You have probably heard about mindfulness, but like many things, it can seem more complicated than it actually is. Basically, mindfulness is the practice of being fully present or aware of what we are doing and what is happening around us without the distraction of those nagging, obsessive, anxious thoughts we can so often be burdened by. This practice is great for those who struggle with depression or anxiety and is at the core of Dialectical Behavior Therapy. Mindfulness is better when it’s practiced a few times throughout the day, for a few minutes at a time. Just take a few moments, and be presently aware of your surroundings. There is no need to change your normal routine. Here are a few suggestions of how you can practice mindfulness during the changing season.
1.) See What’s Around You – Go outside and find a quiet place to sit. Look around at the vibrant colors of the maple leaves on the trees. Notice how beautiful the sky looks, whether the sun is peaking through the clouds, or there is a bright blue sky. Maybe you will see flowers still lingering from summer days. Take in all of the different colors and marvel at how beautiful the earth can be.
2.) Listen to the Sounds of the Season – If you are outside in a country setting, notice the sounds of the many birds singing and chirping in harmony with the other animals. Maybe you’ll hear the birds flying south. Listen to the wind as it travels through the leaves of the trees. If it’s night-time, you may hear the sound of crickets chirping. Maybe you are in the city, and the soundscape is an entirely different experience. Pay attention to each sound you are hearing. Listen to the voices of the people you are passing on the street if you are walking. Listen to the sounds of the vehicles on the road, or the music playing downtown.
3.) Feel the Sensations of the Changing Season – If you can, step outside and feel the change in the temperature. It’s not summer anymore, and that’s okay. Take it in. The temperature feels cool and crisp on your skin, and it’s probably a familiar feeling. Notice how your skin feels as the air hits your face. Maybe you will begin to get goosebumps on your arms from the chill. Pick up the fallen leaves and feel them crunch and crumble in your hand. Notice how the piles of leaves feel as they crunch under your feet.
4.) Taste the Flavors of Fall – There are so many wonderful flavors that come to life in the fall. When you are eating, whether you have a pumpkin spice latte, some hot apple cider or just a quick lunch, notice which ingredients you can identify. Slow yourself down and take your time chewing each bite, or taking each sip, so you can really enjoy the flavor. Concentrate on the flavor of the food you are eating. Maybe you will close your eyes, block out all other distractions, and really enjoy each bite, for just a few moments.
5.) Breathe in the Aromas of Autumn – This season is known for its signature scents: pumpkin, apple, cinnamon and so much more. Take a moment to take in the aroma of your food while you are eating, whether it is a scrumptious dessert or just a light salad at lunch. Notice how each different vegetable smells. Concentrate on the sweet, comforting aroma of the apple pie at Thanksgiving dinner. Walk outside and notice how the season is changing. Take in the earthy essence of the crisp autumn air.
6.) Mindfully Meditate – Aside from taking a few moments out of your day to be mindful of your senses, and really be “in the moment,” you can practice meditation. Meditation has been known to be incredibly beneficial for relieving depression, anxiety, and for aiding in relaxation and emotional balance. There are countless options out there in the form of mindfulness meditation CDs and apps, and you can also seek out classes to help you learn the techniques.