When we talk about emotions, stress, anxiety, and all those different kinds of topics, one of the things that you hear from people is to be more mindful. The suggestion may be to put mindfulness into your day, or to have a mindfulness practice…but do you really know what that looks or feels like? Is that something actionable you can use?
For me, it gives the vision of meditation, and the idea that we’re going to sit on a cushion and clear our heads for 20, minutes or a half hour or something like that. But if you’re anything like me and you have the type of brain that thrives on action, activity, and energy this concept of being mindful doesn’t seem like a possibility. It just seems like it would be painful to completely just sit still for 30 minutes.
The truth is I’ve done it before, in fact I’ve had a full meditation practice where I got up every morning and meditated. The problem is, I always felt like I was doing it wrong! I could never keep my thoughts on the right track. Sometimes I even fell asleep! Being an action oriented person, and a person who really thrives on momentum and energy, it didn’t work for me to settle down too much or to stop doing anything. And even when I sit back and think about the self-care that I do, and the way that I relax, I relax with activity…I go for a walk, I read a book, I take a bath, I dance, whatever the case may be, it still involves energy. My relaxation involves a different type of energy that’s more supportive to the emotions and the mindset that I have in the moment, instead of, trying to completely calm my brain, which is kind of impossible. It’s almost like I have to distract my brain into relaxation, or I have to manage it differently.
All of that aside, I have found ways to add mindfulness into my life without having to sit still for 20 or 30 minutes every day. Instead, I focus on being mindful of certain moments, and to take a pause at different moments to clear my head and to be connected to what’s happening around me. I don’t believe mindfulness ever intended that we have to be completely clear and completely blank. What it means is we need to be connected to, and mindful of, what we’re doing.
I was sitting having dinner out the other night, and my husband and I were having a great conversation and we were talking about our businesses and how we were going to grow. I started to feel like, “okay this is what I gotta do,” and I started ramping up my energy level and making a to do list. Then I remembered that this was date night. I don’t want to get ramped up and start creating my to do list on date night. I need to be in this moment…absorb that information, save it for later, but be in this moment to continue the good conversation, brainstorming and connection that we were having.
As is normal for our date night, the waiter brought over a bottle of wine. When he poured my glass, I took a minute and I looked at it, I swirled it in the glass, I sniffed it, you know, all those things that you do when you get a new glass of wine. I savored that moment and that experience of a new glass of wine like I really enjoy doing. After I did, while the waiter was pouring the wine, I felt refreshed…lighter…like I had taken a break or taken a moment for myself.
I’m not just picking this up and drinking it and moving on. I’m taking a break. I’m enjoying this moment. I’m going to think about what does that smell like, I’m going to look at it and see how deep the red is or how it sticks to the glass, and I’m going to taste it, a little bit at a time, and I’m going to think about what it tastes like.
And in that moment…it’s just an instant…but in that moment, I disconnected from the other things, I took a pause, and I was mindful of that glass of wine, how it tasted to me, what it looked like to me, and what it smelled like to me. I think those kind of moments are mindfulness. If we can remember to take them when we’re feeling stressed out or anxious, how would that improve our mindset in that moment? Or, if we just do it naturally, if we say every glass of wine I’m going to take that moment…or every cup of coffee, or every bite of a cookie, or every red stoplight when you’re driving. Just take time to soak in the moment, look around, see where you are, and think about what does it feels like to be here. Notice what’s different than yesterday, what’s the same as yesterday?
Instead of trying to institute a process, like a mindfulness or meditation practice, that seems overwhelming and burdensome, what can you do take advantage of little moments in your day and dedicate those moments to mindfulness? Anything you can do to be more aware of where you are in that moment, and more connected to that moment, really becomes a good way to integrate mindfulness, into your everyday.