Mindfulness Mondays, 1: A Season for Presence

Being more present in the new year is a common new year’s resolution. We hear it all the time, but what does it mean? And how do we do it? What benefits accompany the development of this skill?

 

What’s the big deal about being present?

 

This post introduces the series “Mindfulness Mondays,” where we will take a look at some practical ideas for accomplishing the goal of being more present. Mindfulness offers benefits in nearly every area of life and health. It has been a source of many scientific studies in the last 10 years. These studies have revealed that mindfulness aids in improving the immune system, reducing pain associated with chronic illnesses, coping with anxiety and depression, and recovering from addiction. In daily life, it has been demonstrated to aid in promoting positive emotions, increasing inner peace, and deepening relationships and intimacy. These studies have demonstrated that there are many benefits to follow the development of this skill.

 

Additionally, one study showed that 95 percent of what participants were anxious about did not exist in the present moment. That’s huge – nearly all of what makes us anxious lives in the past or in the future. Think about the last thing you were anxious about. Did it sound like this? “I shouldn’t have done that…” “They thought I was stupid when I said that…” (things that exist in the past) or “What if I always…” “What if I never…” “What if xyz happens…” (things that exist in the future). Herein lies the effectiveness of mindfulness - if we can gently and without judgement (through practice) redirect our thoughts to the present moment, we can significantly reduce our anxiety and disconnection. 

 

But with a topic so big, it can be hard to know where to start.

 

Here’s a great place to start: Learn to utilize your senses to connect with the present moment. Connecting more fully with the senses is a way to become grounded to the present moment. Here’s an example of the sort of mindfulness script you can utilize to connect with your senses:

 

Close your eyes and get into a comfortable position. Allowing your body to sink deeply into the chair and into the floor below the chair. Take notice of your breathing, without changing it, simply noticing it as it comes into your body, how it changes your body, and then is released from your body.

Now bring your awareness fully to your sense of smell. Try to smell things that you would not have otherwise noticed – may be the smell of room or your own lotion or perfume – bring you awareness fully to your sense of smell.

Now take some time to consider your favorite scent. Maybe it’s a favorite food, or candle or a scent that reminds you of coming home. Imagine in so fully it’s as if you can smell it here in this room. Take some time to consider your favorite scent and you do so imagine filling your whole body with the pleasure you get from this favorite scent – breathing it in completely.  

As you do this practice being fully accepting of yourself and practicing self-compassion for the unique person that you are…. For what makes you, you. 

Now bring you awareness fully to your sense of hearing. Try to hear things that you would not have otherwise noticed – it may be the sound of my voice, the air conditioner in the room – your own heart beat – take some time to be fully aware of your hearing and allow that sense to bring you fully present in the room – if your mind begins to wonder, tell it’s that’s okay, I’ll come to it, right now I’m allowing myself to be fully present in the moment.

Now take some to consider your favorite sound. Maybe it’s a favorite instrument or the sound a loved one’s laughter.  Thinking about your favorite sound so fully that it’s as if you can hear it right now in this room.  Breathing it in completely and notice the experience of pleasure, comfort, or peace that it provides for you.

As you do this practice being fully accepting of yourself and practicing self-compassion for the unique person that you are…. For what makes you, you.

Now bring you awareness fully to your sense of touch. Bring your awareness fully to your sense of touch, in this room, in this moment. Notice your back against the chair. Your feet in your shoes. Your shoes against the ground. Notice your hand holding your own hand.

Now take some to consider your favorite touch. Maybe it’s a favorite blanket. Or the sun on your skin. Your feet in the puddles. A warm shower. As you call to mind your favorite touch, practice being fully accepting of yourself and practicing self-compassion for the unique person that you are…. For what makes you, you. 

With one big mindful breath in, return to the room.

Becoming more intune with the present moment improves relationship connection. Have you ever walked away from a conversation with a friend and wondered what you just talked about? Your mind was in the past or in the future – and missed the conversation taking place in the present. Cognitively being more fully in the moment with another person deepens that connection - and connection with other people is one of the things in life that brings about the most coveted and meaningful emotional experiences.

 

Use your senses this week to bring you more fully into the present moment. Return to the blog next Monday to see how this skill can be used to build acceptance, openness, and self-compassion.

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