Mindfulness: Paying Attention to the Present

Sometimes our anxieties can get the best of us. Mindfulness could be the answer.

Everyone feels anxiety from time to time. But sometimes, anxiety can get the best of us. We begin to worry about the past, or worry about the future. We start to worry about what our days will be like, whether we’ll have difficult guests or get in trouble for making a mistake. “What if I accidentally bill the wrong customer for their room and give away sensitive information in the process. I could get fired, or the hotel could get sued!” This kind of thinking is called catastrophizing and can be pretty scary. But there is something that you can do to help you when your anxiety starts to get the best of you; practice mindfulness.

Mindfulness , as described in Psychology Today, is “a state of active, open attention to the present. This state is described as observing one’s thoughts and feelings without judging them as good or bad.” Mindfulness can trace its origins back to Buddhist and Hindu concepts. However, it has gained popularity as a practice in the western world over the past 40 years and is frequently prescribed as a treatment by therapists for those struggling with anxiety disorders.

How to be Mindful

Mindfulness is just one kind of meditation. A common way to practice mindfulness is to sit or lie down with your eyes closed and focus on the breathing and the physical world around you, such as any smells or sounds and the temperature of the room you’re in. Your mind is going to wander and that’s OK. In fact, that’s kind of the point. Whenever your mind begins to wander, acknowledge the thoughts without judging them or pushing them away. One common analogy is to pretend that you’re sitting in a room with two open windows facing each other. When a thought pops into your head, imagine that it’s drifted through one of the open windows. Once the thought is in the room with you, observe it without engaging with it. Once you’ve observed it, imagine the thought drifting out of the other window and return your focus to your breathing.

The key to this practice is to not let your negative or intrusive thoughts get the best of you. By returning your focus to your breathing and the world around you, you are returning to the present moment instead of focusing on the past or future.

Practicing mindfulness can also give you insight into why you’re feeling anxious about something because it allows you to objectively notice the feelings your having.

Let your thoughts come in one window, and flow out the other

Practicing Mindfulness

When most people think about mindfulness, they imagine sitting down in a quiet room with their legs crossed and meditating for several minutes at a time. While this is one way to practice mindfulness, the practice doesn’t have to be so rigid. In fact, you can have numerous short moments of mindfulness throughout the day. When you’re on your lunch break, set your phone down and just sit with your cup of tea and focus on your breathing. If you walk to work, take out your headphones and listen to the world around you. Do you hear birds? Traffic? Planes? A river? Focus on the way the ground changes under your feet as you go from walking on loose gravel to hard concrete. Maybe you’ll see something you’ve walked by hundreds of times and never noticed, like a beautiful tree or a small creek that runs along the road.

Try taking a few moments in the middle of your day to be mindful

The point of mindfulness is to learn to pay attention to your present world. Its a great way to shrug off any anxiety that you might be feeling, or to decompress after a stressful work situation. Practicing mindfulness can give you insight into your inner world and help you live in the moment, taking whatever may come at face value. So why don’t you give it a shot? Sit down, close your eyes, breathe, and let your thoughts drift in and out of your mind.

Confused about a few of the words in this post? Here’s a vocabulary list:

  • Catastrophizing- Convincing yourself something is far worse than it really is
  • Observe- To notice something as important
  • Engage- Occupy, attract or involve
  • Decompress- Relieve or reduce pressure

Source: Psychology Today: Mindfulness