Mindfulness is a way of restraining yourself to relate directly to whatever is happening in your life. It is a way of reasserting control of your mental and emotional life, by helping you reconnect to the present moment, rather than the pain of the past or anxiety about the future. Mindfulness is a way of paying attention to, and seeing clearly whatever is happening in our lives. It is not necessarily a method of getting rid of life’s pressures, but it can help us respond to them in a calmer manner that benefits our heart, head, and body.
Mindfulness techniques focus on awareness of thoughts and feelings without attachment or judgment. When we are having intense emotions, it is often because we are caught up in our catastrophic interpretations about what is going on. The more we become entangled in the thoughts about the situation, the worse it feels, and the more intense our emotions become. Mindfulness short-circuits this process by helping us to disentangle ourselves from our distorted thought patterns and connect to the actual situation. This enables us to more skillfully address the difficult situation, and to do so with less emotional reactivity and psychological suffering.
You’ll probably find engaging in a formal daily Mindfulness practice has real benefits in reducing the stress and anxiety you feel throughout the day. There is significant research showing this is usually the case. However, there are more effective ways you can engage in mindfulness to positively shape your day to an even greater degree than formal sitting practice. One skill I often teach members of my Mindfulness Matters group is the mindfulness practice of STOP.
STOP is primarily used to introduce mindful experience throughout your day, when you need it most. Even after a good mindfulness meditation in the morning, it’s easy to quickly get caught up in all of the stresses and activities of daily life. By applying mindfulness to these experience during your day, your mind will be on autopilot less, and you will be able to check in with how you are feeling, what you are thinking, and what behavior you’re engaging in.
STOP is an acronym that stands for:
S: Stop. Whatever you’re doing, just pause momentarily.
T: Take a breath. Re-connect with your breath. The breath is an anchor to the present moment.
O: Observe. Notice what is happening. What is happening inside you, and outside of you? Where has your mind gone? What do you feel? What are you doing?
P: Proceed. Continue doing what you were doing. Or don’t: Use the information gained during this check-in to change course. Whatever you do, do it mindfully.
By occasionally reminding yourself to stop during your day, you can increase your awareness of what is going on around you and inside you. You may stop and notice you are engaging in a lot of negative self-judgments. Using STOP may help you recognize when your body is becoming tense, and allow you to correct it before you are in pain. You might find that you’re hungry, or that a break might be helpful. The more you STOP during the day, the more you re-engage with reality, and disengage from the habitual busyness of your mind.
Don’t forget: I share this skill in more depth through the 8 session Mindfulness Matters group!
Space is limited to ensure that everyone in the group feels heard and has a meaningful experience.
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Keep in mind that I post tips, tricks, information, and even more resources on my Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and YouTube pages – along with a Mindful Monday mini-series on the “Beyond the Couch” podcast so that you have an overflowing supply of tools to get you feeling like your best self in the life you want to celebrate!
Comment and tell me how you STOPped reacting and started responding powerfully in your life again!
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