I’m gonna let you in on a little secret… up until recently, I had no idea what being mindful meant. I don’t like meditating, and I do yoga occasionally, but it honestly irritates me. These popular practices seemed to be the only ways to achieve mindfulness. I’ve read in so many self-help books that being mindful is the key to a happier life. So why is it so hard?
Becoming Aware of Your Thoughts
As a young woman with OCD, it’s difficult to stop the spinning hamster wheel in my head of incessant worry and rumination. 99% of the time, I worry about school, money, the future, and my family. For the longest time, I wasn’t even aware that I was doing it. And that’s the first step: awareness. Becoming aware of your thoughts means taking a step back and observing the flow of your thought process without actively participating in it.
For example, even as I type this, I am worried about several things. Will I have enough freelance jobs this summer to afford to move into a new apartment complex? Will I be able to get that essay done by Tuesday? Why haven’t I called my grandmother this week? Isn’t there something I should be doing that I’m forgetting?
Focusing on the Present Moment
See? One worry leads to another until I’ve fallen down a rabbit hole. This cycle of worry happens because I am not focusing on the present moment. I am either stuck in the past or the future. A good way to make sure you are being mindful through focusing on the present moment is to do a physical activity. Doing a physical activity makes it easier for you to focus on something other than your thoughts.
For instance, I used to hate doing the dishes. The wet soggy food in the sink and the water on my hands made me want to cringe. I discovered something, though. Once I got into a routine of scrubbing the dishes, I was able to achieve mindfulness. Focusing on the physical sensation of the water on my hands and scrubbing the dishes back and forth finally got me out of my head. Now I actually like doing the dishes because it helps me step back from all my worries and just be.
Self Care Challenge 2: Mindfulness
- For five days, I want you to set an alarm on your phone. Set it for a time when you know you will have some free time to do a physical activity. Label the alarm as “mindfulness” to remind yourself.
- When the alarm goes off, choose one activity to do. You can fold clothes, clean the kitchen, or even work in the garden. It doesn’t matter. Just pick one activity to do and set aside ten minutes for it.
- While you’re doing the activity, make a conscious effort to focus on the present moment. Notice your breath going in and out of your lungs. Become aware of any tense muscles and try to relax them. Watch your thoughts as they scatter back and forth across the surface of your mind. Don’t intervene. Don’t judge. Just observe.
Practicing mindfulness has changed my life. I enjoy doing household chores now because they help me relax and be mindful. Try to take some time each day to practice mindfulness and tell me how it goes. Remember to track your progress through Health Storylines. For this challenge, I recommend the routine builder feature. If you missed the first challenge, you can see it here. Look for challenge three next Wednesday!
August Blair is the founder of Survival is a Talent. She is a freelance writer, blogger, and social media strategist. She is passionate about health and wellness, social issues, and the environment. She studies Communication at The University of North Georgia.