Mindfulness is simply being aware of what is going on, both within and around you. You pay attention to your sensations, thoughts, and feelings, accepting them in a spirit of acceptance, simply acknowledging what is there before deciding whether it is right or wrong. Many people in recovery find mindfulness practices an essential part in learning how to appreciate the ways they are growing, pay attention to tensions and cravings, and make wise decisions one day at a time.
1. Be Curious About the Everyday
Many people go about their days not really paying a lot of attention to what is around them. You may find it very easy to settle into routines that you can engage in without really thinking about what you are taking in with your senses. You can break this pattern of thoughtlessness by choosing to pay attention. Take a break from whatever task you are performing to notice the sights, smells, sounds, and sensations going on around you. One time you can do this is in eating. Take a moment to slow down and truly savor the food, paying attention to each taste and texture. Every a few moments can make a huge difference in how you practice the art of paying attention.
2. Use Times of Waiting to Breathe Deeply
Modern life is filled with times where nothing is happening, but you are waiting. Whether it’s in traffic, in line at a grocery store, or being early at an event. The natural tendency of many people is to feel anxious and impatient at these times. Their focus is on the future, on something that is going to happen later, not on the reality in front of them. This can be the source of tremendous anxiety and stress, because you feel blocked from doing something you want to do. Take a slow, deep breath to feel calm, so you can be peaceful at this moment. Drawing your attention to your breath brings your focus back to the here and now, and is good practice for times when you want to bring mindfulness into other situations of stress.
3. Be Forgiving to Yourself
Mindfulness is rooted in acceptance. This is because jugging makes it impossible to truly recognize something the way it is. If you are instantly labeling a thought or experience as “good” or “bad,” you are not fully appreciating it for what it is. Self-judgement can bring on unbearable amounts of stress and shame. Accepting who you are, even with imperfections allows life to feel like less of a struggle, and helps you to be more understanding towards others. If you feel reminded of a mistake or regret, simply tell yourself that you are not perfect, but that that event was something in the past. You can accept that and move on, gently bringing your attention to what you can do in the here and now.
4. Do Regular Actions Slowly and Thoughtfully
Almost anything you do can be done mindfully, and can be an opportunity to practice building mindfulness in your daily life. Whether it’s going for a walk, cooking, your work, or relaxing at the end of a day, you can bring mindfulness into that activity. The important thing is to slow down, and bring your attention to the task at hand. Do only one thing, and bring your mind’s attention to just that one thing, paying close attention to all the sights, feelings, and movements. If your mind wanders, thinking about something unrelated, bring your mind back to the simple fact of what you are doing.
5. Pay Attention to Others
You spend a lot of time in your own head. The brain is constantly running a commentary of everything happening, making snap judgements or bringing up unrelated distractions that bring your attention to your own internal story, rather than the reality of the present. Take time to notice the people around you, focusing on them. Look for opportunities to be helpful to them, or gain a deeper sense of what they are thinking or feeling.
Building mindfulness is not something you can force, but it is built through looking at the world in a slower, more deliberate and non-judgmental way. The more you practice, the more you may find it coloring the way you perceive everything around you, in turn being more aware of your self and your surroundings, and more capable of handling life’s challenges.