11 Ways To Embrace the NOW When Your Brain Won’t Stop Thinking
Earlier this week, I gave a presentation to the Women’s Networking Group of the Mesa Chamber of Commerce. We talked about 3 Mistakes Even Smart Women Make that Keep Them Stressed and Stuck and How to Avoid Them. We talked about different self-Care strategies (and then some!) and one of the questions I received was how to quiet the mind and live in the present moment when our mind doesn’t stop thinking about all the things we have to do.
I’m sure we can all relate to this, right!?! We think about the zillion things we have to do, work projects, deadlines looming, bills to pay, supplies our kids need for that school project, the oil change due weeks ago, vet appointments, doctors appointments, house cleaning, house projects, light bulbs needing to be changed… anything and everything we need to do. With all of this going on in our heads, it’s no wonder it’s hard to quiet the mind and focus on the present moment…right now…this very minute.
The art of being in the now really is an art. It takes lots of practice. There are lots of thoughts (ha ha) on the topic on mindfulness and I thought I’d write an article with some ideas on how we can embrace the NOW.
1. Think about what you love doing…that thing that when you do it for hours it can feel like minutes – and do more of this. This helps train the brain to be present.
2. Go outside and sit for 5 minutes. Set your timer if you like. During this time, close your eyes and embrace all the sounds you hear. Think about every little thing possible. Then, after 5 minutes, write down everything you heard. You’ll be amazed at what you hear. If your mind starts to wander during this exercise, just gently get back to listening to the sounds. If you notice you are thinking about other things, you are making progress because you are recognizing your thoughts. Just let the thought go for now and stay with it. Over time, you can increase the amount of time for this exercise by 5,10,30 or 45 minutes. The first time I did this exercise in a group setting, it was pretty amazing. Some of us heard bells, wind, leaves, shoes, swallowing, a dog barking, talking, traffic, a horn, a door closing, a car starting, birds, sneezing, coughing, walking, and more. I was amazed at just how much I heard…and how much I missed. Some things I was like, oh yeah, I heard that too, while other things, I was like, wow, I didn’t hear this at all. It’s a great exercise in being in the present moment and expanding our awareness.
3. Similar to #2, you want to spend 5 minutes smelling everything around you. Follow the same process and write down everything you smelled during this time.
4. Go for a walk and practice breathing. Feel and notice each breath you take as you walk. You can also take in the sights and sounds and notice the beauty in everything you see. While walking, you can also visualize being grounded to Mother Earth with each step you take.
5. Read. Reading is a great way to be present. Think about it. If you are reading and retaining what you read, you are being in the moment.
6. Listen to meditative music and/or guided meditations. This could be classical music, nature sounds such as ocean waves, mantra music, chanting music…anything that helps you relax. Listen to each measure and let the music permeate through your body. In this case…it’s all ’bout that bass and treble:-) I really recommend Kelly Howell’s meditation CD’s if you are looking for reasonable and highly effective ways to meditate.
7. Try this simple letting go activity you can say to yourself or out loud. You can practice in the moment of the experience or visualize what you want to let go of:
Inhale and say “let”
Exhale and say “go”
Inhale and say “let”
Exhale and say “go”
8. Take a 5 minute “mindfulness break” by focusing on your breath. Try belly breathing, alternate nostril breathing or this simple zen breathing:
- Set the timer on you phone for 5 minutes
- Close your eyes and notice your breath
- Begin to count your exhale saying “one” to yourself
- Your second exhale say “two” all the way to “five”
- Start a new cycle with “one” after “five”
- When your mind wanders and you count to 12, start back with one!
- Refrain from checking the timer or allowing yourself to stop early
- When the timer goes off, open your eyes and transition slowly to your next activity
9. Write down or say out loud 10,20,50,100 things you are grateful for. In each moment…in each breath, really feel what it feels like to be grateful in that moment. In each moment, you are being present to what is.
10. Scan your body. Notice subtle body sensations such as an itch or tingling without judgment and let them pass. Notice each part of your body in succession from head to toe.
11. A less formal approach to mindfulness can also help you to stay in the present and fully participate in your life. You can choose any task or moment to practice informal mindfulness, whether you are eating, showering, walking, or playing with a child. These tips will help:
- Start by bringing your attention to the sensations in your body
- Breathe in through your nose, allowing the air downward into your lower belly. Let your abdomen expand fully.
- Now breathe out through your mouth
- Notice the sensations of each inhalation and exhalation
- Proceed with the task at hand slowly and with full deliberation
- Engage your senses fully. Notice each sight, touch, and sound so that you savor every sensation.
When you notice that your mind has wandered from the task at hand, gently bring your attention back to the sensations of the moment.
Whether you are a CEO or stay-at-home mom, you are the leader in your life and need to create breathing space to lead effectively. A mindfulness practice even for 5 minutes can give you the space to focus on the present moment, one breath at a time. This space gives you the opportunity to remember what matters most. Take a mindfulness break to start your day or whenever you are feeling overwhelmed, stressed out, or you don’t have time for this! You will create the breathing space you need to lead and balance effectively in every area of your life.
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