MELBOURNE – When people think of mindfulness, they often think of the more formal practice of meditation. The idea of sitting still and quiet can be daunting for some people and, as a result, they may resist attempting mindfulness altogether.
Mindfulness, put simply, is the act of being present in the moment, and is a powerful tool in emotional regulation and stress management.
The mind has a tendency to spend a lot of time either reflecting on the past and re-experiencing feelings of regret or shame, or thinking about future events and experiencing anxiety or worry. Usually, in the present moment, things are either pretty good, or neutral. A useful skill to master is the ability to catch yourself ruminating on past or future events and bring yourself back to the present.
Like everything, this skill takes a lot of practice and patience. Training your brain to bring yourself back to the moment, rather than repeating unhelpful negative emotions in your mind, will reduce feelings of stress, anxiety and despair.
The five-sense mindfulness exercise
Take a few minutes while walking or sitting to engage your senses and observe your environment.
1. What are 5 things that you can see. Look around and try to pick out something that you don’t usually notice.
2. Notice 4 things you can feel. Bring attention to the things that you’re currently feeling, such as the texture of your clothing, or the breeze on your skin.
3. Listen for 3 things that you can hear. Notice things in the background that you normally don’t, for example, the birds chirping outside or an appliance humming in the next room.
4. Notice two things you can smell. Bring attention to scents that you usually filter out, either pleasant or unpleasant. Perhaps it’s the eucalyptus trees outside or food cooking in the kitchen.
5. Finally, notice one thing you can taste. Take a sip of coffee, chew gum, or notice the current taste in your mouth