48% of the time, human beings are focusing on the past and/or the future. You received a poor grade on a test yesterday or you have a presentation to deliver tomorrow. A friend made a snarky remark to you during a conflict that occurred earlier in the day. These thoughts consume you while you are awake and as you are trying to fall asleep at night. Sometimes, these thoughts can be so intrusive that they can produce symptoms of anxiety. Your heart races, your breathing is uncontrolled and heavy, and you feel a pit in your stomach. Yet, you continue to focus on the past and/or future without even realizing it!
Living in the Here and Now
It is a constant challenge to recognize the moments when you are thinking about past events, positive or negative, or worrisome thoughts having to do with something coming up in the future. This may even be occurring as you are driving to a particular destination. Have you ever driven somewhere on auto pilot? You don’t even know how you got from point A to point B because your mind was elsewhere. In order to live in the present, you need to first realize when your mind wanders. Since this can occur quite often, it can become a daunting task bringing yourself back to now.
Once you acknowledge the moments when your mind is somewhere else, bring yourself back to the here and now! Let your senses take control. For example, if you are sitting on a park bench, what sounds do you hear? Allow your nose to identify and enjoy the scents of Spring. Bend down and run your fingers through the freshly cut grass. While your senses are working, focus your mind on your breathing. Often at times, you breath without thinking about it. When you bring attention to your breathing patterns and slow it down a bit, you will naturally slow your mind down. This will help you enjoy the present more. Symptoms of anxiety will also lessen as a result.
Mindfulness has developed into a significant buzz word. So much that it is being implemented in schools to help students focus and relax more. In short, mindfulness is the state of active, open attention on the present. Some mindfulness activities include mindful coloring, mindful meditation, mindful readings, and various grounding exercises. Grounding exercises are activities that help to bring your mind back to the present. The following are some examples of grounding exercises:
- Take ten slow breaths. Focus your attention fully on each breath, on the way in and on the way out.
- Hold a cup of tea in both hands and feel the warmth of the cup on your skin. Take your time as you take small sips. Smell the aroma and focus your attention on how the steam feels on your face.
- Notice five things you can see, five things you can hear, five things you can feel, taste, or smell. Describe these things in your mind as if you were describing them to someone else.
- Listen to a guided meditation clip
Have you ever eaten a meal so quickly that you didn’t even realize you ate? Five or six quick bites and your food vanished! In our culture, we see people eating on the run all the time. It is no wonder why anxiety is so prevalent! However, I suggest creating your own framework so you don’t fall into the same pattern as how others may live each day. Try a few mindfulness activities relating to food consumption and you will notice a significant difference in how you feel. Thank you for reading and check back soon for our next blog!