Practice Mindfulness on a Daily Basis
David A. Morris, LCSW
In the middle of the night, I was rocking my 5-month old son back to sleep. He was a fickle sleeper and my techniques were honed just right for his comfort. Then all of a sudden my nose had an itch. It was either maneuver my arms and hands to scratch my nose and wake him up OR deal with the itch in another way. I remember practicing earlier that day with a client informal mindfulness in which you look for opportunities in your daily life to be mindful of one’s experience. Instead of alleviating the discomfort, I tuned in to the itch and experienced it. The itch sensation peaked and then subsided.
I initially thought myself silly to be practicing mindfulness in this way. But I realized each day a plethora of discomforts cross our paths some mundane and benign like my itch, but others more significant like sadness or a migraine. Practicing on the “little stuff” can help train our brains to tolerate the big stuff.
Informal mindfulness is a great way to start retraining how you think and experience your day. It helps to remove judgment, interpretation, and historical experiences that may predispose you to a negative outcome.
Here are some solid principles for practicing and learning good mindfulness:
- Tune in to the moment-to-moment details of your current experience
- Set aside past memories of the experience or future expectations the mind starts to conjure
- Notice your body sensations and physical response to the experience
- Allow distractions to pass on by without engaging them
- Reduce your judgment of the experience
One thing I noticed as I tried to be mindful about my itch, was my mind’s wandering into the not-so-far distant future. “Will I wake him up?”, “What if he doesn’t sleep tonight?”, “What if by the time he is a 1 year old, I am still up all night soothing him?”. Thus the worry-fest plants its seed. As I remained non-judgmental and tuned in to the experience, those worry-based thoughts felt out of place and faded into the background.
For more help on how to incorporate informal mindfulness into your daily routine, spend some time with a New Directions counselor whom would love to walk alongside you in the process.