by Erin Oden, ASW, Clinical Director
Coming out of the holiday season, I am filled with joy and hope for the New Year, while also taking some time to reflect on the past 12 months. If you are anything like me, you spent a lot of time at holiday dinners, gift exchanges, and family celebrations. During these events, I couldn’t help but notice the abundance of people who were not fully present (including myself at times) and in the moment. I saw whole families at dinner, all online shopping from their iPhones. I noticed people watching Christmas tree lightings while scrolling through social media. It got me to thinking about society today and our acceptance of the ‘go go go’ lifestyle.
In my clinical practice, I sit with clients who share of being overwhelmed by their work and family lives from the literal second they wake – responding to emails and texts immediately following the snooze button. These same clients share of being increasingly riddled with depression and anxiety. While we as a nation may be more productive than ever before, we are missing out on the little things that bring true happiness. We have forgotten how to slow down and enjoy life in the moment.
In the coming of the New Year and the season of resolutions, why not make the choice to take care of your mental health and make an honest effort to be more mindful? What is mindfulness, you may ask… It isn’t only something you can do while at yoga class or meditating with Buddhist monks, it can be done anytime, by anyone! Here are 5 easy ways to practice mindfulness in YOUR daily life.
Stop and Smell the Roses
Even if you are always on the go and can barely find the time to fill up your gas tank, you can take one minute to slow your head down! Find some time to step outside your window during lunch at your desk and marvel at the seemingly ‘normal’ world you live in. Notice the beauty in the green of the trees against the blue backdrop. Notice the dew leftover from a chilly night. Notice the smell of the soil and take a moment to recall a time in your childhood it reminds you of. Who would have thought you actually exist in a little bit of paradise.
Listen to a Guided Meditation
Sometimes it is nearly impossible to shut off our own racing thoughts, and who are we to try to control them! Head to the internet and search for different guided meditations. You can choose to align with what your head is worried about and click on “guided meditation for anxiety,” or you can try to clear your head and choose, “bedtime guided meditation for sleep.”
Try doing only one thing at a time
Have you ever spent the day with a toddler? They experience every-little-thing like it is the first experience they have had with it, and they are completely in the moment. Try doing only the task at hand for a day, and be completely attentive to it. When was the last time you sat through a whole meal and marveled at the taste, without checking your phone or having the TV on in the background? When was the last time you drove in your car with the windows down and the radio switched to “off”? When was the last time you spent a night in, turned off your electronics and pulled out a 1000 piece puzzle with your significant other or best friend?
Notice your 5 senses
Next time you find yourself feeling anxious before a big presentation, angry about the traffic on your commute or worried about that which you cannot control in your loved ones, stop and pay attention to your immediate sensory perceptions. Start with noticing what you feel – maybe your skin feels warmth from the sun, the leather chair you are seated in feels smooth on your fingertips and your t-shirt is slightly itchy. Move on to what you see – the local kids are getting out of school outside the window, the car next to you is occupied by a smiling puppy. Continue noticing your world through each of your 5 senses (taste, touch, smell, hear, see), and then I dare you to feel as stressed as you did before you started the exercise.
I hope you find the time to nurture yourself this year through being more mindful every day. Remember, if you have even one minute, you can help ease your own mind and be more present for your beautiful life.
by Erin Oden, ASW, Clinical Director