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Imagine a world where we weren’t anxious about tomorrow. Where we didn’t push time to get to the next big thing, and then the next one, and the next one. Where we sat with our children and played on the floor and didn’t spend most of our time thinking about the laundry, dishes, reports (fill in your stress of choice here) we still had to do. We just played. We were present.
I read somewhere that a big mistake great parents make is pushing their children to look to the future. Constantly. It starts when they are so young. What do you want to be when you grow up? We tell them to set the goals they need to reach there, accomplish and keep setting new ones. And the cycle continues. We push them harder, ask them to dream bigger. Even the technology around us won’t allow us to be happy for long. You have the iphone 7? Don’t be happy yet, because the next big thing is on its way. We need the future. Plan for the future. Reach for the future.
We have lost the fine art of FOCUS. The here and the now. Being so consciously where you are instead of in your head about later.
When my oldest child was born I was a wreck. Looking at her made me so sad (I know now that I probably had a mild case of PPD). All I could think about was that she would grow up so fast and she would no longer be my sweet little baby. When I cried to my husband about this, explaining how our little girl would be married before we know it, he looked back at me with such confusion in our eyes. She wasn’t even a week old. But I continued to torture myself and cry myself to sleep at how much she had grown up. I lost so much of her newborn stage by panicking about how I would miss it.
The next time around I was armed with the new concept of MINDFULLNESS. In its simplest terms, mindfulness means focusing on the now. Being utterly and totally present. Concentrating on what I am doing and being connected to my thoughts. It means building a tower out of blocks on the floor with your children and concentrating on their smiles, the fun, and nothing else. When you practice mindfulness, you simply are. You are not going or running to the next, or rushing to get there. You are just now.
This concept applies in almost every aspect of life. As a nutritionist, I see the issue of mindless eating often. Eating has become something we do while we do something else. We eat while we work. We eat while we are in the car. We eat while we watch TV. We never just eat. Consciously and without distraction.
If I told you to eat a raisin how would you do it? Pop it in, a chew, a swallow. Now eat a raisin, consciously. Put it in your mouth. What does it taste like? Which taste buds are coming to life? Chew it. Chew it again. And again. Keep going. Tasting it the whole time. And finally, swallow. If we ate like that, food would satisfy us. Our brains would know when to stop eating because we ate our fill. Purposeless snacking would go out the window to be replaced with food we eat because we are actually hungry. Not bored, or anxious or lonely.
Mindfulness in a different area: try yoga. If you are not feeling super stretchy, take a stab at meditation. (you can totally skip all the sound effects or the dimly lit room…) Just sit and close your eyes and take stock of this moment. Push away the worries and troubles and feel the now. Be aware of your breathing.
Think about the time you spend agonizing over something that hasn’t happened yet. The pit in your stomach all Sunday because the work week is starting tomorrow. The anxiety about an upcoming project that needs completing. General worry about general things you can’t or are not going to fix. Don’t live there. Live here.
When should I practice mindfulness? Whenever you want. Having trouble falling asleep because of something weighing on your mind? Close your eyes, feel the pillow under your head. Relax each muscle in your body, purposefully. Concentrate on your breathing.
Want to connect with your spouse more? Be present. Others can sense when you are stressed. Close your phone and concentrate on him (or her). Hear what he is saying without thinking about responding or solving or worrying.
Before I had my second child I practiced mindfulness as a way to have an easier time with the baby blues. I reminded myself countless times that it was okay to feel however I would but to concentrate on being fully present with my new baby. When he was born, I tickled toes and snuggled and read books to my precious newborn. And every time that anxiety threatened to arise I FOCUSED. On the smell of his baby hair. On the song I was singing. On the victories of the day. And I was a different person.
Achieving a state of mindfulness takes practice. Our focus has been split for so long we barely remember what it’s like to be solely focused on one thing. Start small. 5 minutes a day will make a world of a difference.
Now, I’m not advocating that we not think of the future. That would be foolish. We need to set goals and have plans and push our children to succeed in their long term dreams. However, we only live now once. Tomorrow is only secondary to today. To right this very second. Memories are not created by reaching for the future. One day you will look back on THESE days with fondness. So savor them while they are here.
Riqi Schonbrun MPH, CPT is the owner and nutritionist of NutritionwithaQ. Riqi has a Master’s in Public Health from Liberty University and uses her specialty in nutrition to guide and help others eat well and feel great! Nutrition plans are personalized and science based. She firmly believes that eating habits and exercise must come together for a person to be truly healthy. As a certified personal trainer, Riqi gives one on one and group exercise classes where working out becomes an activity rather than a chore. Dynamic ever changing classes keeps the energy high and the calories coming off!
Interestingly, Riqi also completed culinary school and understands good cooking. With a myriad of colorful and delicious recipes, taking her on your weight loss journey is fun!