The challenges that we’re bombarded by each day from both the global and personal hardships can easily send us into a tailspin.
It’s vitally important to find ways to tend our own psyches in order to face these challenges. We need to pull back on the reins that let our minds run wild with stress and anxiety.
Too often, we let ourselves become “future chasers,” dwelling in moments that aren’t here yet and worrying about what might happen instead of what’s actually happening. We need to bring our minds to the present moment and check in with what is happening in the “now,” both in the external environment and in our internal perceptions.
A mindfulness practice helps us to connect to the present moment and to better understand what matters most. It stops our wandering mind and puts our focus and awareness on what we’re actually experiencing. When we stop our fretting and worrying, we allow ourselves to be less distracted and more still. Therefore, we notice more and broaden our perspective.
With mindfulness, we gain an awareness of when our thoughts are beginning to spiral into a whirlwind of worry. It lets us harness any mental turmoil by bringing us back to the present.
One simple way to connect to the present is to focus on taking in and letting out a few deep breaths. As we focus our mind on the expansion of our lungs while slowly breathing in and on the contraction of our lungs as we slowly exhale, we calm our racing mind. We become grounded and calm and can better handle whatever situation presents itself.
Here are five ways to use mindfulness to keep us fully present and aware so that we can adapt to any situation:
1. Stop the brain’s busyness. The mind thrives on activity and distraction, which is why it’s incumbent upon us to teach it how to quiet down and be still. Putting our focus and awareness on the breath helps us find stillness. It helps us find acceptance and gratitude. Using the breath as a type of meditation allows us to connect with the wholeness that’s within us. But meditation isn’t the only way to connect. We can experience that feeling when we take a walk and notice the natural world around us, or when we sit quietly savoring a cup of tea. When we’re fully present and are surrendered to a moment with total awareness, we experience a sense of non-separation, and that’s when we feel whole, complete, and adaptable.
2. Navigate the moment with neutrality. Staying present in the moment can be challenging if we’re facing something daunting, difficult, or unclear. Emotions, such as fear or anger, can make our minds race, and the impulsive need to react can lead us to say or do things we may regret. But if we allow ourselves to open to challenging moments with acceptance, our resistance begins to dissolve. We can tell ourselves, “I can handle this moment. There’s nothing for me to fear.” We can direct the moment—meaning we can navigate it with neutrality—because we’re no longer constricting or reacting but allowing for it to just be. Opening up to whatever challenges present themselves instead of resisting them helps us ease into those moments, learn from them, and find what rings true for ourselves.
3. Practice life gazing. When we take the time to simply look around us, we can see so much more than when we’re busy thinking about what we have to do next. An everyday mindfulness practice lets us become hyper-aware of what’s around us. For example, when we’re stopped at a red light, we can notice what’s out the car window. Or we can step outside and observe whatever is taking place in the outdoors. Balancing our day with the time we spend performing work, doing chores, or running errands with taking present moment intervals to stop our minds from being on autopilot helps us to stay fully aware.
4. Replace painful past memories with present perception. For most of us, our past contains some unpleasant or painful memories. As we know, that’s part of life. Yet how we process those painful experiences and what we continue to tell ourselves about them makes the difference in how the past affects the present. We can begin processing painful memories in a way that allows a new, different impression to take its place. This means distancing and desensitizing ourselves from the unpleasant memory and choosing instead to stay present. That doesn’t mean denying or minimizing what’s happened in any way. Instead, we choose to stay present and adaptable, and to know that anything that happened to us in the past doesn’t define who we are in the present.
5. Strive for a state of elevated awareness. Finding time to stop the “doing” and connect to our spiritual being will always bring us back to the inner dwelling of our wholeness. Taking time to connect to and acknowledge our true nature is saying to ourselves, “I recognize that which is worthy, divine, and holy in myself.”
Mindfulness will help us experience an expansiveness that makes us fully aware and able to adapt to whatever presents itself. By knowing how to connect to the present and to attentively decipher its meaning, we allow ourselves to navigate the challenges facing us with neutrality.
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