Mindful Living with Dr. Rosellini
I'm Dr. Barry Rosellini (Psy.D.), a Licensed Psychologist specializing in Clinical Psychology. Today I want to introduce to you the idea of mindful living. Mindful living is centered around mindfulness, which is, simply put, focusing your attention to the present moment. I want to share this with you today because of the amazing benefits mindfulness can bring about in your day to day life. Research on mindfulness has shown that it plays a huge part in reducing stress and anxiety, improving regulation of emotions, and increasing self-esteem and overall well-being . While mindfulness is rooted in Eastern spirituality, it does not require a religious affiliation so it's available to each and every one of you!
Let me tell you a story about my own experience of not being mindful, the resulting consequences, and how to learn to start being mindful in your everyday lives. I was in the bathroom the other day (I swear this is not gross there is a point here) washing my hands and I was 99% “in my head.” When I say 99% in my head, I mean that I had little to no awareness of what I was actually doing. Kind of like when you see a student walking quickly to or from somewhere - head straight, tense face, totally not present, probably worried about class.
I was stressed about everything, things I “had to get done,” something “dumb” I had said in an interaction, and fear about an upcoming presentation. My mind would reflect on what would happen if those things I had to get done did not get done, or if I “messed up” on the presentation, and the resulting consequences. This stressed me out even more! The thing is I was creating problems and scenarios that did not even exist. This “mess up” on my presentation two weeks down the road led to me think, “these doctors are going to think I don’t know anything.” And that thought led to “I am never going to be a good psychologist!”
You see what I mean? We create an unsolvable, draining puzzle when we get caught up in our thoughts!
After finishing the task of washing my hands I looked up briefly and caught the reflection of my face in the mirror. In that instant I snapped back to that present moment. I saw a wound-up face, tense shoulders, someone with no room for connecting at that moment. Once I realized this, I started laughing uncontrollably. Other people around me probably thought I was crazy, and I’m sure it looked really weird. Yet I am super thankful for that moment because it gave me more insight into how easy it is to get caught up in my mind and the many drawbacks of that (less focus on what is important, increased stress, missing details, and more).
Take the example I said earlier of the person walking on campus totally “not there.” Let’s say one of their good friends walked by and said “hi” and she didn’t notice them, or say this person is a birdwatcher, and she does not see a rare bird up in a nearby tree. She is not living her life fully, not connecting with her values and the world around her.
A more powerful example might be a father who comes home from work. He is tired. He is also worried about an upcoming real estate meeting with a potential buyer. He has a two year old girl. He is so caught up in his thoughts that when his daughter tries to interact with him, he is just going through the motions, maybe holding her but not fully there. When his partner tries to kiss him, he gets annoyed and goes to his room because he has “too much” to do. Yes, the stress is real and can feel very tough to deal with. We all make mistakes or need to not be present sometimes. At the same time though, this causes us to miss out on people or things that really matter.
So how do we cope with this? What can we do to bring ourselves back to the present moment which is our lives? One solution is practicing mindfulness in everyday life. Jon Kabat Zinn described mindfulness as “paying attention on purpose, non-judgmentally, in the present moment .” Like Zinn discussed, mindfulness is about awareness and openness to the present moment. It is about noticing “what is there” in the mind (e.g. thoughts), but not getting attached to it. It’s about coming back to the present moment each time we notice our minds wandering.
In the examples above, the student might notice she is thinking stressful thoughts, take a breath, and focus on what it feels like to walk in the crisp winter air. The father might notice his aversive thoughts, take a step back, and refocus on what is important to him such as interacting with his daughter and sharing intimacy with his partner. In this way, we become a captain of our own ship and a driver of our own lives.
Mindful living does not have to be sitting down for an hour a day on a meditation cushion with nature music playing. It could be that if you want it to be. It could also be taking a mindful ten minutes at the start of each day. It could be a mindful minute, or even a mindful breath. However long it is, one way to start is by focusing on the breath and becoming aware of the natural rise and fall of your belly and chest as you breathe in and out. While your thoughts will come and go, instead of judging or attaching to them in this mindful period, the idea is to notice these thoughts, and come back to the present moment with each breath in and out.
This can be done in so many ways such as mindful walking, mindful meditation, mindful breathing, mindful eating or mindful listening! If you are interested in learning more about mindful eating, Christina's blog post would be a great place to start.
Again, by living more mindfully, we allow ourselves the freedom to focus on what is most important, stay present, and better cope with whatever life throws our way.
Click here >> for an easy, mindfulness meditation I like to use myself and with my clients.
How do you think you will incorporate mindful living into your life today? Leave a comment or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org I'd love to hear from you!
Barrymore Rosellini, PsyD, Licensed Psychologist