Mindfulness: Buzz word? Lifestyle? Flavor-of-the-month feel good nonsense? Where it meets grit (You are so resilient!) and a little luck, it may prove to be enough to bring true comfort.
Simply put, mindfulness is just paying attention. Waking up. Attending to the sensations in our physical, emotional, and spiritual self. It can be spiritual (in a traditionally religious sense); more likely it’s spiritual in that we are beings who seem quite curious about answers to difficult questions. Questions like, “Why I am here?” or, “Why do people suffer?”
It is as simple as noticing that when it’s cloudy out (Which it is today. ‘Days on end of brilliant sunshine. One morning without and I’m feelin’ it for real!) I feel a little glum.
‘Noticing that I’m tired, or taxed, or curious.
That I’m hungry, or anxious, or indignant.
Mindfulness matters because…?
What good, the noticing? We’re affected by the stirrings and whirrings in ourselves whether we notice them or not. By paying just the slightest attention to them we sort of assign them a healthy degree of influence. So, if I notice that I didn’t get enough sleep last night, I may be a bit more gentle with myself when I feel inexplicably sad or irritable. I won’t excuse poor behavior, and I’ll be able to acknowledge that there’s a reason I’m feeling off.
If I notice that opening up my email inbox stirs a wave of nausea, I might take a minute to address the reality that there are a couple of people I’m really nervous about hearing from, rather than assigning a general feeling of anxiety to the whole of the many voices of my Gmail account.
Am I really hungry, or do I need a big drink of water?
Is it really Joe that’s peeving me off, or is it that Joe reminds me a lot of a rude teacher from junior high?
Is that knot in my stomach caution to go a different direction, or a bundle healthy nerves that can just be noticed and set aside as I pursue a new opportunity?
So I notice stuff? Then what?
Mindfulness as a practice (meaning, we work it like a muscle or a piece of music that needs a tweek) starts with noticing, and moves to letting go, and to letting things be.
Some of the things we’ll notice (I’m hungry, thirsty, bored…) can be tended to easily.
Other things have a little more psychological weight to them. By just paying attention we start to become aware that our sniping at the kids and the husband may not have anything to do with either the kids or the husband: sitting with the irritation for just a minute may show that there’s a more complicated disgruntle at play. We can be mindful of both the surface frustration, and awake to the deeper concern. And from there we can get curious. What’s really going on here? What do I need? What do I want?
Are there stressors and trouble spots where I can let something go? Are there some things that just need to honored as they are (even if they’re very difficult), things I need to let be?
Mindfulness and your mental health
We’re just skipping rocks over the surface of some deep stuff here. Maybe you find yourself noticing that you’re feeling wobbly mentally and emotionally. Winter months can take a different toll than the rest of the year, and you’re not alone if you’re feeling the emotional chill.
Check out our charities page for a robust list of organizations that are set up to help with all aspects of mental health care. Your whole health matters, so if you’re feeling like you could use a little back-up there are people ready to go the distance with you.