Author: Diana Gordon, Psy.D.
In the past few years, there has been a tremendous amount of media coverage touting the benefits of mindfulness meditation. There is good reason for this: there is now an overwhelming body of evidence indicating that mindfulness is effective for helping people manage depression, anxiety, and other difficult feelings. Many of our patients tell us that they’d love to try meditating, but it’s too difficult. They mention that they don’t know how to do it, or that it’s difficult for them to clear their minds. A lot of people talk about how when they try to meditate, their mind seems to wander nonstop!
The good news is that you don’t actually have to clear your mind in order to practice mindfulness. There are a variety of mindfulness practices that help you relax and unwind. In our three part Mindfulness In Daily Life series, we will introduce you to a variety of mindfulness practices and teach you to apply these skills everyday.
In this post, we will talk about three simple skills that you can use to turn any activity into a mindfulness practice. Those skills are Observe, Describe, and Participate. By using these skills, you can practice mindfulness at any time. You can incorporate mindfulness into your day at a time that works for you, and you can use the skills anytime you need to calm down. You’ll notice that as you practice these skills more and more, you’ll get more and more adept at using them during times of high stress, anxiety, or other difficult emotions.
Start by choosing a time each day to practice mindfulness. Many patients find that they are most consistent when they choose a task every day to do mindfully. For example, some patients will choose to brush their teeth or take a shower mindfully each day. During that activity, practice observing, describing, and participating. Notice what it feels like to mindfully complete these tasks, and notice how it impacts your mood afterwards. As you gain more familiarity with these skills, try applying them during times of distress. Notice whether using these skills helps you feel calmer and reduces negative emotions.
Stay tuned for part 2 of our mindfulness series, which will introduce 3 advanced mindfulness skills to enhance your daily practice. After that, Part 3 of our series will introduce a structured process for applying mindfulness to difficult situations. In the meantime, start practicing these skills! Feel free to contact us if you’d like additional information about how you can begin and sustain a mindfulness practice to improve your mental health.
Diana Gordon, Psy.D., Kari Kagan Psy.D., and Katie Leoni, Psy.D.
Drs. Gordon, Kagan, and Leoni practice psychotherapy in downtown San Francisco and Oakland. Their areas of expertise include anxiety, sleep, stress, depression, and addiction. They blog about these topics to provide research-based information about common problems and strategies to help manage them.