It’s that time of year again when we get to spend time with our friends and family to enjoy good food, good company, and good conversations. Some of us may travel long distances to see our loved ones. While others may spend countless hours in the kitchen preparing great feasts for our company. Busy, busy, busy. That’s what most of us complain about this time of year. We’re all trying to make our plans and carry them out, all the while attempting to enjoy this special time of the year. To do lists are made and constantly added to. The lists can be extensive, with numerous tasks written down that initially seem as though they will never all get done. However in some crazy sort of magical and mystical way, they’re all completed. We rush around. We then rush around some more. All trying to hurry, hurry, hurry and get it all done. However during this hectic time of the year, our motto is to be thankful for what we have. We may say we’re thankful for this or for that. We may share even some Facebook post about being thankful. That’s all wonderful and good. I’m glad we’re thankful. We should be. There’s a lot to be thankful for. Countless people have given their lives and have done great things in order for us to be where we are today. We live in the most amazing time in history and in the most powerful country in the world. Most of us have the basics in life that millions of people around the world don’t have. However with all this busyness and craziness, do we actually take the time to be aware of what it means to be thankful? In order to really appreciate and respect this, we also need to be mindful of this season and all it represents. But do we really understand what it is to be mindful of what we have and experience?
Have you ever just stopped? I mean stopped in your tracks. Come to a complete an utter stop. Just stopping what you’re doing, even if you’re in the middle of it. I mean when you come to a complete stop and not moving forward. Of course stopping in the middle of a major highway while driving is probably not the best idea. But I mean stopping when it’s safe in order to really pay attention to what’s going on, in and around you? Have you ever just stopped and felt your heartbeat? Heard the wind whistling through the trees? Smelled the fresh air? Have you taken in all of this feedback and appreciated what it all means? Are you aware of your surroundings as well as your inner workings?
For most people, the answer would be no. Who has the time? Who has the time to “stop and smell the roses?” I mean really. Isn’t there a million other things that need to get done? Or even think about? Why stop and be mindful when we could be finishing up that assignment or helping others with some task? You might say “My time is valuable. I don’t have time to be mindful!” But as we go through life rushing through this thing and that thing, we lose track of time. Then all of sudden….we’re at the end of our lives. It’s been documented numerous times, that many people at this stage of life regret they didn’t appreciate and be mindful of what was around them. All it takes is that initial 5 mins.
So what’s the difference between being mindful and being thankful and why does it matter? I really believe the two go hand-in-hand. Merriam Webster’s definition of being thankful is “glad that something has happened or not happened, that something or someone exists, etc.; conscious of benefit received“.
While Merriam Webster’s definition of mindfulness is “the practice of maintaining a nonjudgmental state of heightened or complete awareness of one’s thoughts, emotions, or experiences on a moment-to-moment basis“. The founder of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction stated that “Mindfulness is awareness that arises through paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgmentally,” says Kabat-Zinn. “It’s about knowing what is on your mind.” (www.mindful.org/jon-kabat-zinn-defining-mindfulness/, November 22, 2016).
Ok so now that we have a definition of what these two words mean, let’s stop for a moment. Yep that’s right. Take a few moments of your time and experience being mindful. Find a spot in your home where you won’t be disturbed for a few minutes. Once there, sit down in a comfortable way. You could be sitting in a chair or even on the floor. Close your eyes and begin to focus on your breathing. Initially you may notice a constant flow of thoughts may flood your mind. That’s ok. With continued practice, you will see that that will subside. Whatever thoughts go through your mind, notice it and then send it on its way. With mindfulness, judgement of thoughts are not made. Thoughts are only noticed.
There is lots of research out there to support that mindfulness is beneficial for people – reduced rumination, stress reduction, boosts to working memory, focus, less emotional reactivity, more cognitive flexibility, relationship satisfaction, etc (www.apa.org/monitor/2012/07-08/ce-corner.aspx, November 23, 2016). Take a look at each of the above mentioned benefits. Aren’t each of the benefits listed above relevant to daily life? Could we not benefit from being mindful on a regular basis? Wouldn’t mindfulness be something that would have a positive impact on both our personal and working lives?
Imagine Thanksgiving Day. Think about all of the people who will be attending this very special feast with you. Do you hear the laughter? Are you rolling your eyes at Uncle Jules sharing that silly story of when he was a young lad on the farm. Can you smell the turkey roasting in the oven and that sweet fragrance of pumpkin pie. Take a moment and close your eyes to take in the special moments.
This Thanksgiving I’m traveling to North Georgia with my fiance and two dogs. We have rented a cabin in the mountains and have plans to enjoy Thanksgiving together. My goal is to incorporate mindfulness daily so I can begin to reap the benefits of it.
Could we start to be mindful this Thanksgiving? So instead of just saying “I’m thankful for this or that”, I challenge you to start on this very special and amazing journey to see where it could possibly take you. When you do, I would love to hear about your experience.