Mindfulness is a hot topic. You may have heard it mentioned in radio commercials, on tv, or even at happy hour. But, what exactly is mindfulness? Mindfulness is the act of purposefully calling your attention to the present moment without judgement. Its benefits have been well documented. Mindfulness can improve your concentration, reduce anxiety, and decrease racing thoughts. It can also help you to become a more active and aware participant in your daily activities and relationships.
Like other exercises, mindfulness takes practice. The more often it's practiced, the easier and more effective it will be. The good news is, it does not require much time. You can start with a two-minute exercise. I like this exercise because even on the busiest days I can find two minutes, and with a little creativity it can even be incorporated into things you're already doing! Let's say you wash your hair every day. So tomorrow, this is your opportunity to practice. Take two minutes while washing your hair to focus on the sights, sounds, smells, and feelings you experience while you're washing your hair. What does the shampoo smell like? How does the water feel? What sensations do you experience while massaging the shampoo in your hair? The goal is to notice, not judge. Instead of thinking "this feels good" or "it smells bad," try to focus on describing the sensations with thoughts such as, "it smells like coconut." When other thoughts pop into your mind (oh shoot, I forgot to make my lunch, etc.), try to notice the thought, then picture it floating out of your mind like a cloud. Remember this exercise is only two minutes, so you can attend to whatever else popped into your mind at the end. When you're finished, take a second to think about what the exercise was like for you. Did you find it challenging to focus in the moment? Did you find yourself judging either yourself or the experience? How difficult was it for you to allow unrelated thoughts to float out of your mind like a cloud?
And that's it, you have officially practiced mindfulness, congrats! I often encourage clients to practice this routine daily for a few weeks. Mindfulness is an exercise and needs to be practiced to improve. As you practice, notice if it is easier to tune out unrelated or judgmental thoughts and tune into your experience of the moment. And remember, the shower was just an example. You can practice mindfulness many places- washing the dishes, sitting on the beach, taking a walk, or eating a sandwich. Find what works for you!
Torie Cueto, LMFT is a licensed therapist in San Diego, California. Torie provides in-person therapy in San Diego and online video therapy throughout California.
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