By Aneesha Perkins, M.A.
There’s a lot of encouragement to make space for our feelings and experiences. Yet how does one do so? What does making space look like, and what exactly does it entail? Well, a great place to start is with mindfulness. Mindfulness is about being present, using breath to relax, and showing compassion to self. It can also help reduce stress and anxiety while helping you regulate your emotions with intentionality and practice.
Thinking about starting a mindfulness practice or want to learn more about mindfulness? Check out these 5 pointers:
1. Mindfulness encourages you to enjoy the present moment – How often do you take time to be quiet and enjoy the moment? It’s easy to become so consumed or distracted with the various tasks and responsibilities of the day or over-focusing on the past that you forget to relish the moment. Being still is critical to helping you explore your feelings and thoughts—mindfulness helps you slow down and embrace the here and now. Being present focused gives your mind a well-deserved break! Trust me, your mind will thank you!!
2. Mindfulness works when you practice it consistently – Just like many things that require practice to get better, so does mindfulness. The more you practice exercises such as deep breathing, the more comfortable you will be and the easier it will be to access this skill when you really need it. If your first try doesn’t go as expected, give it another try and make some adjustments. For instance, if you try an exercise and feel like it’s too long or too short, look for different activities that feel more comfortable and fit within your time constraints.
3. Mindfulness can occur at any moment during the day –A common myth about mindfulness is that you must sit down in a quiet place and practice for a long time Truthfully, you can practice being mindful anywhere, whether it’s indoors or outdoors, and for any amount of time. For instance, the next time you take a walk outside to get some fresh air, stop for a few minutes and observe the flowers. Look at the color and texture and describe them to yourself. Allow the breeze of the wind to brush up against your face and describe your experience at that moment. Take in the scent of the flowers. Guess what? You just practiced mindfulness, and you can do it in various other settings!
4. Mindfulness can help regulate your emotions – Do you struggle with managing your emotions, whether it’s anger or frustration? When you practice mindfulness, you learn the power of pausing. Initially, it can be challenging to be quiet when you’re used to always filling your space with words or activities. However, practicing mindfulness can help you to become more comfortable in quiet spaces and you will realize that it’s ok to be silent. This practice translates into your daily life as you approach different situations and experiences. As you continue to practice mindfulness when various emotions arise, you can eventually learn how to manage your emotions better.
5. Mindfulness helps you evaluate your thoughts without judgment – One of the most challenging parts about being still is being consumed with thoughts that you judge, overanalyze, or avoid. Being alone with your thoughts can be a scary and uncomfortable experience. However, when practicing mindfulness, the goal is to allow your thoughts to pass by without judging them as good or bad. Just simply letting them be, with no interpretation or in-depth evaluation. Like an express train passing through a station or a leaf floating away on water. This practice helps to quiet your inner critic and helps you feel more confident and at peace with your thoughts.
As Leon Brown’s quote goes, “the answers you seek never come when the mind is busy, they come when the mind is still.” Today, we encourage you to take 3 or 5 minutes to practice mindfulness. Find a place to sit quietly, take a few deep belly breaths, and embrace the moment. Afterward, write down or record on your phone what the experience was like for you. If it is challenging, be encouraged and continue to practice mindfulness regularly. Decide on an amount of time that is realistic for you and commit to practicing at least 3 times a week. There are various mindfulness apps and websites that can help you with activities and with tracking your practice. Check out the My Time To Thrive card deck, created by Dr. Jackman, InnoPsych’s founder, which provides a number of mindfulness strategies. Remember, be kind, be gracious, and be present. Honoring the present moment can change your life!