Mindfulness is a popular buzz word circulating the internet these days as the “it” treatment for society’s stress epidemic. But, what exactly does it mean, and how does it help us? Mindfulness is directed, focused attention to the present moment. Right here. Right now. It is being fully aware of, and an active participant in, our experiences. It is giving ourselves permission to feel all of our emotions without judgement. It is not dwelling on the past, which is exactly that, past. It is not worrying about the future, which is merely hypothetical and completely out of our control. You’ve probably heard the saying “Be Here Now”. This is mindfulness.
Mindfulness is not rocket science, quite the opposite; however, it can feel just as difficult in the beginning. All day everyday, we are constantly bombarded with stimuli, whether from our electronic devices, shopping venues, traffic, etc. At each moment of the day, there are likely a dozen or more situations vying for our attention all at once. It’s no wonder our brains are going in one hundred different directions! Mindfulness is giving yourself the time to process your thoughts, feelings and emotions. It is giving yourself time to respond instead of react. Sounds easy, but where do we begin? With a G.O.A.L: Get ready, Observe, Acknowledge, and Let Go.
- Getting ready-Mindfulness is a conscious direction of our awareness. We have to be ready and willing to retrain our brains, to shift out of autopilot and actively participate.
- Observe– We need to step back and observe the situation, including our thoughts and feelings about it, without judgement or preconceived notions of how things ought to be. Think out-of-body experience!
- Acknowledge– This is a big one! Instead of running from our emotions, trying to bury them, or even indulging them, we simply acknowledge them. So often, we pretend that a situation doesn’t bother us and try to repress our feelings about it. This only gives them more power and control over us. By bringing them to the surface, we give them validity so that we can move on to step 4…letting go!
- Let Go– I’m not really sure how this works, but it does! For example, I have found it nearly impossible to hold on to anger once I have given it a place at the table. I think of it kind of like a bottle of carbonated beverage. The carbonation remains as long as the cap is screwed on tight, but once you open it and let the bubbles come to the surface, they dissipate and eventually disappear.
Mindfulness is a muscle that takes practice to strengthen. With discipline, it gets easier and easier and eventually becomes second nature as you rewire your brain’s pathways. The key is to cut yourself some slack along the way. If your having trouble at first, don’t berate yourself for being “bad” at mindfulness. Instead, acknowledge the feelings, gently redirect yourself back to the present moment and keep going. Get a true buzz from all the buzz….ya, I really went there!