By Joseph Tropper, MS, LCPC
It’s easy to feel like we’re losing our minds in the everyday hustle and bustle of work, home, financial and personal responsibilities. Research shows the great benefits gained by the practice of mindfulness. Mindfulness is the process of getting in touch with yourself, your thoughts, sensations and feelings and observing those thoughts and feelings in a non-judgmental manner, taking note of what you are experiencing. Mindfulness can be practiced through meditation, prayer or simply taking note of what you are experiencing while doing your work, while talking to a friend or while eating a crunchy, sweet apple.
Can I Do it Too?
Everyone is capable of experiencing mindfulness, just for some of us we need to start off slow and train ourselves to clear our minds and focus inward to experience our sensations, emotions and feelings. I recommend starting this practice by dedicating 10 minutes per day to simply allow yourself to breath slowly, and notice the sensations you feel as you inhale and exhale. Focusing on breathing is very helpful in calming raging emotions and soothing the body. Notice your thoughts and feelings, don’t judge them and don’t try to push them away, simply say to yourself, “That’s interesting” and go with it.
The Learning Process
As you get more adept and learn to focus on your thoughts and feelings, you will naturally expand this practice to times that you are eating, working, exercising, relaxing or spending time with loved ones. You will learn to savor your food, to live in the present moment and to understand your emotions.
I will never forget the first time that I practiced mindfulness after reading an article about it almost twenty years ago. It was becoming very in at about that time and has been revived over the past 5 years as research shows its great benefits. After I read that article and learned about all the wonderful things that mindfulness promised I tried to practice it myself. I dedicated ten minutes to clear my mind and just to focus on my breathing. I sat there struggling to experience what mindfulness was, what I was allowed or not allowed to think about, whether I was doing it right (it won’t work properly if I do it wrong!) and was struggling for what seemed like hours to just concentrate on my breathing, thoughts and feelings. I desperately looked at my watch and learned that indeed only four whole minutes had passed!
I share this story because if you are just beginning to practice mindfulness I am guessing that your experience will probably be similar to mine at first. I encourage you to keep trying and promise you that with practice you will see its great benefits. It teaches you to slow down and to savor the great pleasures of life, your thoughts, feelings, emotions in a most intimate and exciting way. It brings you to a space of being present with yourself.
How to Do It
The important thing about mindfulness is that there is no right or wrong way to do it. You simply discover the way that works best for you and the frequency that is most helpful to you. I’m not asking you to meditate for 12 hours per day, I’m simply sharing with you ways to connect with your inner self and experience life while being emotionally and mentally present. Some of the exercises below teach you how to practice mindfulness while others teach you how to observe that you are distracted or not able to be as mindful as usual due to challenges that you may be having.
- Close your eyes and run through your senses
- Notice one smell
- One taste
- One sound
- And one sensation.
- Open your eyes and notice something beautiful.
HALT – Right now are you feeling…
If so, what could you do about it …? You may need to HALT your current plans and regroup so that your needs can be met, so you don’t say something hurtful and so that you can rejuvenate. Make sure to notice and validate that which you are feeling.
Are you agitated, annoyed, frustrated? No problem- try the NAG exercise:
Notice a feeling, thought or sensation…
Allow it to be there for a moment…
Let it Go….
Notice sensations (or even emotions) right now in your…
Mind… what do you feel?
Recognize what you are feeling
Allow (or ask) it to stay for a moment
Investigate how it feels
See that it’s Not personal
Enjoy the Journey
One of the most important rules to remember is that, this is your mind and feelings and you have the right to explore, experience and enjoy them as much as you want. My clients who learn, practice and develop their mindfulness skills report more satisfaction in life, relationships and every day success. Try it for yourself.
About the author
Joseph Tropper, MS, LCPC, is a licensed clinical therapist and the Director of Operations at RCC.