From Chaos to Calm: How to Shift from MindFULL to Mindful
When it comes to being mindful versus mindFULL, the spelling may be similar, but the impact is significant. We've all experienced that overwhelming feeling when our minds are filled with thoughts from the moment we wake up – appointments, bills, dinner plans, and so much more.
As someone juggling multiple roles as a foster mom, multi-entrepreneur, girlfriend, dog mom, friend, and daughter, I completely understand how crowded the mind can get. I understand the constant barrage of to-do lists, overanalyzing past conversations, and worrying about upcoming meetings. But here's the thing – none of those thoughts are about the present moment. Not a single one. And constantly focusing on what's behind or ahead, what could go wrong, or what we might miss, only leads to anxiety.
Let's be real with ourselves, most of us automatically slip into this anxious state, and that's okay. It's normal. The key here is to become aware of when it happens and make a shift towards being more mindful, allowing ourselves to finally experience inner calm. If the shift feels overwhelming, seeking expert support is highly recommended.
So, what does it mean to be mindful?
It's about being present and attentive to life in real-time. Picture this – imagine yourself finishing your shower and realizing you don't recall anything from the past 10 minutes. That inner chatter had you so distracted that you missed the sensation of hot water on your skin and the enjoyable scent of the soap in your hair.
Disclaimer – there is nothing wrong with this picture. I've been there, going through entire routines without truly experiencing them. However, there are ways to bring yourself back to the present moment, to bring yourself back to mindfulness. We’ll get more into some of the rhythms and routines I've incorporated into my daily life that help with this picture, but before we can do that, there are a few other important things to mention.
And it all starts with noticing sensations, tuning into the moment, and being fully present instead of getting lost in our thoughts. The aim here isn’t to silence the chatter completely – that's nearly impossible. Instead, the aim is to help each of us bring awareness to the chatter and find ways to refocus on the sensations and experiences of the present moment.
Practicing mindfulness and experiencing the present moment brings a host of benefits, such as:
- Greater control over reactions (let’s stop flipping tables!)
- Increased confidence (Lizzo said it best…it’s about damn time!)
- Easier decision-making (you will be able to tell your SO what you want to eat)
- Reduced stress (because who never wanted that?!)
- Lower anxiety and depression (kind of the point of this blog)
- Improved mental resilience
- Better problem-solving skills
- …and if that isn’t enough to get you on the bandwagon…better concentration
I agree – that’s one helluva awe-inspiring list that takes your breath away in a positive way!
Now, let's delve deeper into getting from mindful to mindFULL
No, it's not a typo, and I’m not repeating myself! Being mindFULL means your mind is filled with constant chatter and distractions. Whether you tend to dwell on the past or worry about the future, being stuck in this state of anxious thinking can lead to various health challenges, such as depression, anxiety, substance abuse, eating disorders, or insomnia.
I know from personal experience how these thoughts can feel intrusive and overwhelming, making it seem impossible to shift into mindfulness. But trust me, not only is it possible to make this shift, but it will have a profound impact on your entire life.
So, how can you cultivate a state of mindfulness? I recommend starting with some simple strategies I have found helpful and practicing them consistently to build the habit over time (The book Atomic Habits tells us to keep it up for 66 days, and you'll have built a habit!).
- Notice inner or outer sensations: Naming your feelings as they arise and tuning into the physical sensations they bring it's like a fun game for your mind and body! Here's the deal: every thought and emotion you have has a unique physical reaction. When stress pays me a visit, my stomach tightens up, and my shoulders creep up, leaving me feeling all tense. You might experience something similar or other sensations like your throat constricting, hands tingling, or even your armpits going into sweat mode.
However, when you allow calmness to take over, it's like a breath of fresh air. Your breath deepens, your shoulders loosen up, and your chest proudly expands. Now, let me give you a simple exercise to try to kickstart your mindfulness journey. Time to engage those senses!
Look around and pick one item you can see. Name it out loud. Feel it? Awesome! Now, find something you can touch and give it a shout-out too. Can you hear something? Yup, name that sound too! Finally, take a whiff and name a smell that tickles your nose. Ta-da! This exercise works wonders to bring your mind into the present moment. Guess what? I even play this game with my foster kids to help them embrace mindfulness too! So get ready to name those feelings, notice those sensations, and unleash the power of being fully present in the world around you. It's a delightful adventure of the mind and body!
- Set screen-time boundaries: We've all been there—mindlessly scrolling through social media, losing track of time. After my latest diagnosis, I find myself going down the unnecessary rabbit hole far too often, and all that does is bring on unnecessary stress and anxiety as it creates 1,000 questions that I won't quickly get the answers to. How do we set boundaries? That’s a great question! On my Apple, there is an app, Freedom, that restricts my access to my social media accounts (AppBlock for those who use Androids) – I literally cannot get into them if it is not within the parameters set (takes a bit of getting used to at first). By setting up this app, I have found I have the power over what and when I scroll, not the other way around, which helps create a healthier relationship with your smartphone and prevent unnecessary stress and anxiety.
- Practice Yoga: Personally, I've found that teaching and practicing yoga has helped me become more mindful, particularly since I discovered I suffer from PTSD, as yoga is not only about tuning out the chatter, but it’s also about tuning in to our bodies. Teaching and taking yoga classes has allowed me to find more balance, peace, and less reactivity in my life. It has also made every aspect of life more enjoyable as I have taken a lot of what I learned during training off the mat and into my day-to-day. Breathwork, in particular, has been a game-changer for me!
- Tune in to your breathing: Tuning into your breathing doesn’t necessarily mean you have to practice yoga. Tuning into your breath is simply about paying attention to the natural flow of your breath and recognizing the powerful, calming effect it has on your mind and body. Try this simple activity that I use for some of my yogis. Find a comfortable place to sit or lie where there are little to no distractions. Rest your hands either comfortably on your knees, or at your side, or place one on your heart and one on your chest. (Read the rest of the steps through before you take action). Now close your eyes and just focus on the rise and fall of your belly. On the rise and fall of your chest. Do this from one to fifteen minutes. If you want to take this step further, you can do 4-7-8 breathing. You follow a cycle of breathing in for a count of 4, holding your breath at the top for a count of 7, and releasing a huge exhale (everything you are carrying on to and need to let go of) on a count of 8. Another one of my favorites is alternative nose breathing. For more information on forms of breathing to find one that works for you, go to this beginner guide I find beneficial.
- Develop a meditation ritual: Meditation doesn't require sitting still for hours. It's about slowing down, breathing intentionally, and being present, even during daily activities. You can meditate while walking, stretching, or engaging in any movement. You can even use step 4 as your version of meditation. Coordinating mindful awareness with your body's movements revitalizes your mind and body. Even a few minutes of peaceful reflection or breathwork can make a significant difference.
Remember, no one is perfect, and it's nearly impossible to be mindful 24/7, 365 days. But by checking in with yourself and consciously choosing where to focus your attention and mental energy, you'll reduce mental chatter and find more joy in life. And if you’ve made it this far in the blog post…you’ve WON…technically nothing, BUT..
I am going to give you a bit of homework. Helpful homework. I suggest if this post resonated with you and you find yourself more mindFULL vs. mindful take a moment this week to take inventory and evaluate if and when you're being mindful or mindFULL. It could be the key to transforming your experience and making all the difference!
You've got this—kick anxiety to the curb and embrace a life filled with mindful moments of joy and peace!