Work, school, texts, calls, emails, bills, dishes, laundry, Instagram, Facebook, movies, video games, plans for tomorrow, plans for next week… sound familiar? These are just a few of the things that you may think about on a daily basis (usually all at one time) without even realizing it. Our minds are constantly running on overdrive thinking about the past and the future, and in consequence our present emotions and thoughts get overlooked. How can our brains and thought processes possibly be healthy if we are constantly ignoring our present situation? Mindfulness is a technique that can be used to help with this issue! If you want learn to live in the present, read on! We made a list of 5 steps to practicing mindfulness.
Although you do it every few seconds, you probably have gone a whole day without realizing you took one breath. The key to mindfulness is to be aware of your body and live in the present moment. Take a few minutes each day to sit up straight in a comfortable chair and really focus on your breathing. Don’t try to change your breath, just take notice of the way your body breathes when you aren’t paying attention. Put your hand on your stomach and feel the way your body moves with each breath. It may seem silly at first, but this is a great first step to being mindful and living in the present moment. It's also a great way to ground yourself when feeling overwhelmed.
It's time to take what you practiced with your breathing and try to do the same with your thought process. The first few times you do this it may seem completely unsuccessful, and that is okay! Know that just practicing this is a success in itself. Sit in silence and let yourself live in the present moment for 5-10 minutes at first. During this time, you’re bound to have many thoughts coming in and out of your head. Your goal here isn’t to clear you mind, it’s to be aware of your thoughts. Have the thought come in, notice it's there, and then let it go. The key here is to not dwell upon your thoughts, as this may cause a spiral into memories or more thoughts. If by chance you get stuck in a spiral, just bring your mind back to the present moment. You may hear noises from outside, notice clutter in your room, or even hear thoughts about how awkward you feel sitting in silence for 10 minutes. This is all great. Notice your thoughts and keep doing this everyday. You’ll be surprised how you notice certain thought trends and how this process gets easier over time.
Try practicing mindfulness while eating your dinner. Take smaller bites and really chew your food slowly. Feel the textures in your mouth and feel how the tastes change with what items of food you had gotten on the fork with each bite. We are so used to eating food mindlessly that once you start eating mindfully you’ll realize how much of the moment you were truly missing! Eating mindfully also gives you more time at the table, and can make the present moment more meaningful, especially if you share dinner time with others in your house. Mindfulness is all about living in the present moment, so enjoy those you get to spend time with and don’t rush through each meal.
Practice mindfulness while doing the things that normally seem like a burden. Whether it’s doing the dishes, folding laundry, or scrubbing the floors, take one step at a time and do things living in the moment. Rather than scrubbing the dishes while thinking about the phone call you have to make in ten minutes, live in the moment and be thankful to have dishes to scrub. Let your mind live in the present and focus on one dish at a time until the dishes are clean. You’ll be surprised how good it feels to do a completely thorough job and to have actually remembered doing it! Most of the time our anxiety takes away from us even remembering the present moment.
5. Practice, Practice, and Practice
Mindfulness, like anything else that is beneficial, takes practice. Once you start noticing how much of your day is spent mindlessly, you'll want to focus on bringing your mind back to the present moment. Take time each morning and night to practice mindfulness, and when you are walking to class or work be mindful of each step you are taking. There are ways to live each moment of our day being mindful and striving to live in the present moment is what's important. The more you practice the more you'll see your mood become more calm and your days become a bit lighter and brighter.