Mindfulness - Living in the Moment
Ahh, it is summer! Smell the fresh air! Hear the birds sing! Stop and smell the roses. Doing these things helps a person be mindful. But what does it mean to be mindful? Being mindful means to live in the present moment, to enjoy what is happening now, and not worrying about what happened yesterday or everything that needs to be done tomorrow (Psychology Today, 2017).
Mindfulness can provide many health benefits including reducing stress and anxiety levels, and we know that graduate school can be stressful. Since stress is often due to things that happened previously or people worrying about what may happen, mindfulness has been effective in lowering stress levels. It has also been beneficial in reducing pain in cancer patients, decreasing symptoms of depression and irritable bowel syndrome, and insomnia. Studies have also shown that mindfulness can help with learning and memory, perception, and regulating emotions (Greenberg, 2017).
Areas of Mindfulness
There are many areas of mindfulness including eating, breathing, exercising, listening, controlling emotions, and controlling finances. Below are some tips to improve mindfulness in each area.
Mindful eating. Mindful eating is more about being aware of what you are eating. It also includes planning ahead, preparing meals, and consuming appropriate amounts of food. It can be easy to sit down and eat an entire carton of ice cream if you’re not thinking about your actions. Mindful eating means being aware of the why, what, where, when, and how much (The Center for Mindful Eating, 2017).
Mindful breathing. Mindful breathing is an essential skill that can be learned to cope with stress, anxiety, and other negative emotions. It can also be used to calm a person after an emotional situation and to increase concentration and focus.
Try this mindful breathing exercise during stressful situations:
- Take 1 exaggerated breath: a deep inhale through your nostrils (3 seconds)
- Hold your breath (2 seconds)
- Exhale through pursed lips like you are blowing out a candle (4 seconds)
In other situations: Just observe each breath (no need to adjust it). Focus on: rise and fall of your chest or the sensation through your nostrils (The Greater Good Science Center at the University of California, Berkeley, 2017).
Mindful exercise. Mindful movement is a physical activity that is performed with inward focus. While walking, observe, listen, sense, feel, smell, appreciate, and admire your surroundings. These options named above integrate important elements, such as breath control, imagery, affirmation, and meditation to help calm the body and mind to enhance well-being. If possible, try combining walking and exercise with mother nature to increase your moment-to-moment awareness, joy, and gratitude. Your emotional state will be grateful also.
Mindful listening. Mindful listening entails focusing on the sounds in the environment, or listening to others and giving a person full attention during a conversation. To practice mindful listening, sit quietly and try to absorb the sounds around you (Greenberg, 2017).
Mindfulness Emotional Regulation. Emotional Intelligence (EI) is critical and includes self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, and relationship management. Enhanced emotional mindfulness can minimize emotional reactivity, enhance cognitive focus, and enhance social relationships (Davis & Hayes, 2012). Emotional intelligence can affect performance at school or work, physical and mental health, and relationships at work and in your personal life.
Questions to ask yourself: How am I feeling right now? What am I thinking right now? Can I stay in this moment right now? Can I breathe with what is happening right now? It is crucial to allow your emotions to be present without judging them. Then, let them go!
Mindful spending. This mindful practice may be the most difficult. Mindful spending is thinking about your purchases and considering the impact of what you spend. Is it worth spending $4,000 on new furniture if it is going to take you 8 months to pay it off or spend less and pay it off sooner? The next time you are making a big purchase, do the following:
- Pause and take a moment to think about this purchase
- Take 3 deep breaths
- How will this purchase affect your life?
- Can you afford it? Can you live without it?
- Can you make a similar purchase that may be cheaper?
- Can you split the cost with someone?
- After considering these options, is this still a smart purchase?
- Learn from this experience (Mindful Spending, 2017)
Practices for being more mindful
Mindfulness takes practice. It trains the brain to be more focused and efficient. Practicing mindfulness allows you to work on becoming your best self and decrease stress (Tartakovsky, 2012).
Ways to practice mindfulness:
- Practice during routine activities
- Practice first thing in the morning
- Allow your mind to wander but practice bringing it back to the present moment
- Practice short sessions
- Practice while you wait
Take-Aways for Increasing Your Mindfulness
Mindfulness entails creating a focus on the here and now. It is about enjoying the present moment instead of looking toward the next event. To practice mindfulness, start small and try short sessions first thing in the morning. Set goals for yourself and evaluate your progress. Consider giving yourself a reward to help you meet your mindfulness goals and finally, be grateful about the present moment!
Written by Dr. Christine McMahon, University of the Rockies Adjunct Faculty, and Sandra Rebeor, MSHS
Greenberg, J.(2017). Comprehensive stress management (17th ed.). New York, NY: McGraw Hill.
Mindful Spending. (2017). Retrieved from http://www.simplemindfulness.com/mindful-spending-the-happy-way-to-financial-freedom/
Psychology Today. (2017). Mindfulness. Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/basics/mindfulness
Tartakovsky, M. (2012). 7 Easy ways to be mindful every day. Psych Central. Retrieved from https://psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2012/06/09/7-easy-ways-to-be-mindful-every-day/
The Center for Mindful Eating (2017). The principles of mindful eating. Retrieved from https://www.thecenterformindfuleating.org/Principles-Mindful-Eating
The Greater Good Science Center at the University of California, Berkeley (2017). Mindful breathing. Retrieved from http://ggia.berkeley.edu/practice/mindful_breathing#data-tab-why_you_should_try_it
Bing. (n.d.a). Mindfulness. Retrieved from https://www.bing.com/images/search?view=detailV2&ccid=%2fxqet3O4&id=AB932E386C337276C81DE598FBA7585A380B92B3&thid=OIP._xqet3O4Q1_LJnJcd_v5sQHaDL&mediaurl=http%3a%2f%2flearn
Bing. (n.d.b). 7 things mindful people do differently. Retrieved from https://www.bing.com/images/search?view=detailV2&ccid=637CkMSq&id=0BD4B10023D3A1BF57F135DF0666C1B361E90AD4&thid=OIP.637CkMSqe-VaOfhLaftZKAHaKu&mediaurl=http%3a%2f%2fwww.mindful.org%2fwp-content%2fuploads%2f2014%2f05%2f7-Things-Mindful-People-Do-REV.png&exph=2173&expw=1500&q=Mindfulness&simid=608023124606912757&selectedIndex=8&ajaxhist=0