By Angela Cruz Serrano, MFT and MHC Intern
We are always thinking about our next move, our next chapter in life, our next everything and how we are going to face that next thing that we are constantly thinking about. With all of this, somehow, we forget we are exactly where we need to be. Maybe not the way we imagined it, but we are here, and we are constantly thinking about tomorrow.
Have you ever noticed that from the time we wake up, we are already thinking about the things we need to do and how much we are wishing for the day to end? Yes, we have all been there. There is always room for us to learn that this present moment is the one that is going to help us move forward to our next chapter, move to whatever our next thing is.
A few weeks ago, I found myself talking with some friends about this and during that conversation we talked about how sometimes we forget to be in the “here and now.” I remember that one of my friends said,
“Angie, I was seeing myself worried about how I am going to be like when I reach my goals and sometimes, I’m not even enjoying the journey. So, I stopped one day and since that day I have been practicing gratitude. I realized a few years ago I wanted to be exactly where I am today with the life I currently have and I don’t want to miss this.”
Mindful living is about living with awareness in the present moment. The mindful living meaning involves taking care of your actions, words, and feelings to ensure that you live the best and present life you can. It’s about not letting life pass you by while missing the present. It’s incredible how we can get lost thinking about tomorrow and how this present moment can be exactly what we need. Here are some tips that might help be more mindful.
- STOP Technique
The STOP mindfulness technique is a four-step mental checklist that helps you ground yourself in the present moment. The acronym stands for:
- Stop: This isn’t about fighting your thoughts or trying to “clear your mind,” but about mentally telling yourself that you’re about to shift your attention elsewhere.
- Take a breath: This step is about paying attention to your breath. Breathing mindfully is a good way to center yourself in the present moment. You can inhale and exhale mindfully, paying attention to the sensation of breathing.
- Observe: What physical sensations are you feeling? Is any part of your body sore or tense? What can you see, hear, taste, smell, and physically feel? What emotions are you feeling? What are you thinking? What assumptions or judgments are you making about yourself? Give yourself the opportunity to check in with yourself and notice how a situation is affecting you.
- Proceed: Once you’re ready, you can continue with whatever it is that you’re doing, whether you’re in the middle of a difficult conversation or trying to focus on work.
STOP is a mindfulness technique that’s often taught as part of current versions of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR). You can use the STOP method at any time, but it might be particularly helpful when you’re stressed, upset, or angry.
- Exercise regularly:
A small study found that when mindfulness was combined with exercise, participants showed improvements in stress, depression, and anxiety. In addition, this study found that mindful exercise can help improve sleep, which can also benefit mental health. Have a purpose whenever you exercise and remember why you are doing it.
- Connect with your senses.
Being mindful is being more aware of the moment. It’s using our senses to pay attention. In the book Eating Mindfully: How to End Mindless Eating & Enjoy a Balanced Relationship with Food, clinical psychologist Susan Albers, PsyD, features this exercise to help readers reconnect with their senses and basic physical sensations.
- “Notice the ebb and flow of your breathing.” Focus on the moment, right now.
Start with what you see around you. Say to yourself “I see…” “Identify colors, shapes, and contrasts in hues and textures. Close your eyes and reproduce what you saw as an image inside your mind’s eye.”
- Next, focus on what you hear. Say to yourself, “I hear…” Describe the sounds.
- Do the same for what you smell, taste and touch.
- She also adds another layer: your feelings. She suggests saying “I feel…” and identifying what you’re feeling right now.
- Accept things as they are:
Mindful living is also knowing your place in the world. There are some things like your reactions and actions that you have control over. However, some things are completely outside your control. You can’t control what happens to you, only how you react to it. But, you can try your best to improve the odds of what happens to you.
- Notice the content you consume:
Have you ever noticed that the content you consume ends up shaping how you view the world? To practice mindful living, switch up the negative content you consume daily and trade it in for some books about compassion, kindness, communication, and so forth.
Make time for yourself. Allow yourself to chill out and relax. Find something that suits you (different things work for everyone) Imagine you have a balloon in your belly, inflating and deflating as you breathe in and breath out.
Today’s a great day where you can do a lot. You can do acts of kindness, you can let go of pain, you can show appreciation to others, or meditate. How you act is all up to you. And it’s when it comes to your reactions, that’s all in your power.
You have the option to step away from your laptop or phone and go practice living mindfully. This magnificent world is a sight to see.
Quote for the Week
“People usually consider walking on water or in thin air as a miracle. But I think the real miracle is not to walk either on water or in thin air, but to walk on earth. Every day we are engaged in a miracle which we don’t even recognize: a blue sky, white clouds, green leaves, the black, curious eyes of a child—our own two eyes. All is a miracle.” – Thich Nat Hanh, The Miracle of Mindfulness: An Introduction to the Practice of Meditation