Mindfulness can be thought of as the repeated act of intentionally paying attention to where you’re putting your attention.
It has less to do with the adage ‘Live in the Present’ even though that is one of the inevitable outcomes and more to do with regaining awareness and control over where you’re placing your attention. Most of your attention throughout each day is being pulled around by powerful invisible forces called habits. With the greater awareness and control over where your attention is being placed through mindfulness, you can increase your sense of well being as you ultimately increase your capacity to influence your thoughts, feelings, reactions, and behaviors.
If you’re thinking this sounds great but it also sounds so abstract, here are 2 strategies that’ll bring it down to earth.
- A great way to start accessing your natural ability to ‘pay attention to where you’re putting your attention’ will be to use the little voice in your head to narrate your experiences as you’re having them. For “I’m cutting the vegetables for salad tonight, noticing the colors and textures” or, “As I drink my iced tea, I’m noticing the coolness of the cup in my hand and now turn my attention back to my project that is due tomorrow” or, “I’m noticing that I’m scrolling through Instagram now instead of doing my work, I’ll spend one more minute and then get back to what I need to do.”
- Another way to get started is to ‘set it and forget it’. Set a chime on your phone to sound periodically throughout the day. Start off with twice. When it chimes, take note of where your attention is. After seeing where your attention is, intentionally choose where you place it next. Do you return to what you were doing or do you pick something else on which to focus your attention?
Mindfulness isn’t meant to be a steady state but a regular touching base. At first, it takes an effort to remember to be mindful. You may need to put reminders on sticky notes on your computer, your bathroom mirror and your steering wheel. But after regular practice and repetition, you’ll become better at it and it’ll become second nature!
Let me know in a comment below if you've found some other ways to integrate mindfulness in your life. I love hearing what works for others!