Perhaps you are wondering what mindfulness is or do you even have time for it? Yes, you do. In this post I’m going to outline why we need mindfulness, easy ways to get in mindfulness, and ways to continue to stay in the moment.
Being an adult is a life full of “Shoulds,” such as I should be happy, I should eat, I shouldn’t have done that. Rarely do we get to live that life in the present, through mindfulness.
One of my favorite quotes:
“If you are depressed you are living in the past.
If you are anxious you are living in the future.
If you are at peace you are living in the present.”
― Lao Tzu
What Is Mindfulness? Does It Help With Anxiety, Depression, Etc.?
Mindfulness is a way of achieving that living in the present. Mindfulness can help us to regulate our emotions, learn to not judge ourselves or others, and decrease our stress and anxiety. It also helps our sleep, health, and relationships. Mindfulness is a powerful item that can help with many mental challenges.
Mindfulness is about cultivating awareness, paying attention to what is happening in the present moment, and having a non-judgmental attitude.
What Is The Science Behind Mindfulness?
For the past two decades or more, scientists have studied mindfulness.
What they have found is:
-Mindfulness reduces mind-wandering and helps us to solve our own problems
-Improved attention up to 5 years after mindfulness training
-Consistent meditation increases resilience to stress
-Increases our compassion
In your brain, you have an amygdala which acts as an alarm center. This activates we we are faced with extreme stress or a dangerous situation. It can sometimes become overactive based on what has happened to us in life, if we aren’t meeting our body’s needs, or if we are in a prolonged period of stress. The amygdala helps us choose a response to situations, such as fight, flight, or freeze.
We also have a prefrontal cortex which is our thinking area of the brain. It can only function if the amygdala is online and not currently experiencing a threat. When it gets overwhelmed, the amygdala steps in with its three responses of fight, flight, or freeze.
Mindfulness helps calm the alarm system in our mind (the amygdala) and help it and our thinking brain (prefrontal cortex) to work in tandem. Thus, not every situation becomes a big deal, most are able to be handled efficiently and without an overreaction.
How Long Until I See Results From Mindfulness?
Mindfulness doesn’t have to be an all-consuming way of life. Researchers have found it takes just 10-15 minutes a day. Little snippets of mindfulness in other parts of our day are also helpful. Some benefits can be felt immediately that day, some after a week of practicing, some longer.
How Can I Live A More Mindful Life?
1: Mindful eating. When you are beginning to eat, try to slow it down and enjoy your food, versus just rotely eating. Really taste each bite, chew your food, and smell it. Make eating an experience again, versus just another busy task. A great way to practice this is to get a piece of chocolate and go on YouTube for a Mindful Eating video. There they can walk you through how to mindfully eat.
2: Mindful walking. Mindful walking can be done during office breaks, walks around the house, or when walking your dog. During mindful walking,you can focus on either:
- what’s around you--the five senses of touch, taste, smell, hear, and see
-Or your body as it walks, noticing how your feet hit the pavement, how your legs feel, or even your arms as you swing them.
3: Try yoga. Yoga classes are free on Youtube--I love Yoga with Adriene. She has short 20 minute videos for various feelings you may have, such as forgiveness, self-doubt, etc. She also has a 30 days of yoga series that is great for getting into a practice.
4: Have a mantra. Start your day with a positive mantra, such as “the universe is for me,” or “Everything is as it should be.” You can even carry a touchstone such as keys or a rock that reminds you whenever you touch it.
5: Self-affirmations. Practice affirming to yourself whatever it is you need, or turn on YouTube for self-affirmations. These can be done in the mirror while doing makeup, in the car on the way to work, or even in the shower.
6: Be mindful of phone use and try to limit it when needed so you can truly engage in the moment. This could be deleting social media apps off your phone for a day, getting rid of email alerts, or putting your phone on silent. Enjoying the moment and the time you have to be present.
How Do I know If Mindfulness Is Working?
You may notice mindfulness is working if you….
-Are lost in your thoughts less
-Feel more capable and confident to handle the day
-Find yourself overreacting a lot less
-Don’t feel as stressed or overwhelmed
-If you are more compassionate towards others and yourself
If you are looking to learn more about mindfulness, Mary Willoughby Romm is a licensed professional counselor in the state of Virginia who provides online therapy for Willow Tree Healing Center. She enjoys transforming the lives of women, college students, kids, tweens/teens, and families through providing communication strategies, coping skills that work, allowing a safe space to be heard, and actively working towards helping you with your challenges. She is certified in Parent-Child Interaction Therapy (ages 2-7) and Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, counsels substance abuse in teens and adults, and practices Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing (EMDR) Therapy.