Mindfulness: Embracing Your Powerful Now

You’ve probably heard the term, but you may be asking “exactly what is mindfulness anyway?” Mindfulness is the state of living fully in the present moment without focusing on past regrets or worrying about the future. Mindfulness can be about being vs. doing as in meditation, but one can be mindful during any type of activity such as driving, walking in nature, washing the dishes, cleaning the house or eating a meal. Mindfulness is the opposite of multi-tasking and although sometimes it may seem that you are able to get more accomplished by multi-tasking, it isn’t necessarily true. Growing up, my father used to say “take your time and do it right” and back then I didn’t realize that, in essence, he was teaching me mindfulness.

How many times have you arrived home from the office not remembering your trip or failed to notice the beautiful flowers growing in your yard because your mind was somewhere other than the present? Is this really living? Multi-tasking should be avoided as it can lead to higher levels of stress as well as be truly dangerous in certain situations. You will find that if you begin to use a mindful approach in everyday life, you will actually experience more joy, feel happier and more relaxed and even save time by having tasks completed correctly the first time. To incorporate more mindfulness into your day, try these simple exercises:

1. Mindful Eating — Plan a meal in a quiet location, free from distractions. Before eating look down at your meal and really notice how it looks, how wonderful it smells and think about where it came from. Do you notice yourself feeling hungry? Now, pick up your fork noticing how it feels in your hand and put a bite of food into your mouth. Really notice what your meal tastes like and how the food feels in your mouth. Notice yourself chewing and then swallowing. Repeat this exercise for each bite of the meal. Eating in this manner as often as possible will make it less likely that you will over-eat so is a great way to control weight.

2. Mindful Body Scan – This exercise can be done anywhere . . . it is effective at the office as well as during the night if you wake up and find that you can’t get back to sleep. Scan your body from head to toe. Really notice where your body is holding tension. Do you feel any pain or discomfort? Focus your attention on an area where you are holding tension and take a deep, calming breath and as you exhale consciously release the tension in that area. As you breathe in think or say “I am” and as you exhale through your mouth think or say “relaxed” or “calm”, whichever term you prefer. Move all the way down your body, repeating this for any areas that need attention.

3. Mindful Dish Washing – This exercise works for any activity and can be very relaxing. The key is to really focus on the task at hand. The next time you wash dishes, try being completely present in the moment. This means not berating yourself for something you forgot to do yesterday or worrying about what you will do tomorrow. Keep your focus in the present and really feel the warmth of water and the soap suds on your hands. Run your hands over the smooth surface of the dishes, notice the smell of the soap and listen to see if you can hear the soft sound of the tiny bubbles bursting. If you feel the urge to hurry through the task, acknowledge this and then bring your full attention back to fully experiencing the dishwashing.