Before you start reading this blog, I should warn you- I use the word “present” x times and the phrase “here and now” x times. That might seem like a lot of times to repeat that terminology, but those words beautifully sum up what it means to be mindful. Mindfulness is the practice of physically and mentally being aware of and present to what is happening in the here and now.
Oftentimes, our minds are filled to the brim focusing on life’s ups and downs; we can get bogged down by the worries or heartbreaks from moments in the past or get swept up in the race of anxious thoughts or what-ifs of our future. When we get enveloped and overtaken by these thoughts, our bodies can feel overworked and days can feel heavy and difficult to endure. When we actively focus on grounding ourselves in the present moment, body and mind, things often feel a little lighter and easier to manage.
The beauty of this shift in mindset and intentional practice is that you can do anything mindfully. Eating, learning, playing, listening, celebrating, cleaning- the list of ways you can be rooted in the here and now is endless. For example, mindful eating might include noticing each flavor or texture in every bite you take (“I can taste a lot of cinnamon in this bite” “I am tasting a hint of onion right now”). Similarly, mindful cleaning might include noticing the way you are slowly taking a space from dirty to a bit cleaner (“Wow, that dust bunny is unreal” “This cleaning product smells excellent”). As long as your thoughts are centered on the here and now, you are practicing mindfulness!
I have personally seen the impact of practicing mindfulness in my own life. When I learned about mindfulness in graduate school I was pretty skeptical about how impactful it could actually be, but as I was encouraged to implement mindfulness into my daily life (thank you, homework assignments!), the more I could tell it was helping me. I was putting the different techniques we learned into my metaphorical toolbox to help my clients, but the more I reached for them for myself, the easier it became to manage my own stress and anxiety. As I became more rooted in the present, the harder it was to sit in my anxious and future-focused thoughts because I was immersed in the here and now.
Working on the practice of physically and mentally being aware of and present to what is happening in the here and now is a worthwhile effort. Mindfulness really can be a helpful tool, if you remember to reach for it. I encourage you to try it out for yourself this week: At least once a day, check in with what is going on in your mind and body in that moment. Let us know how practicing mindfulness has helped you!
Nikki Larsen, LMFT Associate
We are all storytellers. I believe that people are shaped by the stories they are told by family, friends, culture, society, or even themselves. Sometimes stories are ruled by brokenness, fear, hurt, past trauma, or future anxieties. Dominant themes that run these stories might include “I’m not enough,” or, “I’m a failure.” It can be intimidating, scary, or even painful to share our stories with others, but letting people into your narrative is the most beautiful act of bravery.