How To Incorporate Mindfulness In Everyday Life
BY CHAS BARNES
How often do you pause to listen to the sounds of your morning shower? When was the last time you felt the pressure of your feet resting on the floor? Do you know where you're holding tension in your body at this moment? If you answered, “No” to these questions, keep reading to find out more.
Depression may develop when we find ourselves stuck in overwhelming thoughts of our painful past; all of the perceived failures, disappointments, and betrayals. Anxiety rushes in when we focus on future problems that might happen, could happen, or events we fear may happen. One remedy for our rabbit holes of depression and anxiety is mindfulness; becoming intentionally present without judgment. When you are fully engaged in the present moment, your mind is attuned to the here and now, rather than the past or future. Mindfulness is one tool used to reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety and increase feelings of safety.
When you hear the word mindfulness, you may picture a mystical image of a person on a spiritual journey where time is solely spent in meditation. This is not a realistic perspective of mindfulness and none of us could attain that ideal while functioning in everyday life. There's nothing mystical about mindfulness, although regular mindfulness practice can bring some pretty incredible results as experienced and reported by others.
Think of it this way. Couldn't you stand to be more engaged in your life; experiencing the depth and breadth of all it has to offer? Often, we don't realize how much of our waking hours are spent beyond the present. Living in the present seems like a basic concept, but we have become so busy that we constantly focus on yesterday, tomorrow, next month, or next year. When we live this way, we miss the joy occuring right now. Unfortunately, it has become our way of life, but you have the power to create a new path. Once you add mindfulness practice to your routine, you will find yourself experiencing a more grounded and centered self in the process.
So, how do you begin? First, I’m going to offer a biological overview, so it’s easier to connect the dots. The prefrontal cortex or the frontal lobe is the part of your brain that lies beneath the surface of your forehead and hairline. It's responsible for executive processing. Executive processing is the brain’s system for solving problems, recording and organizing information and engaging in conversation. Neural pathways are the 'highways' in the brain through which this information is transported. Regular mindfulness practice forms new pathways or 'roads' where a more streamlined thought process may take place. These newly formed pathways provide a strengthened support system for thought that can clarify choices and promote a more grounded emotional experience.
There are many ways to use mindfulness in your everyday schedule. When using mindfulness, activating and engaging all of your senses helps you notice each moment. For instance, when you undress to get in the shower, you can feel the temperature of your body change as your skin is exposed to the cool air. In the shower, you can listen as the water streams from the shower head and falls to the bathtub. You can pay attention to the warm water hitting your skin. How does it feel? When you begin to wash, notice the smell of your shower gel or shampoo. Does the scent relax or wake you? Notice any tension you may be holding in your shoulders or neck and relax them. Finally, do you feel content or rushed? Simply notice any emotional sense you may have, without judgment. Before your day has even started, you’ve practiced mindfulness and helped your brain!
Mindful breathing is another great way to develop your practice while reducing anxiety or negative thoughts throughout your day. First, sit up straight. Take a deep breath in through your nose, inhaling deeply into your diaphragm rather than your chest. Try to slow your inhales and then exhale even more slowly through your mouth. Notice your abdomen expanding and contracting according to your breath. Now pay attention to the way the air feels as you breathe. Do you notice the cool air as you inhale and the warmer air as you exhale? What a tiny little detail we've never even considered noticing! Lastly, notice the moment where your inhale turns into an exhale. It’s a quick transition. Can you feel the inhale end and the exhale begin? I like to do this breathing activity anytime I find a few unscheduled minutes to relax and refocus. Mindful breathing is convenient anywhere at any time. Whether I'm doing morning stretches or waiting on an appointment, I can deepen present moment awareness through mindful activities.
We know that self-compassion and loving kindness towards ourselves is a healthy perspective that helps us navigate complex lives. A daily mindfulness practice is a beautiful and effective way to care for ourselves and our brains while living in the only moment we truly have: the present.
AUTHOR'S WEBSITE: http://www.christiancounselorcooperative.com/chas.html