Have you ever become distracted while driving home from work and wondered how you got there? Or perhaps you realize that you haven’t heard what your child or partner was saying because your thoughts were elsewhere? These could be signals that you need to slow down and try mindfulness.
Mindfulness is simply a state of being in which you are fully focused in the present and engaged in the experience of whatever you are doing right now. Practicing mindfulness means letting go of thoughts about the past (regrets, judgments, feelings of unfairness) and thoughts about the future (worries, anxiety) and simply allowing yourself to exist in the present moment. Through practicing mindfulness during everyday activities, you can learn to stay focused, control impulses, manage difficult emotions and achieve a truly enriched life experience.
Here are three ways to bring mindfulness into your everyday life.
1. Mindful Driving
Driving is so habitual; we basically put the key in the ignition and then tune out until we’ve reached our destination. Not only is this dangerous, but we’re also missing an opportunity to enjoy and enrich the experience of driving rather than just doing it. Next time you get in the car for your morning commute, try reminding yourself to focus on the experience. Be aware of your surroundings, what other drivers are doing, the pace on the road, sounds, and how it feels when you accelerate and brake. Rather than letting your mind race ahead to the office, embrace the act of being alone and quiet in your vehicle. Think of it as “me time” rather than as “time between other things.”
2. Mindfully Eating a Meal
While busy schedules often dictate the need to just grab a bite and go, this can contribute to mindless eating, overeating and other unhealthy habits. Try to eat at least one meal a day in a mindful manner. Make a plate of food and sit down quietly to enjoy it. Look at your plate, take in the sight and smell of the food, and experience the anticipation of taking a bite. Eat slowly and stop to drink water. Imagine being a food critic who is writing a description of the dish. How would you describe the flavors? If you’re eating with friends or family, take a moment to stop and comment on the deliciousness of the meal and thank the chef. How much more enjoyment will we get out of every meal if we take a bit more time to stop and embrace the process of eating?
3. Mindful Communication
Next time you’re having a conversation with a loved one, set down your devices, turn off the TV and give them your full attention. Listen to what they’re saying and repeat it back so they know that you’ve both heard them and are trying to understand. Notice their body language and tone, their facial expressions, and how it feels to be sharing their space and energy. Use the conversation as an opportunity to remind yourself why you care about this person and cherish your time with them. Practicing mindful communication will make you a more caring partner, attentive parent and astute work colleague, and you will begin to reap the benefits of enhancing these relationships. Doesn’t everyone want to be known as a good listener? Let mindfulness practice be your guide.
Written by By Madeline Kilpatrick, MSW, LICSW
Madeline specializes in Dialectical Behavior Therapy, which helps clients learn new skills to manage painful emotions and decrease conflict in relationships. DBT focuses on four key areas, mindfulness, distress tolerance, emotion regulation, and interpersonal effectiveness. These skills improve an individual’s ability to control impulses, tolerate difficult emotions, change unhealthy behavior patterns and strengthen relationships by increasing empathy, self-respect and assertive communication.
Madeline has worked in the field of mental health since 2007. She has worked in a variety of settings including community mental health, inpatient psychiatric and with incarcerated populations.