It’s easy to get swept away by our thoughts, especially in the face of strong emotions. We get stuck ruminating and dwelling about the past, filled with guilt or regret. Or our minds start racing and we can’t stop worrying about the future and imagining all the things that could go wrong. Or we replay conversations over and over again in our heads, trying to make sense of them or figure out what we could have said differently.
When our minds get going like this, not only is it exhausting; these patterns of thinking tend to make us feel bad, intensifying the emotions we’re already feeling and generating additional negative emotions as well. Because this experience is so unpleasant, it’s natural to want to these thoughts to stop, and to be able to prevent yourself from even having them in the first place. We often wind up trying to make these thoughts go away, and shut them out completely and make sure they don’t come back. But just like we can’t control our emotions or suppress our emotions, neither can we control or suppress our thoughts.
In a previous post about our breath we looked at the difference between abdominal breathing and breathing from your chest, and how abdominal breathing can help alleviate stress and calm your body, mind and emotions.
It’s as simple as bringing your attention to your breathing for a few minutes, or even just a few breaths. This is easier said than done, however, as our minds tend to wander a lot at the best of times, and when we’re in distress, it’s even more difficult to stay focused on our breath.
In the next few posts we’re going to practice some exercises to help keep your mind focused on your breathing, starting with Following Your Breathing By Counting Your Breaths.
Mindfulness isn’t just something we practice when meditating: anything we do throughout the day, we can learn to do mindfully. Once we learn to bring mindfulness into our everyday lives, we can reduce a lot of the stress, anxiety, depression and anger that tends to build up when we go through life relatively mindlessly.
It would be great if we could go about our whole day completely mindful, bringing our full attention to whatever we’re doing, while we’re doing it, and not getting carried away by distractions or thoughts of the past or about the future. But although mindfulness sounds simple, it does require effort. It takes a continual effort to notice when our mind’s started to wander and keep bringing it back to the present, and it’s not something most of us can do all day long.
So instead of striving go about the entire day mindfully, it’s good to start with some small steps, and find ways to gradually add more mindfulness into your activities throughout the day. Below are some ways you can start bringing mindfulness into your days on a regular basis.
Choose One Routine Activity to Do Mindfully Every Day Read More
In a couple of recent posts, we looked at some things you can do to help stop stress and anxiety from becoming overwhelming, and to give yourself a breathing time out from stress, anxiety and depression. In this post, we look at the Three Minute Breathing Space, another great way to manage stress and anxiety, and to help your emotions from becoming overwhelming.
The Three Minute Breathing Space was developed as part of the Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy program for people with depression. Like the Breathing Time Out, it’s a way to bring your attention to the present, give yourself a break from whatever stress or emotions have been building up, and then return to the rest of your day, more refreshed and focused on the present.
Just as a time out can be an effective way to help children calm down when they are acting out and starting to get out of control, when our thoughts and emotions start getting carried away, a time out is a great tool to help calm ourselves.
The benefits you can experience from learning to become more mindful are virtually limitless. Mindfulness allows you to relate to and deal directly with whatever is happening in your life. Instead of struggling to escape, suppress or avoid distressing thoughts and feelings, mindfulness helps you approach whatever is going on in your life, in your thoughts, and with your emotions, without becoming overwhelmed.
When you start being more mindful and start living in the present moment, you’ll experience your life more fully, and become more in touch with yourself, who you are, what is important to you, and what you want out of life.