Updated: Mar 24, 2020
Photo by Arthur Brognoli on Pexels.com
Mindfulness if usually seen as a meditation-type exercise, one which you need time out and a specific environment to practice. This is not the case. Mindfulness can be a practical exercise used at any point throughout the day. What mindfulness allows us to do is remain calm, stop spiralling and remain the moment (not thinking to the past or into the future of what might be).
The best time to practice mindfulness skills is when you don’t need them. That sounds crazy but hear me out. To get good at something you practice it, and when you need mindfulness most, you want to be good at it. Practising mindfulness when you are in a good frame of mind will allow you to use it effectively when the time comes you need it.
Another misconception about mindfulness is that it is an absence of thought, but this is not true. It is the ability to not get stuck on a thought or emotion and not to let that thought or emotion consume you and spiral out of control. The way it has been described to me is like a nonstick frying pan. Turning your brain into a nonstick frying pan a thought or emotion comes into the pan, we see it; feel it; acknowledge it; and it goes out of the pan without leaving anything behind. Mindfulness is not never feeling angry or sad or any other negative emotion, mindfulness is being able to feel the emotion and know it will pass.
There are three main types of practical mindfulness which can be used everyday. Observe, Describe and Participate.
Observe – notice your body sensations. Pay attention on purpose, to the present moment. Control your attention, but not what you see. Push away nothing but cling to nothing. Practice wordless watching, watch thoughts come into your mind and let them slip right by like clouds in the sky. Observe both inside and outside yourself.
Describe – Put words on the experience for example, “my stomach muscles are tightening”, “this thought has just came into my mind”. Label what you observe, put a name on what you’re feeling. Label a thought as just a thought, a feeling as just a feeling and an action as just an action. Only use the facts, who, what, when and where. If you can’t observe it through your senses, you can’t describe it.
Participate – Throw yourself completely into activities of the current moment. Do not separate yourself from what is going on the moment. If you’re watching TV, only watch TV; if you’re on the phone, only be on the phone. Become one with whatever you are doing, completely forgetting yourself. Go with the flow and respond with spontaneity.
Where I went wrong when I starting using mindfulness is I thought I had to use Observe and Describe together then Participate. But they are three completely different techniques which you use separately. One might work better for you than others, for me I find Participate the one I can use most effectively. I do this through arts and crafts, drawing and other thinks like this. I am more able to be mindful when I am submerged in my activities. But I also find Describe helpful if I am somewhere noisy or busy. I can stop and mindfully identify individual noises, smells, touch, tastes and sights factually and without judgement.
These skills may seem difficult at first. Trust me, I struggled. But I’ve came to realise there worth and they are so valuable in caring for your own mental health.