You may be zipping through traffic or zoning out, scrolling through your social media feed, responding to emails, watching TV, whatever it is. You’re keeping your mind buzzing and busy. You have an unquiet mind.
It’s only in the few quiet moments of our lives that we begin to really notice the moment and be with ourselves. It’s a hard thing to do, but it can make a dramatic change in your life.
Adulting and Mindfulness
When I go for a solo trail run in the woods, I’m instinctively paying attention to where my next step is going to land. Listening to my breathing in that moment. I’m not thinking of the run as a form of exercise. Not thinking about what I’m going to make for dinner. I’m noticing the moment. And that’s it. It’s a way of being mindful and taking notice of my surroundings.
(The rest of the time I’m mindlessly going through a checklist of things, lamenting the past, worrying about the future, watching The Bachelor, and looking at Facebook every 10 minutes. You get the idea. None of these things are good for my well-being, and it’s exhausting.)
Described as the “Mother of Mindfulness,” Harvard psychology professor Ellen Langer defines mindfulness as “the simple act of actively noticing things.”
“When you actively notice new things, that puts you in the present, makes you sensitive to context,” Lager explains in an On Being interview. “As you’re noticing new things, it’s engaging, and it turns out, after a lot of research, that we find that it’s literally, not just figuratively, enlivening.”
Going on vacation, for example, isn’t only about a change of scenery. You’re disconnecting from all your regular activities at home, paying more attention to what’s going on around you, and living more in the moment. Or at least that’s the idea of a vacation. You can apply the same sense of wonder to your home, work and social life.
Clinical psychologist Elisha Goldstein puts it this way: “(Mindfulness is) the acknowledgment of the reality of the present moment that we begin to cultivate compassion and empathy for ourselves and others. These are the seeds of healing.”
Children and Mindfulness
Technology and social media aren’t obviously all bad, but when people run amok with it, bad things can happen. Social media and well-being are inextricably linked. Counselors today are dealing more and more with negative behaviors like cyberbullying because more people than ever are spending time online.
In fact, one in three students experience cyberbullying mainly through social media. Aggressive bullies definitely aren’t cultivating compassion and empathy for their victims.
“Counselors who see individuals with these experiences can have a big impact in helping clients recover and cope,” according to Bradley University. “It’s key that counselors understand the facilitating and magnifying role of the internet when addressing cyberbullying.”
Mindfulness training in schools is becoming more popular throughout the country and is designed to help students develop empathy and self-regulation, and relieve stress. The next generation of kids will hopefully become more enlightened than what we are currently experiencing today.
Have you ever noticed a child engrossed in play? They probably aren’t thinking about time or assessing judgment on anything. I want to be like that when I grow up.
Everyone should engage in daily rituals for self-care or whatever it takes to unwind and unplug. What if you could push the pause button to become more mindful and just “be” with yourself; what does that look like for you? How are you actively noticing things in your daily life?