Mindfulness is the awareness of the present moment. The practice of mindfulness is simply allowing ourselves to bring attention and awareness to what is in the here and now. When we practice mindfulness, we intentionally invite ourselves to disconnect from the past, release the anxiety of the unknown future and bring ourselves into this present moment with attention and awareness.
Let us pause here for a moment and be still in the present. Give yourself permission to open yourself to experience the here and now. Take a deep breath, hold it for 3 seconds, and then slowly exhale through your mouth. Repeat this a few times … inhale through your nose, hold it for a moment, and then exhale through your mouth. Try this again, with your eyes closed.
Notice how, in just a few short moments, focusing on your breath intentionally, you were able to make use of your breath to focus on the present. In doing so, you allowed yourself to just be. Mindfulness is the “pause” or “reset” button we initiate by using our breath to anchor us in the present moment.
From the time we wake up in the morning and begin our day, to the time we are ready for bed, most of the time in between is spent engaging in some kind of routine, or a “rat race” so to speak. The brain takes the path of least resistance and can become hard-wired to function in set patterns with set agendas for how our days should unfold. With our preset agenda, we can find ourselves functioning on autopilot. We try to control events and experiences in our life, so as to ensure that we do not deviate from the preset agenda. We have a certain time to drop the kids off at school, a set time to arrive at work, a set time to complete our meetings and the transitions between each event can be controlled to ensure everything happens the way it has been planned. In reality, life rarely flows as planned. We can get caught off guard at any moment, suddenly, and without warning, we can find ourselves no longer in control.
Imagine going on a trip and heading to the airport. If we encounter unexpected traffic on the way, this may cause a delay for our anticipated arrival to check-in for our flight. How do we begin to feel? Most likely, we begin to feel anxious. Our minds begin to create a narrative in our head about the worst-case scenario. “If we reach the airport late, we will check in late, which means we will be stuck in a long line for security, which will cause us to miss our boarding time and then we will miss our flight!” We begin to experience the stress and anxiety of this narrative in our bodies. Physiologically we begin to notice sensations in our body. Our heartbeat increases, we experience “butterflies” in our stomach, our body temperature starts to increase, and our palms may get sweaty.
By allowing the narrative to build up in our minds, we empower our minds to create the worst-case scenario, and then we begin acting and reacting as if the situation has already happened. We then become hypersensitive to the most trivial situations that may occur such as criticizing someone’s way of driving or their speed, just because we are already irritated with the situation. We may start speeding ourselves and begin to drive recklessly. Our mind at this point is already in reactive mode.
Mindfulness teaches us to be in the present moment without judgment. It teaches us to train our brain to snap out of the autopilot mode, which results in a reactionary behavior. When we are triggered by external stimuli, for example, the traffic on the road, an annoying boss, a nagging spouse, a child who will not listen, we scream, we shout, we argue, we snap, we become impatient … we simply switch into autopilot mode and react! Mindfulness teaches us to notice common triggers in our daily life and shift from reactionary behaviors to responsive behaviors. We learn to retrain our brain so that we identify the presence of the trigger, and disengage our brain from functioning in a reactive manner. We become more intentional and purposeful in wanting to make this shift so we can approach situation(s), in a more calm and effective way!
Mindfulness helps us improve our attention, concentration and focus in our present moment. When we are able to pay attention, concentrate and focus better, we are able to improve our memory and absorb and retain information more effectively. Mindfulness is an ongoing practice that takes time to improve upon. However, with consistent practice, the benefits become very apparent in a short period of time. Join us at Lifeologie Counseling Oak Cliff to book your own private individual, couple or group session(s). Let your mindfulness journey begin!