Many of us feel dissatisfaction with our lives because we are always looking ahead (what can be) or looking behind (what could have been). We have this mindset that we will be happy as soon as a desire is met. We tell ourselves, “once I graduate, once I buy that bigger house,” and on and on. In the book “Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff… and it’s all small stuff,” Richard Carlson says that we can find more happiness if we change the emphasis of our thinking from what we want to what we have (p 161).
Marsha Linehan Ph. D, originator of Dialectical Behavioral Therapy, describes mindfulness as being present without judgment. It’s learning to observe and accept our present feelings, thoughts, behaviors, and environment. Imagine observing yourself as a spectator (looking down at you from a balcony), objectively describing the scenario without judging (good, bad, blame).
Mindfulness takes practice (here is a link to some exercises)… For example, when you have simple tasks to complete (folding the laundry), try keeping your full attention on the task and observe all five senses. Another option is to find a quiet place for a few minutes and experience the stillness (or focus on your breathing). In both of these examples, as distractions enter your mind, gently set them aside and refocus on your present. A good way to begin your day is writing down something positive in your life (or the upcoming day). I personally find that being thankful in daily prayer helps me stay present. Embrace opportunities for quiet in your life.
As you get comfortable with mindfulness (living in the present non-judgmentally), try to be more accepting of your worries about past issues or future events. Why on earth would I do this, you ask??? Fighting feelings like anxiety, sadness, and shame give them more power over you. You can allow the feeling in for a specified time (say 10 minutes) to identify and process without judgement. Use your mindfulness skills to observe how you feel. Remember, that you are a like a spectator in your own mind, and you’re learning to separate those harmful feelings from yourself in the present.
Give it a try!! Live in the present and enjoy the ride!!
Licensed Professional Counselor Intern
Under Supervision of Tiffany Smith LPC-S, LMFT-S, NCC