I miss being a kid. I played with toy cars, superheroes, and stuffed animals. I went outside from sunup to sundown, coming in for lunch. I made sure not to miss my favorite cartoons on Nickelodeon or on basic cable on Saturday mornings. Back then, my job was going to school and learning my alphabet. Life was good.
My innocence had not been corrupted by adulthood just yet. However, with great age came great responsibility. Free time filled up quickly with homework and extracurricular activities. I spent more time playing with my pencil between my fingers than my toys. Cartoons became homework. Alphabet turned into algebra.
Now that I am a grown ass man, I look back at those times with deeper appreciation. Kids are in a unique position. They are at a time in their lives where they can live in the moment free from worry. Think about the last time you saw small children playing. They are not thinking about the fight that took place yesterday with their significant other. They are not concerned about the workload waiting for them tomorrow at the office. Those kids are in tune with everything happening at the exact moment. They look out the car window, taking in the beautiful scenery. They boldly inform us when they are hungry, thirsty, or sleepy. They speak their minds without hesitation. That is where I envy them most, but this is not to say that you cannot reclaim that awareness as an adult.
What is Mindfulness?
When I present this information to others though, I usually sum it up into three key points.
- An individual learns to be in tune with their environment, feelings, thoughts, body, etc. Awareness is brought to all aspects of one’s well-being.
- Individuals must be able to examine these areas without judgment- both positive and negative.
- Being in the Present. When the past and future meet, they give each other a present. It grants a deeper connection with what you have at that very moment rather than getting lost in your thoughts or feelings.
How to Practice
I cannot stress enough that mindfulness is a skill. It is something that will require practice. Many of us in Western society desire immediate gratification, but this is not something that can be rushed. On the other hand, I am personal fan of succinct techniques that the average individual can incorporate into their already busy schedule. Not long after learning about the concept of mindfulness, I ran a quick Google search. I was not disappointed. A plethora of suggestion popped up with many of them requiring 1-2 minutes of practice a few times a day.
- The Five Senses. This is perfect for when you are outside at the park or on the beach, but it can be done anywhere. Using your five senses, pay attention to what you notice in your environment. Ask yourself, “What do I see? What am I hearing? What do I feel? What do I smell or taste?” Try to gather as much detail as possible and doing so without judgment. Let’s use the beach as an example.
- Sight- Blueish green water meeting the white sands. Glistening sun rays on the water. Small, puffy clouds along the horizon.
- Hearing- Waves crashing on the shore. Call of seagulls in the distance.
- Touch- Grains of sand in between your toes. Sea breeze gliding across your cheeks.
- Smell- Salt air tickling your nostrils.
- Taste- Gritty salt water from when you just went for a dip in the ocean.
- The Five Sense Countdown. You use the same principles from above except you countdown using your fingers. You can five items you see, four you hear, three you feel, two you smell, and one your taste.
- Mindful Eating. This one is a personal favorite simply because it involves food. Ensure that you are not engaging in any other activities at the moment you do this exercise. Be in the moment with your meal. Take a close look at it. Look at its detail. Prepare to take a bite. Feel its texture. Savor its taste. I usually recommend a minimum of two bites with each lasting 20-30 seconds.
- Mindful Walking. Using the same idea as the mindful eating, take in your environment as you walk. Feel the ground under your foot with each step. Enjoy the moment. This technique will quite literally keep you grounded.
- Associated Breathing. If you become aware of a distressing thought or feeling, stay with it for a few moments. Slowly begin to turn your attention to your breathing. Feel the air passing through your nostrils and working its way to the diaphragm. Hold onto the breath for a moment before exhaling and feeling the process work in reverse. Take a few deep breaths. With each breath, allow the distress to leave your body on the exhale.
- Mindful Immersion. Theoretically, any activity can be a “mindful one.” Take an everyday chore such as cleaning your room, putting away the laundry, or even brushing your teeth. Instead of rushing through it to get it done, fully experience it. Align yourself with it. Pay attention to every detail. You will be shocked at what you did not notice before.
These are simply some of my personal favorites, but there are hundreds of mindfulness exercises out there. Hopefully, these suggestions can shed light on how to go from mindless to mindful.
-The Caring Counselor
Black Dog Institute. (n.d.). Mindfulness in Everyday Life. Retrieved January 31, 2018, from Black Dog Institute: https://www.blackdoginstitute.org.au/docs/default-source/psychological-toolkit/7-mindfulnessineverydaylife-(with-gp-notes).pdf?sfvrsn=6
James, A. (2015, December 7). 6 Mindfulness Exercises You Can Try Today. Retrieved from Pocket Mindfulness: http://www.pahrts.mntheateralliance.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/PocketMindfulness.pdf