Everyday mindfulness can be as simple as stopping to smell the flowers while walking to the mailbox, observing the clarity in the blue sky above, or even just becoming aware that you are day-dreaming mid-conversation.
When we bring mindful awareness into our daily lives, we are making a choice to actively participate in our lives and fully immerse ourselves into the present moment for the purpose of increasing our quality of life and re-training our brains to slow down and appreciate the many blessings life has to offer. When we slow down and act with intentionality, we are granted the opportunity for connection not only to ourselves but to the world around us.
The peace, appreciation, gratitude, and even wonder that comes with present moment curiosity and mindfulness can dramatically change the trajectory of one’s day and improve one’s mood overall. As we rush off to work and work our way down the seemingly never-ending to-do list, we miss out on the opportunity to improve our mood, feel less stress and more peace.
The challenge then becomes to make mindfulness a daily practice, in whatever way possible, so that you grant yourself the time and space to experience life from a different perspective. At OCHPA, we make mindfulness, both informal and formal, a daily practice.
Mindfulness: What Is It and How Can It Help?
The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines mindfulness as, “the practice of maintaining a nonjudgmental state of heightened or complete awareness of one’s thoughts, emotions, or experiences on a moment-to-moment basis.” There are a few important things to take from this definition of mindfulness. The following is a description of these things and suggestions for implementing a mindfulness practice that could help reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression and improve your overall sense of wellbeing.
1. Thoughts, emotions, or experiences. Mindfulness is a practice of awareness. It is an intentional effort to notice aspects of what it means to be uniquely you. This noticing can include many things but often starts off with noticing your breath. Slow and steady breathing that you turn your awareness to can be a great start for mindfulness practice. There are many breath-oriented guided mindful meditations available online via YouTube or via apps such as Calm.
Mindfulness can also be a valuable tool in regards to noticing your thought life. Thoughts are directly related to and influenced by our emotions and our behaviors, and the more we are able to notice some of our thoughts, the more skillful we will become at influencing our emotions and behaviors. Practicing mindfulness of your thought life can involve a conscious decision to pay attention to what you are thinking.
It can consist of a specific time set aside for this task or can be an ongoing practice of awareness in regards to the thoughts that take up the most space throughout the day. It is the first, and arguably most important, a step towards challenging deeply ingrained patterns of thinking and their associated emotions and behaviors. This practice will lead to a greater awareness of the relationship between your thoughts and other aspects of your life and subsequently, could pave the way for some helpful changes.
Mindfulness of experiences can be a great way to ground yourself in the present reality by noticing your experience of it. This can be particularly useful in moments when you are feeling overwhelmed or are in a particularly heightened emotional state. Paying careful attention to your five senses can be an easy way to start this process.
Notice: What are you seeing? What are you feeling in regard to where you are sitting or standing in a tactile sense? What do you hear? Can you chew gum or mindfully eat or drink to have a very real and present experience of taste? Can you use essential oil to activate your sense of smell? Mindfully engaging with your five senses can be a very helpful tool to keep you grounded in the present, and can reduce heightened emotional experiences to more manageable levels.
2. Practice. Mindfulness is a practice. A practice is something ongoing. Mindfulness is a journey that involves ups and downs and it is not linear. There is no expectation for perfection in any mindful endeavor; in fact, allowing yourself to be exactly as you are is the point of this process. Mindfulness is an experience that every human being already has within them, the trick is learning to access it by practice.
3. Nonjudgmental. Because mindfulness is a practice, you are free from any expectation of performance or perfection. If at any point during your mindfulness practice you notice your mind wandering, or your thoughts drifting off to other topics, do just that – notice. Noticing is mindfulness! Furthermore, noticing, by definition, does not include value judgments. There is no right way to do mindfulness. Instead, it is a journey of noticing your present experience. If you choose to redirect your thoughts back to the present moment if they have strayed, do that. If you choose not to, don’t. Mindfulness is often thought of as a practice of self-acceptance, which in itself is something worth practicing!
4. Moment to Moment. Lastly, mindfulness is practiced one moment, or one step at a time. There is no destination or expectation for achievement in mindfulness. As such, it is a good practice for living life one step, or breath, at a time. It is a journey towards truly embracing and enjoying the present, which is all we know for certain anyway!
Thank you for joining OCHPA on our mindful journey towards healing, growth, and self-awareness!
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(949) 551-4272 IOP – Intake/Assessment (Group Therapy) – Intensive Outpatient Facility with DBT Orientation
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(949) 551-2969 – Psychological Testing
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For appointment & Inquiries about our IOP programs please call us at (949) 551-4272 or (949) 551-2969.
Orange County Health & Psychology Associates, Inc.
62 Discovery, Suite #100
Irvine, CA 92618