When you think of the word “mindfulness,” what images come to mind? A Buddhist monk meditating or maybe a private therapy session?
The truth is that mindfulness doesn’t require a special room or the help of a professional. Anyone can practice mindfulness at any point in time.
Simply, mindfulness is the act of being present and aware. This may seem a bit vague. After all, most people would consider themselves aware.
Yet, most people forget about mindfulness or don’t recognize that they’re even practicing it, especially during these five routine parts of the day:
Driving is an optimal time to practice mindfulness. Unfortunately, it’s also pretty difficult.
With little else to do in the car, our morning and evening commutes are often spent thinking– anticipating the long day ahead or reflecting on the stress behind you. Each ticking minute is spent wondering how much longer until you get there.
As New Jerseyans, we’re no strangers to traffic and road rage. One unfortunate driver or road block can easily set the tone for the rest of our day.
We may be physically in our car, but mentally, we’re far away– at our desk, at the point in time when that dirtbag cut us off, or running through our evening errands.
The solution? Ignore the clock. Keep your mind off the office, and just be.
Listen to music that you can sing along to and do exactly that: sing. Or, listen to a podcast. Try some childhood road trip techniques like observing the scenery, searching for unusual license plates, or counting everything that is blue (while keeping your eyes on the road, of course).
Another hard one. After all, this is often the most stressful part of our day. (Is it 5 o’clock yet?)
Mastery of multitasking has become an expectation in the modern work world. So, how can we be mindful when our to-do list resembles a dictionary?
First, stop and breathe. Take a quick walk even if it’s just to the bathroom. Come back to your desk with a clear mind and revisit that to-do list. It’s time to prioritize and be realistic. What are you actually capable of accomplishing in the rest of the day? Is there someone you can contact to address the things that may fall short? Make a plan. Write it down on a new, clean piece of paper, and tackle each item one task at a time.
Take periodic breaks to breathe, walk, drink some water, and rest your eyes. Try to devote your whole mind to the task at hand, and worry less about what remains to be done.
Then, when you clock out, leave all thoughts about that to-do list at the door until you return the next morning.
We’re all guilty of being less than mindful during our daily social interactions. We see the other person’s mouth moving and can hear the words they’re saying, but are we listening?
Oftentimes, we aren’t. Instead, we are thinking about something that happened before, planning our response, or looking forward to something yet to come.
Mindfulness can make a huge difference in improving our communication skills.
Be attentive. Trace their words in cursive in your mind. Remember, you do not need to have an immediate response. In fact, utilizing the empty space between their statement and yours can help you think more clearly and respond more appropriately.
Try not to carry the stress of previous or future events into your interactions, rather treating them independently with a rational mind. In doing so, we avert the habit of taking out our emotions on the wrong person, and create healthier relationships with those around us.
While Working Out
Competitive athletes are masters of mindfulness. You may not realize it, but you’re probably being mindful during your workouts, too. (And, if you aren’t, your workout is definitely suffering.)
Working out often requires that we maintain focus on the movements and responses of our body. It’s hard to ignore the sensation of muscles burning, sweat trickling, and your breath becoming more labored. While these aren’t the most pleasant things to acknowledge, they’re great examples of mindfulness.
The next time you find yourself thinking about something that happened in the past or what you have to get done after your workout, bring your mind back to the body.
How is your form? Where are you feeling it the most? Are you breathing? (Don’t forget that.)
Incorporating yoga stretches at the beginning or end of your workout can also provide you with a moment for mindfulness. Because yoga focuses so heavily on balance, posture, and form, the attentiveness you give to your body will free you of past or future thinking.
You lay down at the end of the day with the lights off, and suddenly, you’re alone with your thoughts–thoughts that are anywhere but the present and that are capable of keeping you up all night.
For some people, watching TV before bed can help quiet their mind. However, if TV before bed isn’t your thing, try soft and peaceful music.
Practice paced breathing. Count the length of your inhales and exhales and then make an effort to lengthen them by one count or two. Put one hand on your stomach and take deep belly breaths. Feel the expansion of your whole torso when you inhale.
Visualize a shape expanding and shrinking with each inhale and exhale. Or, think of a person or place that brings you complete joy. Bring your mind there.
It is much easier to sleep when we clear our mind of any worries and fears about today or tomorrow, making mindfulness a perfect bedtime activity.
Mindfulness at Blueprint Mental Health
Mindfulness is among the five modules of Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), for which Blueprint Mental Health specializes with its teen clients. In addition to offering individual and group therapy for teens and young adults, Blueprint Mental Health offers training sessions on DBT and mindfulness for both teens and parents.