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  • Writer's pictureEaston Gaines, MSEd, PsyD

Be here, now: a mindful guide to action

When you hear the term 'mindfulness,' what pops up? Most people imagine a similar scene: gentle wind dancing along a river while a cross-legged, closed-eyed yogi breathes deeply.

While there are many benefits of focusing our minds inward, it can be equally as rewarding to practice turning it towards the external. Mindfully performing tasks can remind us that our busy minds deserve a break too. Mindful action requires us to do the following:

  • Focus and shift our attention between thoughts, feelings, physical sensations, and actions in order to be mindful of the present-moment experience.

  • Release distracting thoughts and judgments by allowing them to pass without holding onto them and letting them distract us from the present.

  • Use radical acceptance to remain nonjudgemental.

Ok, how?

Unfortunately, there is no shortcut to becoming instantly and permanently mindful. The good news? Mindfulness isn't strenuous -- you just have to remember to practice it! One way to get there is by noticing, shifting, and rewiring.

  1. Notice when you're in a busy mind state.

  2. Shift gears and bring your attention back to the present moment by focusing on the task at hand.

  3. Finally, rewire savoring the experience of being fully engaged in what you’re doing.

Making a habit of the Here & Now

  1. Create a cue — Having a cue, or trigger, is essential in building new habits. To start your day off with a bit more peace, try to use brushing your teeth as your cue. When you pick up your toothbrush each day, Notice your surroundings. Then Shift by bringing your full attention to the sights, sounds, and sensations of brushing your teeth. Finally, Rewire by savoring this experience for just 15 to 30 seconds. In action, this might sound like "the sunshine through the window is bouncing off of the mirror," "I can hear the bristles of the brush rubbing against my teeth," "I can taste the mint on my tongue," or "I feel the coolness of the tiles on my feet."

  2. Use labels to ground yourself in the present task — Once you’ve initiated the habit using a habitual experience, it can be helpful to use mental labeling to keep your mind grounded in the moment. When you reach for the towel, you might think “towel.” When you go to the sink, “handwashing.” This can be a helpful way of disrupting your wandering mind and grounding yourself back to the task at hand.

  3. Carve out “stimulus-free” moments — Listening to podcasts, audiobooks, and other multimedia soundbites can distract us from the present. If you notice that your day is full of stimulation and you rarely give yourself space to breathe and just “be,” it can be helpful to carve out moments to unplug and savor the silence.

  4. Slow down — Speed and busy minds are good friends. When possible, see if you can Notice your pace accelerating. Then Shift by slightly adjusting your pace — instead of speed walking to the bathroom during a work break, let yourself enjoy the stroll.

Mindfulness is cultivated by increments, one moment at a time.

Mindful action can have a profound impact on our lives because we are bringing our whole selves into the present moment, engaged with life as it unfolds. Its power lies in its practice and application. The more we are mindful of our actions, the more choice we have over them. With mindful action, we aren't changing what we do but how we do it.

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