Is this what you think of when someone suggests mindfulness? A mind that is FULL of thoughts?
Mindfulness is a practice of becoming aware of our thoughts, feelings, and body sensations in the present moment. It is a way to be intentional with our focus and to be in tune with our inner experience. It can help us to observe our thoughts and emotions without judgment and to be more connected to ourselves and our environment. Practicing mindfulness can help us to feel regulated, more centered, and less reactive to stressors.
If we know mindfulness is beneficial, then why doesn't everyone do it? Because it's hard. The good news is, there are a few pretty basic ways to add mindfulness into your daily life.
Begin your mindfulness practice by noticing things that are outside of your body. Take a look around the room that you are in. Focus on the things that you see, and choose one item to really zone in on.
What colour is it?
Does it have texture?
What does it feel like?
Is it warm or cold?
Is it moving or still?
This quick exercise is one way to be more present, or mindful. Observe without judgement, without making a list, and without stopping to tidy something up.
Another great place to practice mindfulness outside of your body is in nature. The next time you head outside, take a quick pause and notice what is all around you. Maybe you see a squirrel scurrying up a tree, frost on your windshield, or a plastic bag fluttering in the fence. Take a couple of seconds to breathe deeply and notice any smells or scents.
Next, try noticing signals that come from your body. Noticing in can be challenging, triggering unsafe feeling for a dysregulated person; start with things you can see or measure. Using a mirror is a helpful tool, since we often do not notice things in our own bodies. Pull out the mirror or an iPad with the camera on and take a look.
Another tip for introducing mindfulness - focus on one body part at a time. Do you have a 'tell' that lets others know that you are becoming dysregulated? Do your hands start to fidget when you are feeling anxious, or do they flap when you are feeling excited? Maybe you hold tension within your shoulders and they rise up towards your ears when you are feeling overwhelmed. Throughout the day, tune in to what this body part is doing.
The last step for mindfulness is noticing signals that come from inside of our bodies. These can be most challenging because we can't see what they are doing.
Try to tune into your heart rate today; is it beating fast, slow, or feeling just right? With mindfulness, there's no need to adjust what you're doing - simply acknowledge what is going on inside your body.
The stomach is another body part that often gives us information about how we might be feeling. It can let us know when we are hungry, full, ill, or anxious. The tricky part is knowing which cue it is giving us!
Tuning into your body but having a hard time describing what you feel? You're not alone. Building language around what your body is feeling can be fun. Ask questions while playing with your kids. Are your hands:
wet or dry;
rough or smooth;
tight or loose?
Create opportunities during everyday activities, such as washing hands or preparing foods. Before you know it, you'll be a body cue pro! Use play to build language around what your body feels like.
Mindfulness and interoception can be a part of daily living - and it can be fun!