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Mind full or mindful?

 

By Meg Jelen, MA, LMFT, Employee Assistance Program

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Ever feel like you have a million things on your mind? Not enough time in the day? Maybe you're exhausted but right when you can finally lay down to sleep, you are bombarded with thoughts.

Ever enter a room then cannot remember why you went in there? So, is your mind FULL? Research shows that people who spend a significant amount of time on future-thinking tend to have increased anxiety or stress. Similarly, those who tend to spend a significant amount of time thinking about the past tend to have lower moods, energy levels or motivation. Unfortunately, we cannot yet time travel to the past or future so much of this mental energy is unproductive. Enter mindfulness.

What is mindfulness?

  • A relaxed focus on one thing at a time that is happening in the present moment
  • Exercise for the brain
  • Keeps us attentive to the things we have control over ourselves, right here and right now
  • Often referred to as a "practice" - much like learning a new language or how to play an instrument, mindfulness is a skill that is developed
  • Exciting news, mindfulness doesn't take any additional time! It only takes intention; a conscious decision to be mindful in your daily activities.

Anything you already do can be done mindfully:

  • Brushing your teeth
  • Cooking
  • Washing your hands
  • Exercise
  • Walking to/from your car
  • Eating
  • Playing with children
  • Work tasks

To be more present in the moment, notice when your mind wanders away. Without judgment, actively choose not to follow those thoughts and instead refocus on what is happening in front of you. Using the five senses can help reorient to the present moment (what do I see, hear, touch, smell, taste right now?). Begin your practice by redirecting your attention when you notice it strays. It might not seem like much, but the more you practice mindfulness during daily routine activities, the more comfortable your brain becomes with single-tasking and staying present.

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