Stop…it’s not what you’re thinking. But…now that I’ve got your attention, let me go on. One well-known strategy for self-care is mindfulness. “Mindfulness”, as defined by Merriam-Webster is:
“The practice of maintaining a nonjudgmental state of heightened or complete awareness of one’s thoughts, emotions, or experiences on a moment-to-moment basis; also: such a state of awareness”
One of the reasons people practice mindfulness is to stay in the present moment. There is research that provides evidence that when our mind wanders, our thoughts are most often negative. Psychologists Matthew Killingsworth and Daniel Gilbert of Harvard University believe that, ““A human mind is a wandering mind, and a wandering mind is an unhappy mind.” They go on to say that, “The ability to think about what is not happening is a cognitive achievement that comes at an emotional cost.” Through their research they estimate that minds wander, on average, 46.9 percent of waking hours and that, typically, this mind-wandering makes people unhappy. They also discovered that people’s feelings of happiness had much more to do with where their mind was than what they were doing (Harvard Gazette, “Wandering Mind Not a Happy Mind”).
One way to prevent the negative mind-wandering is to always stay focused on the present moment. In order to do so, one must work towards minimizing the many random thoughts that float into our minds. How many times have you read a page from a book, realizing that you have no idea what you just read because your mind was wandering? I know that I’ve been guilty of playing a card game with my children, only to be focusing on work that I needed to have completed for a meeting the next day. It actually takes focus and practice to stay in the present moment. One easy way to practice staying focused on the present moment is in the shower. I find that the shower is an excellent place to practice mindfulness for a couple of reasons:
- I find that my mind wanders frequently in the shower. Sometimes I think about work deadlines or things that I need to get done around the house.
- There are many sounds and sensations that are easy to help “pull” you back into the present moment and to focus on the shower.
When I practice mindfulness in the shower, I think about the warm water hitting the top of my head and the feeling that gives me. I focus on the water moving down my body and the sensations of the water on my skin. Again…calm yourself…focus…we’re just talking mindfulness! I listen to the sound of the water hitting my body. When I shift my weight slightly, I notice the pitch of this sound changes and the path the water travels over my body changes. If my mind begins to wander and I catch myself having another thought, I “pull” myself back into the present moment, once again focusing on the sensations and sounds of the shower. Once I practiced this enough, I noticed myself naturally refocusing on the shower when a negative thought would enter my mind.
Gradually take this practice to other activities in your life. Be present. Be mindful. When washing the dishes, focus on the water flowing over the dishes, the sounds you hear and sensations you feel. Focus entirely on washing the dishes and nothing else. This will help you remain focused in other areas of your life, such as spending time (and being fully present) with loved ones such as a spouse or your children.
Be easy on yourself, as our minds wander often. Do not get frustrated, simply pull yourself back into the present moment.
As always, comments to this post (and any of my other posts) are welcomed and encouraged.