Becoming More Mindful

Becoming More Mindful

 

There are many definitions of mindfulness, each leading to slightly different approaches, so we will propose one that we like, and we will suggest an activity to enhance your abilities to be more mindful.


Our definition for mindfulness is: “Having a high awareness of what you are thinking and feeling at the present moment.”


Although it may sound easy to be aware of your current thoughts and feelings, it is rather difficult for most people when they first try to do it. An additional challenge is to state those thoughts and feelings in words. It is easier to describe thoughts in words, because thoughts, by definition, are usually communicated by sentence-like phrases made up of words.


Feelings are usually more difficult to express in words, since they are more like moods, which can be difficult to describe. Feelings can be noticed as body-reactions, such as facial expressions like smiling, crying, changes in breathing such as tightness or sighing; blushing, etc. A person can become skilled in describing these body-reactions after becoming more sensitive to them when they are occurring.


Because of the difficulty of articulating feelings and thoughts in the present moment, most beginning practitioners need some instruction and guidance to help them get started. One technique is to set the timer on your smart phone so that it goes off every 40 to 50 minutes. When the timer signals, you stop whatever you are doing, and record your current thoughts and feelings in some type of log. After a few days, you will probably become more articulate about your thoughts and feelings, whether they are positive or negative. Being non-judgmental is very important in this practice. When the timer rings, simply step back and notice without ideas about a thought being good or bad.


In conclusion, the primary reason to be aware of your thoughts and feelings at the time they are occurring is to be more in the present, and less in the past or the future. Being in the past or future is associated with perseverating and unpleasant feelings such as regret or fear. Being present is being tuned in to what is happening right now, because that is the “real you,” where you are currently engaged.


Your increased mindfulness will help you practice Step 1 of the SI practice. It will help you notice when you are feeling somewhat better than you usually do. Positive feelings in the present moment are the signal that you are using your strengths.