By Lisa Caplan

I think we all would agree that spending too much time in our heads with our own thoughts is not a good thing. Although we are capable of being in the present, most of us go through the day thinking about anything but what is happening in the moment. We spend time thinking about what we did in the past, or what will happen in the future. Most of us actually spend time chasing our dreams and hoping that the next accomplishment, vacation, car, etc. will help us find happiness, but happiness doesn’t come from the outside, it comes from the inside. Happiness is a sense of well-being, joy, or contentment. Being present in the moment helps cultivate happiness.

We can not change the past, we don’t have any control over the future, and are not even guaranteed to have a future; so why not be grateful for what we have and focus on what is going on in the moment? Being mindful and present in the moment helps us appreciate what is going on around us. Mindfulness helps decrease stress, improves our mood, and helps us be more productive. Research has also shown that mindfulness actually increases brain cells, changes the way we think, changes how we feel, decreases stress and anxiety, and improves our perception of our life.

Try these easy mindfulness exercises:

  1. Breathe. This is very simple and can be done any time or place while sitting, standing or lying down. Just take a moment and focus on your breathing. You want to effortlessly breathe slowly in through your nose and out through your mouth for one minute. Each breathing cycle should take 10 seconds.
  2. Bring yourself back to the present. We often catch ourselves worrying about what will happen or what has happened. To bring yourself back to the present say, “Come back”. Then breathe, and focus on what you are doing at the moment.
  3. Slow down. When your mind is racing, say “slow down”, calmly and slowly to yourself, and then bring yourself back to what you are doing.
  4. Notice what is going on around you. Ask yourself what can you hear, see, and feel. Pick three things, for example: I can hear a car, radio, people talking; I can see a bird, flower, traffic signal; I can feel my feet on the ground, my computer keyboard, the water I am swimming in.
  5. Be the driver, not the passenger. Instead of going through your daily motions on autopilot, take occasional moments to stop and have awareness of what you are doing and be grateful for what you have. For example, walk past a restaurant, and smelling the food be grateful for the food you and your family, have or be grateful for the friends you have and the time you spend with them.
  6. Thoughts without judgment. So many of our thoughts have judgments attached. Judging what we are thinking can be exhausting. Try to allow thoughts to come in and out of your mind without paying them a lot of attention. Imagine your thoughts are floating by like clouds in the sky. Observe them floating by without getting caught up in them. Thoughts are just thoughts, and we all have them, and it’s ok to have them, but you don’t need to spend time analyzing or judging them. Just let them float by.
  7. Color your way to mindfulness. Buy yourself a coloring book. They even have mindfulness coloring books for adults, or go online and print out a free mindfulness coloring worksheet. Invest in crayons or colored pencils and just color for a few minutes or whatever time you can spare. Focus on your coloring and just breathe naturally.

Try these exercises and notice how you feel afterwards. Try to make mindfulness a daily practice. The more you practice, the easier it will become.

There are many more tips to practice mindfulness. If you would like to explore what will work best for you call the Lawyer Assistance Program for some helpful ideas.

For assistance, please contact the Lawyer Assistance Program for free, confidential counseling. We have a network of counselors throughout Maryland. Jim Quinn, Director, (443) 703-3041, jim@msba.org; Lisa Caplan, LCSW-C, Associate Director, (443) 703-3042, lisa@msba.org.

24/7 Confidential Help 1(888) 388-5459.

 

Lisa Caplan, LCSW-C has over 20 years experience in her field, and extensive experience working with lawyers and judges in the areas of mental health, substance abuse and trauma.