Mindfulness Has Started

To all my fellow anxious people, how are you doing? No really. How are you doing? Over a year ago, the world came to a standstill because of the pandemic. Many have described it as the embodiment of Groundhog Day where every day feels like a Tuesday in March. We are expected to maintain ‘business as usual’ by working, exercising, sleeping, cooking, cleaning, and practicing self-care to the same degree of functionality of pre-pandemic life. It is hard to attend to all of these areas normally, let alone during an unprecedented moment in the 21st century. I have found myself coping by taking one giant step into the future while the other half of me is still ruminating about the past. Even as a therapist, I am struggling to be mindful of the present during this time. In fact, as I write this, I can guarantee you I have gotten up and walked around aimlessly several times.

When we are struggling to be present, it is a sign to increase our use of mindfulness skills. If you know me, you may know that I was initially skeptical of mindfulness (#guilty). Mindfulness is the backbone of DBT and allows our mind, body, and spirit to be anchored to the present. For many of us, the present is HARD! Which is why we are constantly looking forwards, backwards, or dreaming of a different reality. Before mindfulness, I often felt stuck in my thoughts such as: “Well, what if this goes completely wrong?” or “I can’t believe I did that. I’m the worst person ever!” It was really hard for me to be able to just sit down, enjoy the moment, and relax. Since that initial skepticism, I have learned that mindfulness can actually decrease these feelings of sadness and anxiety, while increasing experiences of joy.

If you’re new to this practice, I will give a crash course on Mindfulness 101. Mindfulness can be practiced by our ‘What’ skills, observing and describing. The act of observing is allowing your five senses to just experience life and reality as it is without attachment, judgement, or words. You can also observe thoughts, bodily sensations (e.g., am I hungry, tired, or thirsty?), and emotions. Describing is putting a name or label to these thoughts, emotions, and sensations.

Hopefully one day soon, I will once again be able to utilize my mindfulness ‘What’ skills in my favorite activities. I envision a day in New York City where I am surrounded by the sights of crowds, the taste of New York pizza, an earful of loud profanities here and there, and the smell of local coffee shops. Today is not that day and that is okay. Until then, I will practice mindfully observing and describing the blooming cherry blossom tree I recently planted, the warm sunshine and cool breeze on my skin, my dog howling at her chew toy when I am trying to work, and the constant sensation reminding me to hydrate my body.

Mindfulness is a lifelong journey and one that I have only recently begun myself. When the world feels off-balanced, remember that you have the power within you to refocus and recenter. I hope you will join me too.

Mindfulness Has Started. Please Silence Your Cell Phones.

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