Have you ever driven somewhere and realized when you reached your destination that you didn't remember how you got there? Have you ever been in a conversation and realized you had no idea what he or she just said? Do you find yourself staring at the wall? Do you ever feel anxious but have no idea why? If you answered yes to any of these questions you may be living in your head more than in the moment. When we are "in our heads" our attention is usually focused on the past or the future. We think about the things we have said or done and what we should have done differently. We think of upcoming events and run through our list of to-do's. Being in our heads can increase our stress levels, rob us of the joy of the moment, negatively impact our relationships and lower our job performance.
What is mindfulness and how can it help me?
Mindfulness is the intentional practice of tuning in to our thoughts, feelings and sensations in the moment. When we are present in the moment as well as our experience of that moment we are better able to respond effectively to others, decrease anxiety and worry, and increase feelings of calm.
5 ways to be in the moment
1. Recognize you are in your head
This can be hard to do at first but will get easier with practice.
2. Say "Stop" (out loud)
By saying "Stop" in a firm voice you are bringing yourself back to the present. Notice this does not include beating yourself up for being in your head. You are simply redirecting your attention.
3. Use your senses
If you are sitting, notice where the chair is supporting your body. Ask yourself: "What do I smell?" "What do I hear?" "What do I see?" "How does this chair feel?" "Is the temperature in the room cool, warm or just right?"
4. Talk yourself through what you are doing
For example, if you are brushing your teeth you can say (or think), "I am picking up the toothpaste. I am opening the toothpaste. I am putting toothpaste on my toothbrush. I am brushing my front teeth." etc. If you notice your thoughts begin to wonder to other things, simply notice the thoughts in a non-judgmental way and bring your attention back to the activity.
5. Sit in a quiet place, close your eyes and tune in to your thoughts
This is helpful for when you are feeling anxious and are not sure why. Chances are your thoughts are making you feel this way. You can picture the thought in a bubble and visualize it floating away. It is simply a thought that you are experiencing and you can choose to let it go. If thoughts come up of things you need to do, write them down and go back to tuning into your thoughts.
Once you are in the moment...enjoy it. Learning to be in the moment takes practice, so please be gentle on yourself.