I tend to be an anxious person that tends to dwell on the past and do the “what ifs” for the future, so I needed a way to break this vicious cycle and took an instant liking to the practice of mindfulness when introduced to me by a friend.
For anyone that doesn’t know what mindfulness is, it simply means “staying in the present”. That the past is now history and yes you can learn from the past, but there is no point in living in the past. Credit: morguelfile.com
Some people get anxious when they think about the past and other feel anxious when they think about the future, and you need to break that tape that keeps going on in your mind. The one that keeps going over things, or the “what ifs” over and over with no result or answer and just makes you feel bad and puts you in a mood.
Wasn't Sure But Worth a Try
I really didn’t buy into this process when I first started it. I couldn’t understand how looking at a tree or a blade of grass was going to magically fix all my heavy problems, but what I wasn’t expecting was the calming effect it started to have on me within a short period of time.
My hubby has never been a worrier. If things go wrong, he is momentarily angry, then he does what he can to fix it and then says “let’s move on from this” which for me is hard as I tend to dwell. I will dwell on them and pull them apart and analyze them to death and then eventually move on. It is just how I operate. I inherited these traits from my mother who used to pace at night when she was worried or suddenly start cleaning out closets.
Nasty Series of Events
This became a problem for me when a series of nasty events took place in a short period of time and I simply had a hard time dealing with them. In the last 4 years I lost my younger brother and my uncle to cancer, we then had a nasty car accident
Credit: diane palmer where I had to be cut out of the car, a serious house fire, cracked my wrist, a house move and then a business collapse. A business that we had run and supported our family for over 20 years. Then just for some added fun, a bad menopause, weight gain and then pre-diabetes was diagnosed. I was told I had to start dealing with my stress now as it was ruining my health.
I Felt Calmer
So I felt like I had lost my footing and that everything around us was simply crumbling and that all the future held was more doom. So, to have someone tell me that looking at an object for a few minutes was going to help me with this was hard to believe.
But I have to tell you it did help me. At first it was hard. Hubby and I would go for a walk in the woods with our dog to for a “change of scenery” but all the problems, past and future would simply come with me replaying over and over in my head and the what ifs’ for the future were hard to ignore. Looking at this beautiful nature was simply not doing it for me.
So, I was advised to go for that same walk and pick 3 things and really look at them, and then ask questions. So, I started doing this every day. We would walk and we would come upon a creek and sit for a minute and I would look at a water strider and ask questions like “I wonder how fast he goes?” or “I wonder how they stay on top of the water?” Simple questions that I don’t know the answer too.
This forces your brain to start thinking about an answer and in doing this it switches gears and out of that worry tape and takes more interest in the present issue in front of you.
I started doing this as much as possible for most days and I really found nature and backyard critters to be the most helpful, especially birds, chipmunks and squirrels.
Put Nature Right by my WindowCredit: diane palmer
So, I decided to setup a bird feeder station right out my office window. Now chickadees visit it often. My cat loves to watch the action, and with it being summer I have the window open and I can hear the little birds through the screen. I stop and really look at them in wonderment. Really look at their feathers and how they feed.
This is mindfulness. I will then sit outside for a break if I can and feed the chipmunks and really watch them eat as they have become tame. I watch them in action; look at their little feet, just anything about them while they are in front of me.
It doesn’t make your problems go away but it gives your brain a break. It relaxes me and believe it or not you can then many times come up with a better plan or solve a problem.Credit: diane palmer
Nature is Perfect for Practicing Mindfulness
You can look at anything you want, but for me it needs to be something living and moving it could even be simply watching the clouds roll by or coming up with shapes.
As a kid you probably practiced this all the time, when you would lay on your back and watch the clouds with your friends and pick out shapes. If I was being scolded by a teacher as a kid I would look at an object and really study it to tune her out!
So, I decided to be a kid again and really look at nature as if it was new. My blood pressure has now dropped. I feel more relaxed and happier. We still have issues to work on, but now it is not a panicked “what if”. I am now able to focus much better.
If I can’t get outside, then I look out the window at my bird feeder and my squirrel feeder and I literally disappear into their actions for 10 minutes or so. My health has slowly become better and slowly we are recovering from our down time.
Life is full of change, but sometimes that change can come very quickly and in a series of events. Exercise and lots of walks used to work but it just wasn’t working anymore, until I added this “staying in the present” with mindfulness.
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Go back to being a kid. If you are sitting outside and you see an ant walking by, simply look closely at it and really see it or a bird, just something you can watch in wonderment and even ask questions about just to get your brain thinking about something else even for a few moments.
In the beginning it will be hard and maybe you can do it for a minute or two, but after a while it gets easier with practice.
Have you ever noticed when you are “preoccupied” with problems you don’t notice your surroundings? Start really noticing your surroundings now, and it will break that tape, and give your brain the break it needs and ultimately help you be stronger to face the world. Remember all we really have is “right now”.