Using Mindfulness to Slow Your Roll
Some of us may have gotten into the habit of being a human “do-er” rather than a human “be-ing.” We are rushing from one thing to the next without dropping into the moment and fully being present in our experience. One definition of mindfulness is paying attention, on purpose, to the present moment with non-judgement. Another definition is, the ability to be aware of your thoughts, emotions, physical sensations, and actions in the present moment with compassion (kind attention), and without judging or criticizing yourself or your experience. Mindfulness is becoming more aware and intentionally paying attention to your internal and external experiences. Mindfulness increases awareness of self/others/present moment, increases acceptance of things as they are in the present moment (not because we want it that way, but because it “is” that way), cultivate compassion for self and others, help with focus and concentration, and decrease stress response. It can also help cut down distractibility in order to cultivate a more focused mind.
How to start practicing mindfulness:
- Describe your experience.
Use just the facts, rather than opinions. What do you see, hear, taste, touch, feel, know for a fact etc.? Describe what you are observing rather than putting your own spin on it or judging it.
- Be curious about your experience.
Try to notice it as if you were noticing it for the very first time.
- Observe it.
Observe the experience without getting caught up in the story the mind generates of it. Experience it without reacting to it.
- Practice being “one-mindful” by doing one thing at a time.
Whatever you are doing, attend to it with full awareness. Try to decrease multi-tasking, which involves shifting attention back and forth between tasks/experiences.
- Tap the breaks and slow down.
Are you fully present (attending to the moment), or are you just present (here, but thinking of something else)? Apply mindfulness to some of your daily experiences. Slow down and do things one at a time, and pay full attention to what you are doing.
Examples of how to applying mindfulness in the moment:
*Mindfulness with food (ex. apple): Notice the exterior shape, color, and temperature of the apple. What does it smell like? After you take a bite can you describe the taste? Notice how the texture changes as you chew it. Notice, and appreciate, your tongue’s automatic function in the chewing process. Eat slower, notice your food, appreciate it…it may taste better.
* Mindfulness with shower routine: Notice the temperature of the water, notice how the water feels as it touches your skin, notice the smell of your soap, notice how the soap feels on your skin, notice the water droplets on your shower wall/door, notice the movement of your arms and body as you wash.
* Mindfulness with sound (ex. bird chirping): Rather than label it as “a bird chirping” see if you can explore the quality of the sound (volume, pitch, duration, intensity, and timbre).
* Mindfulness with thoughts: Notice thoughts as mental events, something that is just passing through. Just like the weather changes so do your thoughts and emotions.
* Mindfulness with experiences: Drop into the experience that shows up in the present moment and work with it, instead of rejecting it (wishing it was different than it is). For example, take a walk and focus on what you see, smell, hear, feel, in that process--rather than wishing things were different (the temperature, perhaps a sore muscle in your leg). Can you observe it rather than judge it? Be present in your activities and relationships. Practice being present, “awakefulness,” rather than “automatic pilot” mode.
Mindfulness interventions have been increasingly studied in clinical trials and show a variety of benefits on health, cognitive, emotional, and social outcomes. Mindfulness is a way of being, not specific exercises separate from your day (although you can make space for specific mindfulness practice as you get started). We hope you'll give it a try as you move through your day!