Being Mindful in the Everyday Things
A number of you may be familiar with the concept of “mindfulness." Most often I hear
mindfulness discussed in terms of various “practices” that can help a person cope with stress, anxiety, etc. Deep breathing, yoga, meditation are all common mindfulness practices that are often recommended for people to incorporate into their daily lives. However, mindfulness is not limited to a list of a few specific practices. Just about anything can be a mindfulness practice if approached in the correct way.
Mindfulness can be described as the state of being fully present and aware in the moment. It is much more about a person’s state of mind rather than the specific activity being practiced. As life becomes increasingly busy and complex, it is easy to get stuck in our heads focusing on what we feel we did wrong that day, what we need to do tomorrow or what unknown crises may be looming just around the corner. In fact, a simple way to define anxiety is being stuck worrying about something that happened in the past or worrying about something that could happen in the future. Rarely is anxiety about what is actually going on in the here and now.
Therefore, one of the primary ways to experience less anxiety is to find ways to remain focused on what it is that we are experiencing right now. A prominent voice on mindfulness, Thich Nhat Hanh, writes, “Anxiety, the illness of our time, comes primarily from our inability to dwell in the present moment.” This is not just an exercise in changing what we are thinking about. It is a fundamental shift in where our awareness lies. We are no longer stuck in our heads but rather fully engaged in what we are experiencing here and now.
This does not require a specific “practice” to achieve. There are definitely different activities that help a person achieve a more mindful state. However, just about anything can be done in a mindful manner and have a similar effect. I often find that people are already practicing mindfulness at times and do not even realize it. When you walk your dog and focus on the breeze, the neighbors you see along the way and the sun warming your face rather than what you have to do at work later that day, that is mindfulness. When you cook a meal and enjoy all of the aromas and tastes rather than stressing about that comment you made at work that you wish you could have back, that is mindfulness. Even when you are doing the dishes after that meal and you choose to slow down and feel the warmth of the water, that is mindfulness.
Now there are some activities that may be “relaxing” but are not necessarily helping us to be
more mindful. Watching TV, staring at our phones, etc. all may be relaxing activities, but these fall more into the realm of “distraction” and “disengaging” than “mindfulness”. These activities tend to transport our minds to somewhere other than what is happening to us here and now. We all need to disengage at times, but if the only way we ever cope with anxiety is through distracting ourselves from it, we are never able to become comfortable once that distraction ends.
It is likely you already have at least one thing that you do in your life that you can make a
point to practice more regularly and more mindfully. If you struggle with feeling anxious, whether it be due to an anxiety disorder, trauma or just normal daily stress, I encourage you to try mindfulness. You might just find the present has a lot to offer.
By: Michael Wieberg