Sep 12

Anxiety lives in the future. It cannot exist in the present moment. If something bad is happening in the present moment, you might not like it, but you are not anxious about it. Anxiety requires the ambiguity of the future. The never-ending “what if” questions. You cannot ask “what if” questions about what has already happened, or what is currently happening. Anxiety thrives in the unknown.

Mindfulness, on the other hand, lives in the present moment. It is the practice of noticing what your physical senses are experiencing in the moment. What can you see, hear, smell, taste, and feel? Taking a moment to focus on one or more of your physical senses can allow your mind to vacate the unknown future and appreciate the present moment. By doing so, anxiety will decrease for as long as you are focusing on the present moment.

Tips to practice mindfulness in your daily life:

  • Practice mindful eating – Each time you eat a meal or a small snack, pay attention to the tastes, sights, textures, smells, and sounds of your food. Instead of inhaling your food for energy so you can jump back into work, take a moment to truly experience your food.
  • Notice your well-traveled route – During your commute to work, pay attention to the details that you normally ignore. Instead of activating “autopilot,” notice the sights, smells, and sounds of your commute.
  • Play “name that tune” – Try to notice whenever you hear music throughout your day (elevator music, background music at restaurants, street performers in the subway, etc.) and listen long enough to try to identify the tune.
  • Practice stretching in your office – At least once a day, stretch. Notice the physical feeling prior to, during, and after stretching.

There are many ways to practice mindfulness in your day. Here are a few more suggestions. Experiment and find the most meaningful ways that you can connect with the present moment and avoid the anxious unknown.

 

Shawn Healy, PhD

 

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