What’s on Your Mind?
Let’s take a moment to check what’s on your mind. What are you thinking about right now? How about in the hours leading up to reading this article? Have you been thinking about things that have gone well or not so well? Or maybe things that need to be done? Work that needs to be accomplished? How do you feel when your mind continues to ruminate? How long do you usually think about something over and over and over again before realizing you are stuck in a thought loop?
Ruminating on the past and creating contingency plans for the future is normal, but this habit may not be serving you. As a result, you are not being present in the moment, neither with yourself, your family or your friends. Ruminating may leave you feeling overwhelmed or unable to be productive. You may find yourself forgetting what you have already accomplished or what still needs to be done. You may even have trouble falling asleep. We are calling this unhelpful circular thought pattern ‘mind fullness’ – it’s heavy! We need to transform mind fullness to mindfulness instead.
Check into the Present Moment
Mindfulness is basically checking in with yourself. Mindfulness is taking a moment to watch your thoughts and ask your body how it’s feeling right now. These small moments are the first step to being mindful. It’s that easy! Let’s check in. Simply ask yourself what you are thinking and also how you are feeling. Do you feel any tension or pain in the body? How are your energy levels? There. Now you’ve just practiced mindfulness: being present to what’s going on with yourself in this moment with an observer’s perspective.
Smile and be grateful that you just dropped the mind fullness and chose to be mindful for a couple of minutes. You have momentarily felt freedom. You have an innate ability to be mindful and be aware of the present moment whether what’s going on seems good, bad, or neutral. You can check in with yourself without getting caught up in these emotions. In the beginning, this ability lasts only for a moment before you fall back into the default mode of mind fullness. No matter. Every moment you are able to be present is a step in the right direction. See these moments of mindfulness as a spark of freedom. Smile and be grateful for your progress. These actions also give rise to endorphins.
Decide to Take Control
Checking into the present moment is like taking a micro nap. Even if just for a moment, you are allowing yourself to take a break. To see how you feel instead of just feeling. These mindfulness moments allow you to feel at ease. It’s time to take responsibility to invest in feeling unburdened. Make a vow to check in with yourself at regular intervals. Simply ask yourself or be aware about the state of your body and how it feels, but also the state of your mind and what it’s focused on.
Hold Yourself Accountable
In order to be successful, you will need to set up a support system. Realize that being present is a gift you are giving yourself and the ones you love. You can be creative in setting this up. You can set an alarm, automated email or message, hang up a poster or sticky note, or maybe create a screensaver on your computer that reminds you to check in with yourself once per hour. You can set up a mindfulness habit by following the same structure outlined for the gratitude habit, simply switch the routine element to reflect a mindfulness practice instead. If you remind yourself to be mindful instead of mind full, this practice will soon become habit and you can tap into it even while interacting with others and all throughout the day. It will offer you immense freedom.
Make it Concrete
Once you get the swing of it, it’s a matter of making the effort to increase the frequency of your mindfulness habit by making it so continuous that you can use that clarity and peace of mind to inform your best choices of thoughts, speech, and actions at any given moment. Soon mindfulness will include even moments of intense emotion and stress. Each day you will conserve mental energy and begin to live a life more aligned with what you’re experiencing in the present moment instead of pulling from past experience and trying to alter the inevitably unknown future.