The material and contents of this post are for informational purposes only and are designed to provide helpful advice on the subjects discussed. The information is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis or treatment. For diagnosis or treatment of any medical or emotional condition, please consult your physician, mental health professional, or other qualified health provider.
It’s nearly impossible these days to turn on the tv, listen to the radio, or read really anything without mindfulness coming up one way or another. “Mindfulness shown to reduce cancer risk by 200%!”, “Companies now offering mindfulness training opportunities as work benefits”, “Mindfulness saves the world from *everything*”. It’s a lot. Truth is, there is serious merit behind most of these studies. Large sample sizes, ability to be replicated, and consistency across cultures- all landmarks of something that should be taken seriously.
So what is it and how do I get in on it?
Mindfulness is simply awareness of yourself and your surroundings at any given moment. It’s in all of us and is something that we are rarely, if ever, exercising. We live in a fast paced world where multi-tasking is very much the norm. I can barely remember the last time I even just watched tv without picking up my phone to scroll. It’s the norm. We have busy brains. Mindfulness is the opposite. It’s one thing at a time. Fully present.
I took a course in grad school where the professor made us mindfully eat a raisin for something like 15 minutes. (Felt like 4 hours.) We had to sit there in silence as we just sucked on Halloween’s favorite reject “treat”. The point was to really teach us how to be present. How to notice sensations. How does it taste? Texture? Do I smell anything? How does my body feel? Am I warm? Cold? What am I having for dinner tonight? I hope I remembered to lock my car. Is it snowing outside? STOP. Go back. Present moment. I’m cold. Eating a raisin. Feet on the floor. Heater is whirring in the corner…
You get the picture. The idea was to be fully present and to notice when we stopped being present. Bring it back to the present every time you notice yourself wandering. That’s it. Thats’s mindfulness.
Go buy raisins.
No but really, there are so many ways you can incorporate a mindfulness practice from small, simple acts all the way up to a more committed daily practice.
- Sensory awareness. You have 5 senses. Periodically throughout your day take a minute (or 5) to just take stock of what you notice with all five. (Example: You’re outside walking the dog. What do you feel? Is your jacket soft? Do you smell anything? Are there noises out there? What do your feet feel as you walk? What do you see? ctc.)
- Short breathing exercises. There are many to choose from. The easiest for me is just 3-2-5 breathing. (Feel free to adjust the numbers to suit your comfort and lung capacity). Sit quietly for a moment. Breathe in through your nose for 3 seconds, hold for 2, and exhale for 5. Repeat at least five times if time allows. Even doing it once can give benefits. (It’s awesome for coping with Jersey traffic…)
- Coloring. Yes. Those adult coloring books are fantastic for this. They require your full attention with all the intricate details and that in and of itself is mindful work.
- Yoga. Yoga alllllll day. It’s a formal practice so generally there’s more of a time commitment. That said, once you have an idea of what you’re doing without potentially getting hurt, you can do shorter practices at home to fill in where you can.
- Meditation. There are churches and yoga studios that offer these classes (usually for free) in every area. There are also great apps and youtube channels that offer different types. I personally like the “Simply Being” app. It’s simple and allows you to choose how long you want to do it and with or without a voice to “guide” you.
So here are the basics. I hope this takes some of the mystery out of mindfulness and you can find a way to incorporate it in a way that works for you. A few moments a day can start to rewire the way your brain operates and can lower anxiety, reduce stress, and make red wine more of a “want to” and less of a “need to”.