What Is Mindfulness?
Have you ever searched the entire house for your keys or glasses only to find they were in your hand or on your head? Ever logged onto your computer or phone with a specific task in mind only to find yourself scrolling through Facebook or Instagram 15 or 20 minutes later having forgotten your initial task?
If either of these scenarios sound familiar then you already know what it's like to struggle with mindfulness. We've all been there as Dads: a thousand thoughts racing through our heads, unable to focus on one idea, accomplishing nothing when we need to be productive.
That is why mindfulness is so important, especially as a parent. The dictionary defines mindfulness as "the state of being conscious or aware of something". Being aware is a great place to start. When we are aware of what we are doing in a given moment it helps prevent us from "zoning out" and going into "zombie mode". You've probably done it while your wife was talking to you about something very important to her. I have. I hear her saying words, but I'm not listening. Very little, if any, of the message she is trying to convey is "sticking", while my head wanders in other thoughts. The second we become aware of our state, we "snap back to reality" and realize we have no idea what the conversation was about.
Mindfulness doesn't only mean acknowledging outside forces, it also means recognizing time, place, feelings, and emotions within. It means accepting all of these things and living in the moment. Ok, by now you've probably realized that you, like most of us, struggle with mindfulness. But what can you do about it? The answer is simple: practice. That's right Allen Iverson, we're talking about practice. Throughout this program we'll be giving you small exercises you can do each day to become more mindful. They might feel uncomfortable at first, but before you know it you'll be finding mindful moments throughout the day and wonder how you ever missed them in the first place.
If this sounds a little too "touchy-feely" for you, think about this: mindfulness is what helps an athlete perform at his or her best. If you've ever heard someone say, "it was like the game slowed down," they were probably in a state of awareness that helped them anticipate every move before it happened. How about reading a hand in a poker game? Mindfulness helps you think about the cards you're holding, the possibilities on the board, and the betting patterns that let you know in your gut you have to call a bluff. Mindfulness can help avoid missed signals from your partner when they're in the mood, or help you appreciate the laugh of your child in a way you never have before.
So start right now, take a minute and just think about how this article made you feel. Dismissive? Excited? Hopeful? Skeptical? It doesn't matter. What matters is not what you feel, just that you're aware of it. Congratulations on taking the first step toward mindfulness.