Mindfulness takes many forms. You may think of meditation or yoga when you hear the word. In actuality, mindfulness just requires focusing on what you are doing and paying attention to the present moment and the sensations you are feeling. You might not know that mindfulness is something you can incorporate into your daily life: Taking a look at your routine and identifying opportunities for mindfulness can help you regulate your emotions and give you more control over your feelings throughout the day, explains Jeff LaPratt, PsyD, Clinical Psychologist at Sheppard Pratt.
“The pandemic has wreaked havoc on a lot of people’s mental health,” says Dr. LaPratt. “One of the reasons is it has taken away a lot of routine and structure and, therefore, caused increased anxiety.” Adding mindfulness into your routine can help you manage this anxiety.
Dr. LaPratt describes mindfulness as a process that involves:
- Building awareness of our thoughts and emotions. Emotions are centered in the body, so this involves paying attention to your physical sensations.
- Controlling thoughts and emotions that come into our minds by choosing what to do with them.
- Allowing the thoughts and emotions to come through and eventually leave, rather than fighting or suppressing them.
These are skills you can practice throughout your day. They can also fit into your morning and evening routines. “Practicing mindfulness doesn’t mean you need to add anything different,” says Dr. LaPratt. “It’s looking at what you already do and doing it in a mindful way.”
For example, if you usually get up in the morning and have a cup of coffee, you can drink that coffee mindfully. “Engross yourself in that task of drinking coffee,” says Dr. LaPratt. “Use your five senses as if it’s the first time you’ve drunk a cup of coffee. Think about what it smells like, the sensation of the mug in your hands, the temperature, and, finally, the taste of it."
“Practicing mindfulness in the morning can really set up the rest of your day,” he continues. “People wake up thinking about the stress of the day—what we have to do later, errands to run—and managing that in a mindful way in the morning will make you more resilient and less vulnerable to the stressors that come in throughout your day.”
Similarly, mindfulness practices in the evening can help you deal with stress that you’ve built up over the course of the day. “The key is finding what you already do or like to do, and enhancing those things through mindfulness. At night, this can be anything from watching a favorite show to eating a snack or reading a book,” says Dr. LaPratt.
Dr. LaPratt notes that “you can’t really do this wrong.” The important thing is to give it a try. “The whole trick with mindfulness is that—even if you’re having trouble focusing—if you’re in the moment and noticing that, you’re doing it. Saying, ‘Hey, I’m getting distracted,’—that’s actually the mindfulness practice right there.” ￼
Ready to incorporate mindfulness into your life? Watch our Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) experts in our Mindful Minutes video series on Instagram (@SheppardPratt), Facebook, or YouTube.