The Power of Being Present: A Guide to Practicing Mindfulness


Megan McGinn, PsyD

Mindfulness is the antidote to depression and anxiety, which can be particularly present during the holiday season. Join us as we explore the concept of mindfulness, its benefits, and practical tips on how to incorporate mindfulness into your everyday routine.

In today’s fast-paced and hectic world, it’s easy to get caught up in the chaos and lose touch with the present moment. Mindfulness means intentionally focusing on the here and now with all your senses and letting go of any other thoughts. It is a powerful antidote to depressive thinking (which focuses on the regrets of the past) and anxious thinking (which frets over future scenarios).

Culturally, we have been trained to never repeat past mistakes and prepare for the worst in the future, which mindfulness rebukes because this style of thinking weighs us down with guilt and fear. As an alternative, mindfulness asks us to let go of whatever happened in the past and the expectations we have for the future (since we actually have no idea about what will happen next in our lives anyway) and simply embrace the present moment.

For example, what would happen if you went into a holiday gathering intentionally forgetting about the embarrassing things you said last year, and not anticipating the political argument you predict will unfold with Aunt Josephine? What if you let go of any judgments and allowed events to unfold moment by moment? Imagine how present you could be with others and what a better listener you’d become if you stopped assuming what they would say before it happens!

Let’s start now. Take a moment to pause and find stillness within you. Let go of any thoughts you have about doing this practice correctly or the meeting you have to go to after this. Breathe deeply in for 4 seconds and out for 4 seconds. Listen to the sound of your breath and what it feels like inside of you to inhale and exhale. Allow any thoughts you experience that are not related to the breath to pass by like clouds in the sky. See how you are no longer stuck in the past or future or weighed down by judgment? I feel better just writing this.

Practical Tips for Practicing Mindfulness:

  1. Focus on the Breath: As mentioned in the exercise above, one of the simplest ways to cultivate mindfulness is by focusing on the breath. Take a few moments to observe the sensation of your breath as it enters and leaves your body. Whenever your mind wanders, gently bring your attention back to the breath.
  2. Start with Short Sessions: Begin by setting aside a few minutes each day for mindfulness practice. You can start with just 5-10 minutes of focusing on breath and gradually increase the duration as you become more comfortable.
  3. Engage in Body Scan Meditation: Body scan meditation involves systematically bringing your attention to different parts of your body, noticing any sensations or tension. This practice helps develop body awareness and promotes relaxation. Click here for a guided body scan meditation to try.
  4. Practice Mindful Eating: During meals, take the time to fully engage your senses and savor each bite. Notice the flavors, textures, and smells of the food. Eating mindfully can enhance your enjoyment of meals and promote healthier eating habits.
  5. Incorporate Mindfulness into Daily Activities: You can bring mindfulness into your daily activities by paying full attention to the task at hand. Whether it’s washing dishes, walking, or brushing your teeth, bring your awareness to the present moment and fully engage in the activity.

Benefits of Mindfulness:

  1. Reduce Stress: Mindfulness has been shown to reduce stress levels by helping us become more aware of our thoughts and emotions. By observing them without judgment, we can create a sense of distance and reduce their impact on our well-being.
  2. Improve Mental Health: Regular mindfulness practice has been linked to improved mental health outcomes, including reduced symptoms of anxiety and depression. It can help us develop a more positive and compassionate relationship with ourselves.
  3. Enhance Focus and Concentration: Mindfulness exercises, such as meditation, can improve our ability to focus and concentrate. By training our minds to stay present, we can become more productive and efficient in our daily tasks.
  4. Increase Emotional Resilience: Mindfulness allows us to observe our emotions without getting caught up in them. This helps us develop emotional resilience, enabling us to respond to challenging situations with greater clarity and composure.

Mindfulness is a powerful practice that can transform the way we experience life. By cultivating a greater sense of awareness and presence, we can reduce stress, improve our mental well-being, and enhance our overall quality of life. So, take a moment to pause, breathe, and embrace the present moment. Start incorporating mindfulness into your daily routine and witness the positive impact it can have on your life. Chat with your Radish Care Team for more information on how to get started.

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