A Simple Exercise for Getting Present and Tapping into a Little Joy
We all hear (ad nauseum, sometimes) about the potency of mindfulness and present moment awareness. Yes, mindfulness has become quite the buzz word. While it may feel like one more “should” in the ever-growing list of self-care activities and exercises, mindfulness as a practice has some pretty significant benefits, and really doesn’t require much more than a moment. The present moment.
What are the perks of getting present, you may wonder? Well, when you’re experiencing the here and now, the immediate benefit is that your mind isn’t racing about the then and there. You actually lose the ability to fixate on plans and contingencies, what ifs, should, musts, and to-do’s for the future. You cannot go back in time and reflect on happier times or the regrets of the past. You just stay here, noticing the present, quieting your mind, without judgment. And the more you practice mindfulness, the better you get at it. The end result being a more resilient mind that responds when it’s needed for greater focus, attention, and problem-solving.
This sounds very ambitious, as most of us feel wired to worry, to regret, to fear…How can we simply bring attention to what is going on right now and create a sense of quiet and peace in our bodies, minds, and spirits? An easy and enjoyable way to get present anywhere, anytime, is through an exercise that uses some of your senses with your breath. I love to head out for a walk, where I can connect with the natural world and the local agricultural scenery. It brings me great joy to see all the colors, wildlife, and farm life around me, and to experience all the sounds and smells (is it weird to love the smell of cow manure?). But I have to really quiet my mind and get present in order to fully experience the benefits of those wonders. Even if can’t run out for a walk right now, you can do this anytime you notice your mind hooking you into difficult thoughts or feelings, or if you just need a little bit of grounding. Whether you’re in a long line waiting for customer service or sitting at your desk, it only takes a few moments to experience a bit of ease and maybe even some joy.
Here’s how it’s done:
Take a few deep breaths, and connect with the sensations of the air passing through your nose, lungs, and diaphragm. Feel the temperature and moisture of the air. Try to simply notice these sensations without judgment. During this exercise, if your mind wanders, feel free to simply return to noticing the sensations of your breath.
- Move your eyes about the space, take in any points of interest or new changes you may not have noticed before this moment. Just notice the colors, shapes, visual textures, and shadow and light in individual objects. Then notice all the objects put together as a whole. Try to simply see this space and its objects without judgment or placing value.
- Close your eyes, inhale deeply, and notice any odors or fragrances in this space or environment. Are individual smells sweet, strong, pungent, spicy, floral? After you’ve noticed each note individually, try to connect them holistically and without judgment.
- Keep your eyes closed and focus on your hearing. Are there any unique noises in this space? Are there wildlife noises? Any low hums pushing heat, light, or air through the space? Notice each individual sound at first and then collectively hear them all together, without judgment.
- Bring attention any physical sensations in your body. Start at the top of your head and move to your feet. Do you feel warm or cool? Do you notice different parts of your body feeling differently from each other? How does your clothing feel against your skin? Are you experiencing any pain? Is it dull, throbbing, piercing, tight? Try to notice these sensations individually at first, then notice your entire body, without placing too much judgment even if there is discomfort.
- Finally, bring your attention back to your breath, taking a few breathing cycles as you wiggle your fingers and toes and come back to the space.
Congratulations, you just experienced mindfulness! And if your mind wandered periodically, don’t worry, it is our natural tendency. Repeatedly noticing when its wandered and bringing your attention back to the exercise is GREAT practice and builds resiliency! Keep at it!
If you enjoyed this exercise and are interested in learning more about mindfulness and other therapeutic activities that can help you stay on course toward a more vital, valued life direction, Fresh Air Counseling would love to schedule to meet with you today! Contact us to set up a free 15 minute phone consultation and begin cultivating positive change.