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.
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:
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:
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.
Tracey Dahl, MA, RCC
Director of Canvas Counselling