Living in the present moment is challenging during all of the chaos.
I remind myself as often as possible to stop and take a breath. Sometimes I do, and sometimes I say to myself, “Take a breath? This will make us late for the next activity.” When I stop to take a breath, I always feel more present, even if just for that moment.
When I put down my mom hat and put on my social work one, breathing is one of the first techniques I teach. It sounds funny to have to ‘teach’ this, but new moms or busy moms I often connect with in the practice I work with often forget this simple skill.
I remind them that when our heart rate increases, it tells our body that we are in danger, creating a fight-or-flight response. Taking more controlled breaths helps remind our body that everything is A-OK and sends signals to our brain that we are safe.
Finding ways to be more mindful and present can have lasting benefits to our health, like reducing stress, anxiety, and depression, increasing well-being, helping with pain management, and improving cognitive ability.
So, what really is mindfulness? Mindfulness is focusing on your breathing and being grounded and present. It is a practice that helps you live in the here and now by deliberately paying attention to your thoughts and sensations without judgment.
I’m not asking you to enjoy every moment as a parent. I’m suggesting that before you go onto the next part of your day, you stop, take a breath, and remember that all you can control is what is happening in the current moment.
Here are some ways to add mindfulness to your every day routines this year.
In the car, block out the screaming, singing, and little chatters around you and listen to the sounds outside. It can be a car horn beeping, birds chirping, or rain on the windows. Be aware of the sounds you hear and focus on them. Then focus on your breathing. Don’t attach any thoughts to the sound; listen. Take a few full deep breaths in and a few full deep breaths out.
2. Be Still
While waiting in line at a store, use this time to be present. Practice being still, without the distractions of your phone or the people chatting in line ahead of behind you. Focus on the here and now.
3. Take a Minute
While making dinner, look at the clock in the kitchen and take one minute to be present. In that minute, focus on your breath and only your breath, taking deep breaths in and out. If a thought interrupts you, push it out of your mind for that minute and refocus your attention on your breathing. Doing this every night will begin to train your brain that you are in charge of your breathing and your ability to focus.
4. Remember All of It
How often do you take a walk or a drive on auto-pilot without realizing how you got there? You wondered if you stopped at the stop sign as long as you should have, and you don’t remember turning onto the street you turn onto every day. Today, at this moment, remember all of it. Stop at the stop sign and take a breath. Take a step onto the next street and remind yourself what street you are on. Be mindful and do it with purpose.
5. Ground Yourself
Be mindful the next time you sit at your desk or on the couch, plant your feet on the ground below you. Notice the feeling under your feet; is it hard or soft? Notice where your hands are; are they on the arms of the chairs or placed beside you? What does that feel like? Do you feel your hair on your shoulders or your neck? Curl your toes and wiggle your fingers. Sometimes, feeling each movement and being in control of our body and what it feels like helps us be present.
All of these mindful practices will train your brain to be present. Next time you’re in that moment when one of your kids is crying, and the other one is asking for help with their homework, and you have a pot of boiling water on the stove, you can stop and take a full breath in and full breath out, reminding your body that you’ve got this!