4 Ways To Be Mindful

Mindfulness Matters

Mindfulness is being present in each moment. The practice of mindfulness involves accepting our thoughts and feelings without judging them—without believing there might be a “right” or a “wrong” way to think or feel at any given moment. When beginning a conversation about the benefits of mindfulness, I often start with this: “Have you ever been driving down a fairly familiar road and you come to the stop sign and, suddenly think…”I have no memory of the last few minutes of driving.” That sense that I was on autopilot and some part of my brain was active, but the “in the moment” part of my brain was hijacked somewhere else. My mind was elsewhere while my body was functioning.

Mindfulness matters when I am playing with my kids, but my mind is floating around in the future worries of getting dinner ready or managing the new computer system at work. Suddenly your four year old is frustrated calling out, “daddy…daddy…DADDY, listen to me!”

Mindfulness matters sitting across the table from your wife and while your mind floats away, you are suddenly  jolted back to the present moment with her comment: “Hello??? Are you listening to me?”

These are the examples when we might wish we had practiced mindfulness because when our minds take flight, we can quickly become lost in obsessive, worry thoughts. These thoughts can take us out of relationship with our loved ones.  Feeding on worry about the future or ruminating or regretting the past leaves us vulnerable to symptoms of anxiety.

Becoming Mindful

I like this definition of mindfulness: Mindfulness is the basic human ability to be fully present, aware of where we are and what we’re doing, and not overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around us.

Four Ways to Become More Mindful:

  1. Take a mindful walk or hike. Engage your senses. Stop, look and see what is around you. Bring to your attention the textures, colours and notice the changes in the landscape. Engage your sense of smell, finding fragrance, naming it, drawing it in to fill your lungs. Touch the earth, or the foliage paying attention to texture. Spending time in nature has healing and restorative power. Being outdoors increases well-being, helps alleviate stress and anxiety, promotes creativity, assists with recovery from mental fatigue, helps restore attention, boosts the brain’s ability to think, and engages the senses (https://www.mindful.org/take-a-mindful-hike/)
  2. Try a beginners body scan meditation. Take 6-8 mins during the day to listen to an online body scan meditation. These focus or anchor on the breath and then noticing pressure points or areas in the body that feel tense. You can do this body scan lying down or sit with your legs uncrossed and feet flat on the floor with your eyes closed or gaze softened.  The main point is being curious and open to what you are noticing, investigating the sensations as fully as possible, and then intentionally releasing the focus of attention before shifting to the next area to explore (https://www.mindful.org/beginners-body-scan-meditation/). When you mind wanders, which it will, gently bring your attention back to your body scan.
  3. Stay with it. Sometimes we cannot get away from things that are difficult or painful. Notice awkward or difficult feelings or sensations and build a tolerance for staying with them a little bit longer. Treat yourself with compassion and kindness. When we contact pain, we are not moving away from mindfulness, but, often becoming more open to what “exists” at this very moment.
  4. Eat mindfully. Linger over a meal. Engage all the senses while tasting, touching, seeing and smelling noticing texture, taste, and aroma.

Mindfulness Benefits

Elaine Smookler is a mindful practitioner for over 20 years and is on the faculty at The Centre for Mindfulness Studies in Toronto. She is a Registered Psychotherapist and teaches mindfulness to corporate clients through eMindful. She writes that regularly practicing the body scan can help you:

  1. Enhance your ability to bring your full attention to real-time experiences happening in the present moment—helpful when emotions or thoughts feel wild.
  2. Train to explore and be with pleasant and unpleasant sensations, learning to notice what happens when we simply hang in there and feel what’s going on in “body-land” without trying to fix or change anything.

There is evidence that mindfulness helps develop effective emotion regulation in the brain, reduces stress and positively impact sleep and fatigue.

Many resources to build mindfulness into daily life can be found online, along with apps like Calm, or Breethe, two of my personal favourites.

Living mindfully,

Tracey Dahl, MA, RCC
Director of Canvas Counselling

Tracey Dahl
Tracey Dahl
Registered clinical counsellor (RCC)