Living in the Now
Being a teenager can be pretty stressful and overwhelming. Whether it’s keeping up with schoolwork, practicing an extracurricular activity, dealing with a recent loss or traumatic event, or just making sure to spend time with family and friends as you begin navigating this world with greater responsibility, life can feel like it’s moving by quickly without a chance to catch your breath. What if there was a way to help you handle stress better and feel like you are living your life more fully? Well, practicing mindfulness is one way! Mindfulness is a pretty simple idea, but it takes practice.
Mindfulness is paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment, and without judgment. This might sound tricky, but basically it means that you are paying attention to whatever is happening in that moment without putting any value or judgment on the experience. When you practice mindfulness, you practice freeing yourself from feeling regretful about the past or anxious about the future. You are observing how things are, right here, and right now.
I bet you’re wondering, “Why is this important?” Well, studies show that not only does practicing mindfulness help you manage stress, anxiety, and depression; it can also help to improve your concentration and your school performance.
Practicing mindfulness can be done by anyone, wherever you are. It is just a matter of paying attention to your breathing and noticing what is happening in the moment both within you, and the environment around you.
Quick ways to get started:
- Start by noticing your natural breathing
- Repeat to yourself silently as you breathe in and out: Breathing in, “I know that I am breathing in.” Breathing out, “I know that I am breathing out.”
- When your mind wanders, know that it’s okay. That’s what minds do. Don’t judge yourself as having done something wrong. You can just gently say to yourself, “Oh, my mind has wandered off,” and perhaps be curious about where your mind wandered off to. Then, bring your attention back to the next breath.
Ways to practice mindfulness in everyday activities:
Drawing or painting: As you draw/paint, tune into how you are experiencing the activity using your senses. What do you see or smell? How does this impact how you’re feeling and/or what you are creating?
Walking to class: While you walk outside or at school, notice the physical sensation of your feet hitting the ground, or the breeze moving across your body. Do you feel tense? Do you feel relaxed?
Eating a favorite food: As you begin eating, first take a moment to observe your food. After you take a bite, chew slowly and notice the sensation of textures and tastes in your mouth. What thoughts are running through your mind as you take this bite?
Learn about “Mindful Eating” at http://youngwomenshealth.org/2012/12/27/mindful-eating/