How often does it happen that your mind is not really present in the current moment? Maybe you are regretting past mistakes, grieving over a recent loss, or worrying about what may happen in the future. The fact is, by always wallowing in the past or future, you miss the presence when you should be happy for this moment. After all, this moment is your life! Don’t be robbed of the enjoyment and full experience of today: Apply these five easy ways to experience the presence mindfully and your moods and relationships will also improve.
Whenever you have a few minutes, even walking between classes, with the dog, or while shopping, focus your attention on your surroundings. Feel your clothes move against your body and the breeze on your face. Become aware of the texture of your soles when it makes contact with the earth. What sounds can you hear?
Dogs barking, birds chirping, a lawnmower, traffic, people talking? Take a couple of deep breaths too. Which aromas can you smell? Flowers, freshly cut grass, warm bread, crisp paper? Try to reach deeper with your senses than the palpable awareness of noise and pungent smells of human activities.
But, stay in the present moment! With each deep and rhythmic breath and every step, focus on a muscle group, one at a time, moving from your feet and ankles upward. Relax each area, in turn, feeling the tension melting away as you continue to breathe and walk. Tense and relax. Tense and relax, as you move.
Within a few minutes, you will notice how your breath and movements become even and the worries seem to slip away from your conscious mind. In the process, don’t try to grab onto any thought, just let it come and go naturally.
Visualize your Happiness
After a few moments of mindful walking or sitting still, breathing deeply, it is time to let your imagination free. You can either make use of a guided meditation to help you visualize, or you can apply your own mind at a pace and place that works best for you. There are many mindful visualization exercises available on the Internet. Two examples are a 6-minute ocean meditation and a 10-minute mountain meditation.
Whenever, and whatever you are busy doing, you can also quiet your mind, take a deep breath or two from your abdomen, extending your lungs, close your eyes if you wish, and let your imagination run free. The technique works best if you decide beforehand on a topic or theme, such as a safe place, a place where you feel free and loved, or one that you would like to experience. Focus on the experience and feel yourself relax.
Test new visions, and imagine how the touch, smell, taste, and sounds will be. Immerse yourself completely. At your new place, you can do anything, be anybody, and achieve anything. Use a set time, and, when you are done, bring yourself slowly and safely back to your environment, feeling refreshed and invigorated!
It seems that most people have forgotten the importance of paying attention to anything else than their mobile phones and tablets, at least for more than a minute. Next time when you’re in a conversation or in the presence of someone else, put away your gadgets and reward your companion with your full awareness. Not only will they be pleasantly warmed by the reassuring change, but probably return the gesture in kind. Make an effort and show that you are really listening.
Make sure that you take in and understand what the other person is saying by reflecting the idea back. By asking a question, stating how it makes you feel, or offering a new perspective without coming across as defensive, opposing, or disinterested.
Maintain a positive and inviting body language, such as slightly leaning forward, opening your shoulders, using your hands and touch sensibly, keeping your tone of voice even but not monotonous, and maintaining natural eye contact. Soon, you will notice how the other person opens up, and the communication starts to flow to a different level.
Self-compassion is the mainstay of mental health. By accepting that no one, including yourself, is perfect, and accepting imperfections and weaknesses as a natural part of being human, you become able to stop criticizing yourself so harshly and punishing yourself for every perceived mistake. Thereby, you probably fail to recognize your true potential and strength. While it does not mean that you should ignore your weak points and areas that could benefit from a little attention and work, you can now focus on that which is important and can change.
There is no value in fretting over aspects and situations that you can do nothing about. Rather spend your time and energy on those that are in your power to improve. With improved self-compassion, you will have a better sense of interest and acceptance of your own reality, thereby infusing your attention with care and compassion, which tend to spill over to other people too.
As a result, you become able to embrace yourself and your experiences with less judgment and greater kindness and acceptance. Instead of trying to control or judge our experience, we take an interest in it with attitudes of compassion and openness. This approach inevitably leads to declines in stress and negative emotion while positive feelings increase.
Make it a habit at the end of each day of thinking about the positive and encouraging moments of the whole day, even if they seem small and insignificant. Instead of getting upset by the inevitable irritations, disappointments, and worries, focus on one or a few heartening moments and things that you feel grateful for. Be thankful for any blessing and opportunity that came your way. Even on those evenings when you feel overwhelmed by many depressing moments, appreciate them as part of your life journey and use the opportunity to look for solutions and learn.
Always be mindful that you have higher values and goals that will not be destroyed by one or even a series of bad days. Calm down, concentrate on the things around you that matter and that you can do something about, and, above all, be patient. Take time and plan activities each day to relax as it rejuvenates your mind and body for any challenges ahead. When you are rested and mindful, you are better equipped to recognize the virtues and values that carry you and your loved ones through each day!
Joan Swart, Psy.D., is a forensic psychologist, lecturer, and author of “Treating Adolescents with Family-Based Mindfulness” published by Springer in 2015. She is a business developer at Open Forest LLC. Open Forest LLC provides online psychoeducation and self-help programs aimed at improving many conditions, including depression, anxiety, ADHD, and mindfulness.