Mindfulness

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Written by Cortney Ricks, LCSW

I’ve been practicing being a bit more mindful lately. It kind of seems like the new trendy thing to do,
although I do hope this trend sticks around for a long while because it really can do wonders for your
mental health. The words “mindfulness” or “meditation” can sound a bit intimidating, but all it means is that we are able to be present in our lives – that we’re not constantly reliving or thinking about the past and/or thinking and worrying about our future. Being present is living in the Now and it can bring peace and more joy in our lives.

It’s easy for me to be present when I’m participating in an exciting event like splashing in the waves on a vacation with my children or riding on a terrifying roller coaster. That’s because these types of activities are new and exciting for my brain because these are things I rarely participate in. We are alert and engaged in activities like this because our brains are trying to take it all in for the first time and also look out for potential danger. It’s also really easy for me to be present when I’m doing something I love like gardening or redecorating my living room. But these events don’t happen very often in my life. I can usually be found running my children to practices, folding laundry, cleaning up mess after mess, etc. Our brains are really good and multi-tasking and going into auto pilot (thus not really staying present) when we perform our mundane activities. Going into auto pilot and multi-tasking helps us in many ways, but it can also be detrimental. When we’re not present in our daily tasks, it can make us unhappy and not content in our day to day activities – thus leading to dissatisfaction and maybe even depression and anxiety in our overall lives.

So what I’ve been trying to do lately is stay completely present while folding the laundry, driving my
children to practice after practice and even while cleaning the bathroom. Sound weird? Maybe it is at
first but I promise the more you do it the more it makes sense and helps us be more peaceful and
content in our lives. If you watch your thoughts for even a minute while doing a mundane task, you will
notice that they can go in a million different directions. Oftentimes, I find myself wishing I was onto the
next thing and when I get to the next thing it’s a repeat of the last moment – wishing I was doing
something else. So while I’m folding laundry, I try to be right there folding the laundry. I like to smell
the fresh scent of the clean clothes and notice what each of my children chose to wear that previous
week. I can take a few moments to be grateful too. There is so much to be grateful for in a big pile of
laundry – a washer and dryer in my home, energy to perform the task of folding the laundry, etc.
Oftentimes, we overlook the simple things we have in our lives that we can find joy in.

A task that I’ve really found great joy in recently is being with my children. And I mean really being with them. When I’m driving them to practice is a great time to just be with them. We can talk about their day and make up songs and jokes together. When I’m reading with my daughter at night, instead of wishing she would hurry up and get through the chapter, I now marvel at the way she is growing and the sound of her sweet little voice. I now find myself looking forward to reading with her when before I would find myself wishing she would hurry so I could put her in bed and go and do whatever it was I wanted or needed to do. I saw her book on my bedside table the other day and it made me miss her
and feel gratitude that I have that special, fleeting time with her each night.

This all takes practice but it’s worth the effort because eventually it gets easier and will pay off by
increasing your joy, overall contentment and peace. When you start to notice the little things and
appreciate the mundane, discontent begins to fade, anxiety and depression begin to ease. You can start
to see the world with new eyes and discover new things each day. Remember that it does take practice.
Your brain doesn’t like to sit and be still. We like to be entertained at all times! But we can rewire our brains to be more still and present. Try it a couple of times a day and it will get easier and easier. Resist
the temptation to pick up your phone when you start to feel boredom creeping in! Steady yourself,
breathe deeply and begin to see things you’ve been missing all this time.

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