by Amelia Powelson, Psy.D.
Have you ever driven down the street and then all of the sudden realized you missed your turn? Or finished your dinner only to realize that you do not recall how it tasted? We often go through the motions of life, but forget to stop and actually enjoy them. Mindfulness helps us stop and enjoy the moment, so that suffering can be decreased and happiness and control over our minds can be increased. It allows us to experience reality in its true form.
It is difficult for most of us to be mindful and live in the moment. We spend a lot of time reminiscing and analyzing the past and feeling anxious about the future and all that is unknown and out of our control (which is almost everything!). Our busy and fast-paced lives make slowing down and embracing the moment feel like foreign territory. It might even be a little uncomfortable. However, mindfulness allows us to see what is happening in our lives more clearly and to truly enjoy what is going on around us. It can also help us step away from our negative thoughts and feelings.
Mindfulness takes a lot of time and hard-work to master. It involves paying attention on purpose and learning to slow down and stop automatic and habitual thoughts that we do not wish to have, so that we can experience the present moment in hopes that we will find peace and joy. It also gives us the opportunity to respond to those unwanted thoughts in a healthy, effective way. It is important to remember that we can not turn our brains off. Therefore, when you are trying to be mindful and thoughts come into your mind about how you need to get caught up on paperwork or call your mom back, acknowledge those thoughts and let them go without judgment. Getting angry with yourself because your mind is wondering will be counterproductive. How we respond to our thoughts is more important than the fact that they are present when practicing mindfulness.
Mindfulness is a way of living. There are unlimited ways to practice it throughout the day because it is the act of intentionally giving whatever task or activity you are doing your undivided attention and setting everything else aside. You hone in on the details of the experience by using all five of your senses. For instance, while practicing mindfulness while doing the dishes, focus on the sound of water hitting the dirty pan, the sensation of warm water on your hands, the smell of dish detergent, the vibrant color of the clean plate and so on. Give mindfulness a try. How can you incorporate it into your daily life?
Dr. Powelson received her Doctoral Degree in Clinical Health Psychology from the California School of Professional Psychology at Alliant International University. Her Pre-Doctoral Internship was completed within an integrated primary care clinic where she provided a broad range of clinical assessment and treatment services to children, adolescent, and adult patients who presented with a variety of medical and psychological conditions. In addition to providing individual therapy, Dr. Powelson facilitates a Coping Skills Group that teaches individuals how to respond to their emotions in healthy ways, conducts psychological assessments and testing for individuals of all ages, and gives presentations on topics such as stress management, grief, the mind-body connection, adherence to treatment regimens, and integrating behavioral health services into medical clinics. Dr. Powelson can be reached at 630-357-2456, extension 116 or at email@example.com.