A show of hands for those who have had... shall we say, mindless mornings? Whether that entailed rushing out the door after having woken up fifteen minutes ago, scrolling through social media for what seemed like only a moment but then it's suddenly lunch time, or have been burdened by ruminating thoughts, it's safe to say we have all had our share of mindless mornings.
Oftentimes when people are faced with stressors of varying degrees, our emotions and minds become at least a bit frazzled or we may feel disconnected. With this unbalance, we tend to focus on the area of pain or tension, be it mental, emotional, physical, or spiritual. It makes sense that our ability to focus on the present moment becomes challenging.
During counselling sessions, sometimes the discussion leads into considering what is supporting the continuation of the presenting issues, both the good, bad, and the ugly. For some, adjusting one's routine can be helpful in targeting on a specific time of the day to focus on strengthening it. The evening routine is a great option for those struggling with sleep, whilst addressing the morning routine provides an opportunity to "start the day off right" and then experience some rippling effects throughout the remainder of the day.
But what is mindfulness? Mindfulness is a buzz word is recent years, but its Buddhist roots are at least 2550 years old! Mindfulness gradually integrated with Western medicine and psychology in the 1950s and 1960s, and it is important to note the mindfulness we typically experience here in Canada differs from its original ancient and spiritual roots. For this article, however, key points about mindfulness to keep in mind include present-moment awareness, nonjudgmental observation, and acceptance for what is.
So, what are the benefits of sprinkling a little bit of mindfulness into our mornings? Mindfulness has been found to be a game-changer for improving or managing our emotions and behaviour (aka self-regulation), reducing reactivity, reducing anxiety and stress, improving our memory and cognition, improving our physical health and relationships. There are many more benefits of practicing mindfulness that you may browse through the references at the end of the article, otherwise I welcome you to dig more into mindfulness or inquire with myself.
Another great thing about mindfulness is that it can be applied to just about anything! Oftentimes mindfulness is attached to practicing meditation and yoga, but mindfulness can be experienced in many other ways. Mindfulness is a way of being, whilst meditation and yoga are actions or things we do that help us to practice mindfulness. We can mindfully wash the dishes, make the bed, brew tea or coffee, dance by yourself or with loved ones, create art, or even mindfully stay tucked under the covers.
Remember, mindfulness involves noticing the present-moment, awareness, and nonjudgement. No matter what you choose to do, find the opportunity to do so mindfully! If your gut feeling is to lay in bed, this may mean making the intention to do so but to stay in bed mindfully - no judgement, and being aware of the your current experience.
One great way to help ourselves to be present in the moment is to notice our five senses. So tomorrow morning, I invite you to notice the smell of your bedsheets, couch, or wherever you happen to wake up. Notice the textures. Slow down and savour each bite or sip at your first food or drink of the new day. Notice any sights and be curious of what you can see. Lastly, tune into what you may hear.
Of course the senses may depend on your unique abilities and sensitivities, so be mindful of that too. It may be helpful to focus on just one sense and to captive it fully. There is no expected time length to practice mindfulness, as again, it is a state of being. Mindfulness is something we continually return to practicing and strengthening. Like any skill, mindfulness takes time to practice, but over time, or perhaps even quickly, you may experience the benefits as you add mindfulness to your morning and the rippling effects throughout your day.