Have you ever gone through the whole day and then asked yourself, “What just happened?” Or did you ever experience something but then, you just can’t seem to articulate what you were feeling? Many people go through life with a lot of experiences but they do not take the time to reflect or think about what they are going through. Processing our emotions and thoughts are important skills to have.
When we are busy or when we don’t want to deal with something, it is very tempting to just overlook everything and push things aside. But this hinders us from being fully present and responding in a positive way; therefore, we must learn how to be mindful – mindful of our thoughts, feelings, and actions.
Mindfulness is simply: being fully aware of what is going on inside of you and outside of yourself at the given moment.
In order to be more mindful, you will need to practice more awareness and getting in touch with what you are thinking and feeling at the moment. Then, you can be fully engaged in the conversation, task, or relationship. How many times have you found yourself listening to someone, but then your mind quickly loses focus and you realize that you don’t know what the person is talking about? How many times have you set out to take care of something, but then you get distracted and fall behind on your responsibilities? How many times have you felt anxiety and negative thoughts after hearing or thinking about something that is related to your future?
Too often, when we go through things in life, we settle for one of the three options. We will: repress, retreat, or react. When we repress our feelings, it is not healthy because it can cause emotional and mental health issues. When we retreat, we are simply avoiding the issue and it does not solve the problem. In fact, avoidance almost always leads to escapism, which often results in addictive and destructive habits. When we react negatively, it turns out bad because we are reacting to our negative emotions. If you build up the skill of mindfulness, it will help you in your relationships and your goals, whether it is for work or your personal achievements. Here are 6 skills (SHOW UP) that you can implement in order to be more mindful in any situation:
- S – SLOW down. We fail to notice many things due to hurry and going from one thing to another without ever stopping to reflect. This is when we miss so much of what we need to see, hear, and feel. We are not able to be in the moment, which hinders us from enjoying things around us. No matter what situation you are in, try to slow down to experience things around you. It is amazing to realize how much we miss out on the beauty of this world due to our busyness.
Next Steps: Take a 1-2 minutes throughout the day to just look out your office window or take a short walk around your building.
- H – HONE in good habits. We are where we are right now because of little habits and decisions that we have made along the way. It is easy to blame our circumstances and situation, but once we decide to take responsibility for where we are, then we can try to take a different course of action. Start working on some good habits that will help you to be more mindful. It might be wise to limit your multi-tasking, your constant worry, your addictions, and anything else that prevents you from being in the moment. Good habits such as times of reflection, journaling, prayer/meditation, and etc. are all things that you can incorporate into your life.
Next Steps: Find what helps you to get recharged, refreshed and refocused, then schedule that in throughout the week.
- O – OBSERVE the world around you. One of the major reasons why we are not good at being mindful is that we get consumed with ourselves. This blinds us from a lot of things such as our emotional and mental states, and our ability to see what others are feeling and going through. When you get myopic in your focus, you cannot even recognize how you are feeling and thinking in the moment. This is why you have heard people say, “take a step back.” It helps with gaining perspective, as well as, seeing things from other people’s perspectives. It will also help with being more sensitive to other people’s needs and enables you to empathize better. Be more observant of your surroundings and try to read what is going on with all your senses.
Next Steps: Ask yourself these questions regularly: 1) What is going on right now? 2) What are others feeling right now? 3) How can I help others?
- W – WATCH your breathing. The famous “amygdala” which is located at the base of your brain and it is part of your limbic system. It affects how you process strong emotions such as fear or pleasure. It triggers your “fight or flight” response hence, it affects your breathing, heart rate, and other biological reactions. This prevents you from thinking and reasoning effectively, and it affects you physically, which can lead to other issues. One way to combat this is to focus on your breathing. There are many different techniques out there, but the simple one is the “4-7-8 Breathing” method. You take in 4 seconds of a deep breath, then hold it for 7 seconds. Afterward, you release your breath slowly for 8 seconds. This will not only slow down the effects of the limbic system, but it will calm you down so that you can think clearly.
Next Steps: Practice the 4-7-8 breathing the next time you are getting stressed or anxious.
- U – UNINTERRUPTED moments of stillness. We have too many distractions in life. We are not able to live in the moment and take in all that is going through our senses because something interrupts us. This is why it helps to reserve some time throughout your day to be in an uninterrupted moment of silence so that you can be still and get in touch with what happening around you. This uninterrupted moment of stillness will also clear your mind so that it will give you room to think. When there is mindfulness, it means that your brain is not filled with all the extra noise around you.
Next Steps: Turn off your phone and unplug through the week so that you can focus in on the things that you need to.
- P – PAUSE and appreciate. When you stop and then appreciate everything that you are feeling and experiencing, it creates more space for you to take in things. The reason why we usually feel a sense of mental and emotional overload is because we don’t have an outlet to process what we are going through at the moment. The more you process by pausing and appreciating, you are sending that into the part of your brain when it will be stored for memory. Then it frees up the brain space to take in all the new information and observations. A heart of gratitude and learning how to appreciate things also keep your mental and emotional states in a positive direction, which in turn helps you to process things better.
Next Steps: At the end of the work day, try to think about 1-2 things that you are thankful for. Even when you are in a stressful moment, try to think about why you are thankful even though the situation might tell you otherwise.
With so much that has happened so far in our lives, it is easy to neglect the importance of maintaining mindfulness. When we fail to be aware of what is happening inside and outside of us, it will affect our mental and emotional states without us even realizing what is going on. But by building up the skill of mindfulness, you will be able to achieve your goals and make a positive change. Live out these 6 skills (SHOW UP) of mindfulness so that you can be more mindful in any situation:
- S – SLOW down
- H – HONE in good habits
- O – OBSERVE the world around you
- W – WATCH your breathing
- U – UNINTERRUPTED moments of stillness
- P – PAUSE and appreciate