Have you ever been focused on a task at home or at work and then stopped for a moment and thought to yourself, “What was I just doing?” How about driving home from a friend’s house and wondering how you got there? We’ve all experienced this – running on autopilot, going through life, from one thing to the next, without really being aware of our surroundings, what we’re thinking, or how we’re feeling.

So, how do we become more present with our experiences? Mindfulness might be the answer you’re looking for.

You might have heard that mindfulness has many benefits for both your physical and psychological wellbeing, including decreasing stress and improving both your focus and your mood. But what exactly is mindfulness?

When many people think about mindfulness, the first thing that often comes to mind is sitting on a comfy cushion and engaging in formal meditation. But it’s much more than that. Mindfulness is a way of living. Mindfulness is about giving yourself permission to slow down, to be fully engaged in a life moment without judgement. Becoming aware of your surroundings, thoughts, feelings and sensations allows you to become more thoughtful with how you respond to moments in your daily life.

Here are some ideas of how you might pause and slow things down by paying attention to things you’re used to doing in your daily life already:

  1. The next time you wash your hands, pay attention to the sensations of the water and the feeling of the soap running over your hands.
  2. When going for a walk, either outside or standing up from your chair to go to the bathroom, start to notice the feeling of the floor on the soles of your feet.
  3. As you’re enjoying one of your favorite songs, focus on the different beats of the song.
  4. The next time you pick up that cup of coffee or tea, try to incorporate your senses by smelling the aroma and noticing the tastes and sensations of warmth as you enjoy your drink.

If you’re looking for a more formal way to bring mindfulness into your life, join me in a 3-minute breathing space.

Go ahead, press that pause button, re-set, slow-down, and bring your attention back to the present moment, wherever that may be.

More information

VA’s Whole Health approach incorporates self-care techniques, including mindfulness, to help you to be more conscious of your thoughts and feelings. This type of practice can help with relaxation, processing grief, and improving focus. To learn more about mindfulness visit https://www.va.gov/WHOLEHEALTH/veteran-handouts/index.asp.

Amy S. Grinberg, Ph.D., is a licensed clinical health psychologist at the Headache Centers of Excellence for the VA Connecticut Healthcare System.

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