Mindfulness is one of the biggest areas of focus in my work with clients, as well as on Dr. Allison. It has countless benefits across multiple areas, and it’s habit forming, meaning once you start to practice it and truly integrate into your day, it can quickly become a deeply rooted and healthy habit. But that initial practicing part? That can be tricky for people. I hear a lot of people acknowledging that they forget to be mindful, stay engaged in present, and check-in with themselves. So I’m here today with one of the easiest questions to help jog your memory to practice mindfulness, moving from a mindless and disengaged moment to a tuned-in and mindful moment.
Here we go.
“What am I noticing?”
Yep, that’s it. Four words. What am I noticing? Now, let’s get more specific. This question isn’t about what am I noticing in life in general. It isn’t about what am I noticing out the window. It’s not about what am I noticing about my partner or coworker or daughter. This question is aimed at “What am I noticing about myself; what am I noticing about my external, behavioral, or physical response, right now, in this very moment?”
As I walk into the doctor, I’m noticing a tightness in my chest.
As I get the kids ready for camp, I notice I keep forgetting things.
As I try to fall asleep, I notice I keep replaying all the things I didn’t get done today.
For many of us, behaviors or physical sensations are often more noticeable than emotions, so they serve as great cues to check in further with ourselves, taking inventory of how we’re feeling. Remember, noticing your external or behavioral experience isn’t the end game; it’s a cue to check in and gain insight into your deeper experience. Let me share two recent examples.
Example 1: This morning, while driving to work, I noticed I was speeding. More than normal. I was zigging and zagging more than normal. I noticed this, then checked-in with myself. I felt rushed to get to work, flustered with the coffee I’d just spilled, and hurried to crank out some paperwork before I started with clients for the day. (Do you see those descriptive emotion words? See, all this stuff ties together!) This awareness allowed me to slow down, take a deep breath, utilize some coping statements, and take it down a notch. I wouldn’t have had that level of awareness if I hadn’t first used my behavior to clue me in.
Example 2: Last week, I got an email from my student loan provider. I instantly noticed a knot in my stomach, sucked in a quick breath, and then let out a slightly audible groan. I noticed myself thinking worst-case scenario, and upon check-in, I identified feeling anxious, fearful, stressed, and overwhelmed. (You might think I’m embellishing this story; I am not. Student loan stuff stresses me out, y’all.) The ability to notice my reaction, my knotted stomach, my sucked-in breath, and my audible groan, led me to consider my experience and then self-soothe my anxiety by reminding myself I’ve gotten plenty of student loan emails in the that weren’t catastrophic revelations that I somehow missed something and owed ten million dollars. (Sidenote: it was a courtesy reminder of the auto-payment I’d set up lol. No need for the workup, Allison.)
By asking yourself, “What am I noticing?” you are picking up on the most obvious clues and then honing in on these to identify your experience on a deeper level. This practice is a simple and practical way to increase your mindfulness practice each and every day. So what do you think, are you ready to notice what you’re noticing?