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TRAINING YOUR MIND: The Practice of Mindfulness

In previous blogs I have emphasized the need for meditation. A large component of meditation is mindfulness. But you can also be mindful during your regular activities. If you train yourself to be mindful, you’ll even be mindful during your dreams. 


Mindfulness is simply keeping your awareness on the present moment while accepting any thoughts, emotions, and physical sensations that are present.  


In a nutshell, if you’re washing the dishes, your mind is on the task of cleaning the dishes. You’re also aware of the warmth and wetness of the water. You’re not thinking about your bills or the fact that your car is leaking antifreeze. 


When you’re mindful, you’re not overly reactive or bothered by what’s happening around you. This isn’t because you’re unaware, but rather because you’re accepting of it. You take on the role of an observer. 


You can think of mindfulness as meditating on a task or your environment, rather than allowing your mind to wander off. Can you see how difficult it would be to worry or feel anxiety if you were mindful 100% of the time? Try these ways to be more mindful in your daily life: 


1. Give yourself a reality check by being hyper-aware of your environment. This is a great way to bring yourself back to the present moment when your mind is running wild. Ask yourself the following questions: What do I see? What do I hear? What do I feel? What do I smell? What do I taste? 


2. Sit outside and observe. See if you can keep your attention on what you experience with your senses, without thinking about anything. You don’t need to tell yourself that you see a tree. After all, It’s right in front of you. Just observe and keep your mind as quiet as possible. This can be one of the most relaxing things you can do for your mind. It’s a great way to take a break and teach yourself to be mindful. 

3. Always maintain at least a slight awareness of your breathing while keeping your thoughts on what you’re doing. Whether you’re taking a shower, eating a burger, or taking out the trash, keep your mind on your current activity. Live your life this way and your anxiety will evaporate. 

 4. Only think about the future and the past sparingly.There’s little to be gained by thinking about the past or the future. The past is only useful for learning. Once you’ve gained the lesson to be learned, come back to the present. Thinking about the future is only useful for planning. Plan your lunch, vacation, or life, but return to the present moment when your planning is done. 


5. Notice how your thoughts rise and fall. No matter how hard you try, your mind will wander. Observe how thoughts drift away without you having to do anything. They’re like clouds floating by. It doesn’t take long for them to fade. 


6. Try using mindfulness to improve your diet. How do we cave in to eating unhealthy foods? We first think about eating the food. Then we get emotionally involved with the idea of how great the food tastes and how good it’s going to make us feel. The next thing you know, you’re charging the pantry like a mindless fool. When you catch yourself craving that bag of chips, be a casual observer of the sensations and emotions you’re feeling. You might say to yourself, “My mouth is watering, and I’m getting a warm feeling all over my body. I can already taste the saltiness and feel the crunch of the chips.” 

7. Notice when you tend to veg out or space out. It might be chores or answering emails. When does your mind tend to wander? Pay particular attention at those times and stay mindful. Mindfulness can be applied during any emotionally charged occasion. When you’re angry, sad, or frustrated, you can use mindfulness to move beyond those emotions and make good choices. 


Mindfulness creates space for making intelligent decisions based on your knowledge and experience. You can’t be wise when reacting to a situation with your emotions raging. It’s also a way to soothe your emotions, including worry and anxiety.   

If you, or someone you know, struggles with staying focused... consider meditation and mindfulness. There is hope. Take your mental health seriously.

You are loved.

Dr. Ray Reynolds


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