helps to calm our mind, body and spirit. The best thing about learning to be mindful is there are so many ways to do it – so you can make it fit to who you are.

I'm pretty sure a lot of you think your thought patterns are a prison and you're the inmate. You hush up! Because that's not the case. I have a secret for you....if you engage in mindfulness you learn to control your thought patterns and you ultimately feel more balanced. Ta-da!

Often times we obsess about the past or worry about the future. Did you know that both of those processes are totally worthless since you can't control either one? I'm not going to hold my breath to hear about any benefits of those processes and you shouldn't either.

Here are a few tips to help you engage in daily mindfulness to start building in relaxation, living in the now, and joy to your life:

Mindfulness methods:

{C}-       Meditation

{C}-       Yoga / Tai Chi

{C}-       Mindfulness journaling (journaling about the now and what's going on in the present)

-       Practicing ‘catching yourself’ to avoid past/future thinking patterns

-       Deep diaphragmatic breathing:

Practicing diaphragmatic (belly) breathing in an effort to be mindful is a wonderful way to slow down and bring attention to your very being and your breathing patterns. More specifically, when you breathe deeply into your belly, it tells your body it’s ok to relax and there are no threats in your environment. When you breathe only into your chest, it triggers you body’s flight or fight natural stress response. It’s helpful to associate mindfulness with deep belly breathing.  Try inhaling through your nose deeply inflating your belly for a count of three, holding for a count of three, and then gently releasing the air through pursed lips for a count of three. (Find more information about this in The Relaxation and Stress Reduction Workbook by Martha Davis, Robbins Eshelman, and Matthew McKay, 2008).

-       Guided visualization / progressive muscle relaxation (with or without calming music)

-       Practicing using your 5 senses to ground you in the now of an experience (smelling, tasting, hearing, touching, seeing)

I’d also recommend a wonderful book that has in its pages lots of different ways to practice and appreciate mindfulness. The book is How Now: 100 Ways to Celebrate The Present Moment by Raphael Cushnir. It’s short, sweet, and oh so refreshing. 

Now, off you go! Let the mindfulness journey begin!