I’m a worrier and I always have been. I’m not sure if it’s my genetics, being the oldest child in my family, or the way I was raised, but in any case, I’ve had worry lines on my forehead since I was ten years old. I remember my parents always saying to me “Luisa, just relax!” But as anyone who worries knows, this is easier said than done. In fact, when people told me to relax, I felt even more anxious and angry… because I believed my worry was invalid and that the way I was feeling was somehow incorrect. Eventually, I went to therapy and learned some pretty effective ways to keep my worrying in check. Later in my life, I became a clinical psychologist, and I learned even more about worrying and how to help others control their worry. Of all the things I’ve learned, I’ve found mindfulness to be the most helpful. Mindfulness is the practice of being completely present in the moment. Jon Kabat-Zinn, a teacher of mindfulness meditation and the founder of the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction program at the University of Massachusetts, defines mindfulness as:
“Mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way; On purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally.”
I know what you’re thinking- making time for mindfulness is going to cause you even more stress and subsequent worry. But mindfulness doesn’t have to take any extra time; you don’t have to meditate to benefit from mindfulness. Mindfulness is simply being aware and present in the moment. Instead of thinking about what just happened or what may happen, focus on the present. Easier said than done, right? Try focusing just on your breath. As you take a shower in the morning, instead of stressing about the day’s events, focus on breathing in and out, fully and slowly. Mindfulness is focusing on the now. If you’re making your kiddos breakfast, for example, just focus on pouring the cereal into a bowl or spreading the butter onto the bread. Notice each movement your hand makes with the butter knife, the smell of fresh toast, or focus on the sound of the cereal hitting the bowl. If you have a random worry thought, just notice it. Watch it pass though your mind like a cloud passing through the sky and go back to the task at hand. Mindfulness is effective because if you’re living in the present moment, you can’t be worrying about the future or ruminating about the past.
Now I am not saying mindfulness is easy. Depending on the day, it can be extremely difficult and frustrating. But it does get easier with practice- I promise. If you’re interested in learning more about mindfulness, check out the many readings of Thich Nhat Hanh, a Vietnamese Zen Buddhist monk, teacher, author, and peace activist. Below is a quote from Nhat Hanh:
“Breathing in, I calm body and mind. Breathing out, I smile. Dwelling in the present moment I know this is the only moment.”
― Thich Nhat Hanh, Being Peace
If you find yourself feeling constantly overwhelmed, anxious, and worried, Harmony At Home can help. Contact Dr. Luisa today for a free consultation.