Mindfulness is something I talk about with almost every client that I meet with. The importance of taking moments to stop, breathe and be more aware and mindful of the moment can be helpful in reducing symptoms of a wide spectrum mental health concerns including (But not limited to) stress, anxiety and depression.
Mindfulness is the quality or state of being conscious or aware of something. Mindfulness in the context of mental health can be a type of meditation in which you focus on being intensely aware of what you're sensing and feeling in the moment, without interpretation or judgement. Practicing mindfulness involves breathing methods, guided imagery, and other practices to relax the body and mind. These exercises are ways of paying attention to the present moment.
So, you don’t have to tell me the benefits of including a mindfulness regimen in our daily routines. Who among us lives a completely stress free life and wouldn’t benefit from a practice that reduces stress?! However, recently I realized that I personally was not following my own advice of incorporating mindfulness in my day to day. Life gets busy, and then busier, and I wasn’t leaving myself any time to stop and breath with purpose. For months!
I didn’t realize how much stress was weighing me down until the day the garage door opener in my car stopped working. I would have to back the car out of the driveway, get out of the car, and push the button on the wall of my house until the garage door was all the way down and secured. A process that took at most 90 seconds but felt like an unbearable inconvenience every time it happened.
And then one day as I was waiting for the door to drop I had the idea to take a few deep, mindful breaths in that 90 seconds. Wow! A rush of peacefulness fell over me. I closed my eyes, took another deep breath in, and listened to my surroundings. I exhaled and felt more in the moment than I had in a long time. It was as if a weight was lifted from me. A more peaceful version of myself got in the car that morning and went on with my day.
I continued this mindful breathing routine each time I closed the garage door. While there are more ideal settings to practice mindfulness sometimes finding the time or energy to schedule it is impossible. What I had done was create a small routine (that I was able to remember to do!), in a tiny opening I had each day, for centering myself.
Eventually we got the garage door opener fixed and my daily meditation at the wall came to an end. But just starting up mindfulness again, and being reminded of how good it feels to take some time to yourself, motivated me to find another, real-life workable routine for mindfulness in my day. It happens each morning with my cup of coffee before anyone else in my house is awake. I start with deep, mindful breaths and then I do an exercise in gratefulness by listing my blessings each morning. If I’m really feeling motivated I’ll sit with my eyes close and am just present in the moment and where I am. What I hear, what I feel, what I smell. It’s amazing how focusing on the right now can take you far away from daily worries and the list of stressors we create for ourselves each day.
Sure, maybe when the kids are older, I have more time, the Bills win a super bowl, I’ll have a better, more intentioned routine- but for now I’ll find the moments available to me to practice mindfulness.