Mindfulness and Gratitude: Simple Ways to Improve The Moment
One of the challenges many of my clients experience is being present with their emotions and their bodies. Most of us do not notice that we are living in the future by worrying, or living in the past by ruminating. We spend our time scrolling through social media, eating comfort foods, or engaging in mindless activities that take up hours of our time and result in feeling empty or lost. Mindfulness and gratitude are two simple ways to bring you peace.
Being mindful, which means being fully present in the moment in a non-judgmental way, is one way to experience life in a more meaningful way. There are 9 basic components to mindfulness (Greenberg, 2012).
Focus on the present moment: Mindfulness is a state of awareness in which you are intensely aware of what you are sensing and feeling in the moment. Too often, we get lost in your thoughts as we ruminate about the past, or worry about the future. Try to be open about how things may unfold in the present, versus focusing on expectations about how things should or could turn out.
Being fully present: Being mindful means that you are aware of whatever you are feeling in the present moment as you go through your daily life. What are you experiencing right now, in this moment? What do you hear, see, smell, or feel in your body?
Openness to experience: We often try to avoid our feelings or experiences because we fear we will not be able to handle them. Instead, welcome your thoughts and feelings with curiosity. Remember that feelings and thoughts will come and go. Sometimes, your feelings may peak, like a wave in the ocean. And, just as the wave does, your feelings will eventually subside. Try to become away of your experience as the flow of sensations, thoughts, and feelings change over time.
Non-judgment: Humans tend to categorize things into "good" or "bad". We do this, in part, in order to speed decision-making and to help us make the best choices. However, by pre-judging our thoughts, feelings, and experiences, we unconsciously try to change them, or may feel like we need to act on them. Remember that emotions provide us with information. Emotions are neither "good" nor "bad". Try to accept whatever arises with an open mind, and extend this attitude towards the people and things around you.
Acceptance: When we go into a situation with expectations, we sometimes try to change reality to fit our vision of what should or could be. Instead of trying to change things, see it for what it is. You can get through whatever is going on. Try to extend this attitude of acceptance to others.
Connection: We are all connected by a common thread. Try to reflect on this and explore how you are intertwined with the circle of life. We all have similar needs (i.e., wanting to be happy, avoiding suffering), and are on this journey together.
Non-attachment: The universe is in a constant state of change. We cannot try to hold on to things, people, or experiences. Take a deep breath and go with the flow. Be confident in your ability to adapt to the situations around you.
Peace and Equanimity: Life has its ups and downs. We can undoubtedly get swept up in the current when we are in turbulent waters. Try to stay grounded and rooted to your values.
Compassion: Remember to be gentle and kind to yourself and others. Try to see things from another person's point of view. Give yourself some grace. No one is perfect. We are all human and we all make mistakes. Be kind, loving, and forgiving.
Try a few of these exercises from the book "Mindful Journaling: Rewriting the Script of your Life" by Tara Ward.
The next time a noisy environment starts to affect you, take a moment to detach yourself from the sounds you are hearing and focus on them individually. For example, if you hear music and people talking, concentrate on the music for a moment. Then, bring your awareness to one voice. When you identify them as separate sounds, it helps to ground you. Next, focus on the sound that is most helpful (or least disruptive). What did you find easier to concentrate one? What was the most difficult one?
If that was a helpful exercise, try this one. Focus on your breathing to calm and ground yourself. Observe each in breath and out breath for a few moments. Then direct your attention into your own body. Feel your heart beating in your chest. Notice the gentle, constant rhythm. Allow yourself to hear the soft "dum-dum" sound. You may be able to hear this more easily by blocking your ears with your fingers. As you bring your attention to the comforting beat of your heart, the other sounds around you start to fade out, until all you can hear is your heart. When you are ready, unblock your ears and slowly bring your attention to the external sounds again.
Here are a few resources to check out if you are interested in learning more about mindfulness:
Headspace: What is Mindfulness?
Mindfulness Exercises: Mayo Clinic
Gratitude is about acknowledging the positive things in your life, and choosing to believe that the good things are abundant. Practicing gratitude is a simple and powerful way to provide you with a fresh perspective. When you are thankful for what you have, you may feel happier, more satisfied, and less stressed. People who practice gratitude are better able to "roll" with the ups and downs of life because they are able to check in with what is important to them.
Just as with mindfulness, there is no "right" way to practice gratitude. Some days it may be easier than others, but the more you practice, the easier it becomes.
Try a few of these exercises from the book "Count Your Rainbows: A Gratitude Journal" by Jenny Mecher to get started:
1. What are some of the words or images that come to mind when you think of the word "gratitude" or "abundance"?
2. List 5 things you are thankful for right now, in this moment.
3. Take a walk around your home or living space. Pay attention to the things you use almost daily, but probably never think about. How do these things make your life easier? Happier? More comfortable?
Want more information on mindfulness or practicing gratitude? E-mail me and we can set up a session to find a way to incorporate some healthy ways to improve your well-being.
Greenberg, M. (2012). Nine Essential Qualities of Mindfulness. Psychology Today
Headspace (Headspace: What is Mindfulness?)
Mayo Clinic (Mindfulness Exercises: Mayo Clinic)
Mecher, J. (2018). Count Your Rainbows: A Gratitude Journal. Adams Media.
Ward, T (2017). Mindful Journaling: Rewrite the Script of Your Life. Arcturus Holdings Ltd.