The problem with multi-tasking is multi-faceted; we do this with a mindset that juggling so many things at once is going to free us up overall to enjoy family, friends, and life. However, what typically happens is we train our brain and body to be constantly searching for the next thing to do and we forget how to simply BE in those moments with our loved ones. In the end we exasperate the emotional wear and tear, induce a feeling of burnout, increase our frustration levels, wear our bodies down and damage the relationships we value.
Mindfulness is a concept that has been around for over 2000 years, originating in Buddhism but become very mainstream in modern cultures over the last 10 years. It is used interchangeably for many things, but in simplest terms mindfulness is a ‘moment to moment awareness of one’s experience without judgment’. There are many variations of exercises, practices and routines that are promoted to increase our ability to be ever present, focused, and engage fully in the moment with a goal of a host of cognitive, emotional, physical and spiritual benefits.
14 Benefits of Mindfulness
- Reduced rumination
- Stress reduction
- Controls anxiety
- Enhanced self awareness
- Boosts to working memory (and reduce age related memory loss)
- Increased focus
- Decreased emotional reactivity
- More flexibility with thoughts
- Improved relationship satisfaction
- Increase kindness towards self and others
- Increased empathy and understanding
- Decrease addictive behaviors (food, alcohol, drugs)
- Improved immune system functioning
- Increased information processing
There are a plethora of exercises our mindfulness trained therapists in our New Castle, PA office teach our clients on a daily basis. Some are very basic and take only a couple minutes, others more intense and take practice to master but can create a significant reduction in the negative symptoms of stress. Following are a couple of very basic suggestions to start incorporating mindfulness into your daily life before scheduling a counseling appointment. We recommend to spend at least 10 minutes each day engaging in some sort of mindful activity to get any of the benefits mentioned above.
One of the most basic mindful exercises is to take a raisin (or any other small food) and focus all of your thoughts into observing it. Focusing in on just that object for a designated period of time. Move it around in your fingers, notice the feel of it; notice the size, color, texture, firmness, etc. Put it up to your nose, how does it smell? Put it in your mouth and simply let it rest on your tongue. Slow down the eating process. Let it sit on your taste buds. Move it around slowly in your mouth. Purposely drag out the chewing process. Notice the noises involved in chewing. Know your food completely before you swallow. When you do swallow notice the path the food takes down your throat. Take another moment to reflect back on the eating experience. Move on to your next bite. Do this with no phone, music, TV or conversation. Do nothing but being mindful about what you are eating. Take your typical 2 min rush through eating and slow it down to 10-15.
Meditation is the practice of training the mind; much like you would train your body with exercise. This is the incorporation of mindfulness on an in-depth level, typically with thought based exercises. It can be as simple as focusing all of your attention on a burning candle or boiling pot of water and allowing yourself to see and think of nothing else but that object for a period of time. There are many fantastic recordings out there that you can use at home; our favorite is Insight Timer (available free from iTunes), which has over 10,000 meditations to choose from and a search feature that will cut that list down based on time available and topic of interest.
Pick a basic enjoyed task that you can do with minimal effort and put all of your thought and energy into it:
- Mowing/yard work
- Even sitting on the porch
Notice nothing but that activity, focusing on colors, textures, sounds, even feelings inside your body related to it. Doing this gives that part of your brain, the one that is always thinking and stressed out, a break. It allows it to rest and reboot while your attention is elsewhere on something neutral. When you feel things trying to creep back into your active thoughts, just notice them, and gently (non critically) pull your attention back to what you are doing. Afterwards spend a moment reflecting on what you noticed and how it felt to be present in that moment.
This blog is just a snapshot into the world of mindfulness and the physical and emotional benefits that you can gain from this. Check back on the Angelus blog for future articles on specific techniques, audio recordings, worksheets, and instructional videos to practice with at home. In the meantime, for those who would like more support and guidance through the process our therapists are ready and available to help; Carrie is certified in Mindfulness ad Relaxation Interventions as well as a Certified Compassion Fatigue Professional and Michelle does fantastic with therapeutic Yoga and meditation, both therapists focusing on helping you create life balance.