By Shelley Galasso Bonanno, MA, LLP
“The secret of health for both mind and body is not to mourn for the past, worry about the future, or anticipate troubles, but to live in the present moment wisely and earnestly.”
To be fully present, mentally, emotionally and physically is often referred to as mindfulness. Every moment of our life offers the opportunity to be mindful. Mindfulness is intentional and requires practice. Much of our lives are lived on autopilot, meaning we typically perform our day-to-day tasks and interactions without being fully present, distracted by thoughts of the past and/or future.
Being fully present in the moment can be a difficult task. Smartphones make it even more difficult to fully disengage from distractions, making mindfulness challenging to incorporate into our day-to-day lives. Even while reading this article, it is likely you are distracted by internal thoughts and/or external sounds or distractions in your environment.
But what benefit can mindfulness serve? What makes it worth it? Given the fast pace of our everyday lives, it can be difficult to slow down and focus on the present. We are often thinking of our to-do lists and rushing to complete our endless chores. Ironically, we feel we don’t have time to be mindful but what are the emotional costs of not being mindful? It can leave us feeling perpetually run down, disconnected, and out of touch with ourselves. Reports of decreased mental health and increased stress continue to be on the rise. Being consciously aware and committing to staying in the “here and now” is one solution to increasing our focus on improving our mental health.
Living in the “here and now” means we are aware and mindful of what is happening at that exact moment in time. Flow is a term that is often linked to mindfulness. Flow refers to a sense of feeling completely immersed in one’s current life experience. It allows one to be fully connected with the present moment and to essentially “lose track of time.” When I first learned of the concept of “flow” I realized how little of life is actually lived in a state of flow. In this suspended state, there are no distractions by thoughts of the past or worries about the future, only the experience of the present moment.
But being mindful is so much easier said than done. One way of being mindful is to intentionally focus on the past and future in smaller doses while spending the majority of your time fully immersed in the present moment. Close your eyes and focus on your breathing. Pay attention to the sounds you hear and your bodily sensations. Focus on your present emotions without judging your feelings. It can often be helpful to name emotions, allowing them to arise, experience them, and then let them go just as quickly as they came. Being mindful can also allow us to accept that change is always present in our lives. It can also lead to a deeper sense of feeling more connected in our relationships.
Research has shown that being present in the moment contributes to mental wellness. Try setting aside an allocated amount of time each day, first thing in the morning and/or the last thing at night to engage in mindful practices and see what a difference mindfulness can make in your life.
A lifelong resident of Macomb County, Shelley Galasso Bonanno is a practicing limited licensed psychologist who earned her master’s degree from Wayne State University in 1987. She has a breadth of experience in working with adults, children, families, and couples. In addition to working in private practice, Ms. Bonanno performs consultative services for State and forensic agencies. She performs custody and parenting time evaluations and is a court approved mediator. Her writings have appeared in various online and print publications. An advocate for mental health, you can follow Ms. Bonanno on Twitter @shelleybonanno.