Mental health advocates and therapists talk all the time about the importance of mindfulness, but I’ve seen very few talk about how hard it is to actually do.
Yes, I understand the importance of living in the moment. I know that guilt and regret are living in the past and anxiety is living in the future. I know that being able to really BE in the present moment is one of the most important aspects of mental health, but I also know that my monkey mind is so used to being frantic that just saying I’m going to be mindful isn’t enough.
So, like most other things I’ve learned to do or overcome, I’ve been practicing.
First off if you try to just be mindful during an overly stimulating or very stressful situation, you are probably going to fail. I’m just being honest.
Mindfulness is like a muscle you have to build up. Trying to use mindfulness to overcome anxiety when you’re already on the verge of a panic attack in a crowded place when you’ve never tried it before is like a toddler trying to pick up a cinder block. It isn’t going to happen aaaaaaaaaaaaaaand you will just end up discouraged and convinced you can’t do it.
So here’s my first step in learning how to use mindfulness to help you overcome anxiety and depression.
Practice with the Mundane (humdrum, dull, boring, routine, ordinary, uneventful)
It sounds simple, because it is.
This past Sunday I was exhausted and needed a break from the world … physically, mentally and emotionally. So I spent the entire day practicing mindfulness in every single thing I did around the house.
Mindfulness is simply being in the present moment. No thoughts of the past. No thoughts of the future. Just concentrating on what’s going on right that second.
I took a bath and read, concentrating on what I was reading, the warmth of the water, the sound of the fan whirring on the counter, the snore of the dog in the floor, etc.
Then I watched one of my favorite shows, really watched it. No phone in sight. No magazines to flip through. Nothing to distract me.
I did laundry. Taking the time to carefully move clothes to the washer then to the dryer then folding them neatly and putting them away.
I made a salad. Paying extra attention as I chopped tomatoes (not something I’m good at, plus I’m still a little freaked out by knives) and focusing on the color of them, the texture and the smell.
Every thing I did all day I did in a calm manner, with purpose, because I was working on building my mindfulness muscle.
My challenge to you if you are struggling with a racing (monkey) mind or want to use mindfulness to help with your mental health, is to choose one simple task in your home (mopping the floor, folding towels, cooking dinner, etc.) and concentrate on just that one task. Step by step. Be in the moment.
The world will not fall apart while you are learning to be mindful.
In fact, it might help your world stay together in a much calmer way.
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