By Crystal Clarke, MSW, RSW, coauthor The Anxiety Workbook for Kids
When I talk about mindfulness with people who are not familiar with it, I get a lot of these kinds of responses:
“Does that mean I would have to sit on a cushion and meditate every day?”
“How is sitting and meditating going to help?”
“I don’t know if my family has time for mindfulness.”
But what does being more mindful involve? Mindful moments can happen every day, in any place, at any time. Being mindful simply involves purposefully noticing one’s experience of themselves and their environment, in a particular moment. It means noticing one’s own body and senses, one’s thoughts and feelings, and one’s environment around them, without judging any of these things as bad or good. It is fully being present, and noticing one’s experience of the moment.
Many people think of mindful moments can only happen at home—people tend to associate mindfulness with being in a quiet, private environment. Of course, when one is able to set aside time for regular mindfulness meditation, it can help to choose a relaxing environment.
However, mindful moments do not need to happen at home, or in private. In fact, I would recommend taking mindful moments throughout your day—whether you might be a parent, a student, a teacher, or a therapist yourself. Too often, we rush through our day. We may go on what we call “auto-pilot,” getting through the tasks of our day without experiencing many of them. Instead, I would suggest purposefully noticing your experiences, such as walking or driving to work/school.
Mindfulness on the Way to Work
Examine what’s in your field of vision. Take a deep breath in and smell/taste the air around you, listen to the sounds that all too often seem to be nothing but white noise. Feel the ground under your feet or the bumps in the road. Notice the emotions stirring within you, without pushing them away.
Mindful Moments While Eating
While eating meals, instead of rushing to get to the next task or multitasking while we eat, take a moment to fully experience the meal. We can do this with our children at home, or in groups or school settings. To practice eating mindfully, choose a food item (raisins or other textured foods can be good to start with), and first notice how the food looks and smells, before experiencing the texture and taste on your tongue/in your mouth. Pay attention to the associations you might have to that food and/or to your environment while eating it.
Mindful Moments While Interacting with Others
While interacting with others, we can be more mindful too. Too often, we listen to others with the sole purpose of creating our response. Instead, try listening with the purpose of hearing and understanding the other person. Notice the other person’s body language, and your own physical and emotional reactions to what they’re saying or doing. You’ll learn a lot about yourself in relation to others in the process.
By being more mindful in these ways, not only do we strengthen our levels of attention, concentration, and awareness (of ourselves and the world around us), but we also get more in touch with our own thoughts and feelings. We may be more likely to make choices and actions that better reflect (and even strengthen) our own core values and knowledge. By increasing our attentiveness and capacity for reflection, mindfulness can also result in increased empathy, and interpersonal understanding.
The Explosion of Mindfulness
In fact, due to the wide range of potential positive outcomes, mindfulness is becoming more and more popular in workplaces and school environments during breaks or transition times. This sometimes includes a guided meditation or a silent mindful moment, in which each person can be present in their own experience within the group (once most people are comfortable with these mindful moments).
While mindfulness is much more than a method of relaxation, it can contribute to a sense of calm and an enhanced capacity for self-regulation, both of which can contribute to a person’s ability to cope with life’s hurdles. Whether in the home, outside in the community, or in the work/school environment, the time it takes for a few mindful moments each day is outweighed by the potential positive outcomes and reverberating effects.
When and where will you find your next mindful moment?