Mindfulness is the power of living in the moment, embracing your current circumstances without judgement or pretense. To be mindful is to be a conscious observer.
Mindfulness is a big trend, not only in popular culture, but in contemporary therapy. Many counselors tout this westernized version of traditional Eastern practices as a way to promote relaxation and reduce stress in clients. It’s become a popular training topic for clinicians because there is evidence that it helps reduce anxiety and depression.
As a therapist, I often incorporate mindfulness-based cognitive strategies in my work to help clients deal with stressful jobs and lives. In my practice I’ve found it to be especially effective at battling anxiety and perfectionism. It can be a challenge, however, to incorporate mindfulness in your daily routine if you’re not used to slowing down and paying conscious attention.
The key to embodying mindfulness is to actually turn into a keen observer. Using the five senses — sight, sound, smell, taste and touch — can help you take in the world around you. They can be of great help in slowing down and living in the moment.
Sometimes most of what we observe in the world around us exists only as background noise. By slowing down to describe our environment, we allow ourselves to fully appreciate the world around us. When we draw our attention to our role as observers, somehow other concerns and worries tend to fade into the background.
Examples of How You Can Use Mindfulness and the 5 Senses in Your Daily Life
In Japan there is a concept called “shinrin-yoku,” which means “forest bathing.” This process includes spending time in nature on light walks of wander. This departure from the hustle and bustle of everyday life promotes relaxation. The practice involves walking in nature and using the five senses as tools to connect to our natural surroundings.
In a forest walk you may take time to notice the sounds of leaves or fallen branches crunching underneath your shoes or the gentle warmth peeking through the canopy of trees. Exotic locations might also include soothing sounds like cascading waterfalls and the sweet songs of little birds. But one does not have to live in an exotic location to practice mindfulness in this way.
Sometimes it’s difficult to explain the process of mindfulness. One way I find most helpful is to show my clients a video on tea meditation. From the style of the video to the sounds, I believe it encourages a present-minded reflection and focus we often don’t incorporate during most of our waking hours.
I often share an example of a tea meditation practice because it’s something that’s accessible for a lot of people. The process includes a thoughtful and methodical process of fixing a cup of tea, setting up a quiet space to enjoy it and focusing on the experience.
When I practice this meditation, I use my senses to pay attention to everything from the smell of the tea, the warmth of the cup to the temperature in the room and the chair I’m sitting in. The entire process may take about 10-15 minutes. It can help set the tone at the start of a day or provide a much-needed end of the day respite.
Embracing mindful living has positive effects on anxiety and depression and fits into almost any daily routine. It is a philosophy that can be applied to any activity like drinking tea, meditating, or even washing dishes. By drawing our focus and attention to as many of our five senses as we can, we tap into a part of ourselves that is often disconnected from the world around us. It is in that moment we can truly feel at peace.