19 Nov Don’t let life escape you: 5 tips to start living more mindfully
Don’t let life escape you: 5 tips to start living more mindfully
In this blog we welcome Ashleigh Stodden, Psychologist from our recommended psychologists at Attuned Psychology in North Adelaide, who offers some insights on how to start living more mindfully:
Life unfolds in the present, but often we find ourselves over-analysing and evaluating situations that have occurred in the past (the “if onlys”, the “should haves”), or we predict future scenarios that may transpire (the “what ifs”). But, if you’re constantly evaluating the past and predicting what might happen in the future, you are rarely ever experiencing and enjoying the present moment.
One of the most common requests I hear in my work is people wanting to live in the present more – “I just want to be able to enjoy the moment rather than getting caught up in my head”. Most people want to be able to live more in the present, but often they don’t know how. And for good reason, it’s not often a skill that we are taught.
Also, our minds are bright little things that are skilled in the art of critical thinking and evaluation. Our minds generate thoughts 24/7. We are constantly thinking! Generally, this is to our benefit – our minds help us make plans, critically evaluate what’s in front of us to keep us safe, compare choices to come to a decision.
We need to be able to analyse and predict or we wouldn’t learn from our mistakes or set goals. However, this skill can also be to our detriment and this is when we find ourselves over-analysing things that are generally not helpful to us.
When we’re at work we find ourselves fantasizing about holidaying in Europe. When we’re on holidays we might get consumed with how much work will be waiting for us back in the office.
You might find yourself over-analysing your responses to a conversation or you might not even voice your opinion because the fear in your head of what others might think holds you back. Maybe you get consumed by your own ideas of future happiness – “I’ll be happy once we buy a house, when I get into a relationship, once I finish this degree”.
We are always reflecting to the next thing. It’s very normal to think these things – we all do it. But getting hooked by our thoughts does not allow us to enjoy the present moment which is life. Here are five quick tips to help you to start living more presently.
1. You are not your thoughts
Your thoughts do not define you nor should they control you. How many thoughts have you had in the past and then not found yourself not acting on them? I’ll give you an example – “I’m just so angry; I want to hurt that person!!” But did you? Most likely not.
My point is that we often feel that our thoughts control us. We let them dictate how we behave and often let them limit us – “I’m not going to do x and y because what if z happens?” Although we can’t completely control our thoughts, we can learn to be the observer of our thoughts; we can allow them to have less influence over us.
2. Stop, notice and catch yourself
Our minds are often so skilled at overthinking and analysing past and future situations that we sometimes don’t even know we do it! Notice and acknowledge these thoughts, just let them be. Most of our thoughts are opinions and beliefs – we don’t have to believe them or feel controlled by them.
3. Bring yourself back
Once you notice you are getting consumed (or controlled) by your thoughts, it’s time to bring yourself back to the moment. Ground yourself. Think of it like dropping an anchor to the present moment.
If you’re having a conversation or playing with your children, really take the time to listen, look in their eyes.
Focus on your breathing. We all breathe without knowing we are doing it. For this reason, our breath can act as an anchor in times we feel consumed by our thoughts. Loosely notice how you are breathing – is it fast, slow? Don’t try to control it, just gently notice it.
Notice what you can see hear, touch, taste and smell. Bring yourself back to your surroundings. You are just one element in your surroundings. Start noticing the greater picture rather than the one in your head.
4. Turn to your values and take action
When we find ourselves getting consumed by our thoughts and emotions it can be helpful to turn to our values. Ask yourself, what matters to you in the “big picture?” What makes a good life?
In the midst of these uncomfortable thoughts and feelings how do you want to live your life? What is important to you?
Values guide action. If you value courage and friendship but you find that your fears of saying the wrong thing get in the way of you making friends try to turn to what’s most important to you.
5. Practise mindfulness
Being mindful can feel difficult because our minds are so skilled at the art of overthinking, but the more you practise mindfulness the easier it will seem. It’s okay to get caught up in your head from time to time – we all do it!
Have you ever read a page of a book to only realise that you have literally no clue what it was about? Yep, chances are you were in your head that whole time! Keep practising bringing yourself back to the moment when you notice you’ve lost it. You can practise mindfulness right now.
If you need a bit of extra help download a mindfulness app on your smartphone – my favourite is Headspace!
Remember, all we ever have is the present; let’s make it worth our while.
If you feel that you or someone you know requires a little extra support or would like to learn some mindfulness-based skills, please feel free to make an appointment with one of our experienced psychologists at Attuned Psychology today.