All too often, we can get carried away in our thoughts and before we know it, we have been hijacked into a spiral of excessive worrying about the future or ruminating about the past. Sometimes we even worry about things that have not happened yet, or we start to think about the worst possible scenarios, leading us to lost sleep, poor concentration, and not paying attention when others are talking to us. Other times, we play back old recordings of our past as if watching a movie, which keeps us stuck in painful memories or wishing we had done things differently. Ultimately, we end up feeling disconnected from ourselves and other people, which can lead to depression or even in worst cases, hopelessness.

So how do we avoid the never ending wheel that spins in our mind and keeps us from truly enjoying life? The answer is so simple yet understandably takes practice in order to truly experience life changing freedom. If we pause for a moment and focus on what is going on right now, we immediately experience time as if it is suspended in the moment. In other words, the present moment, when truly experienced, is free of worry or remnants of the past. By definition, the present moment is happening right now and each moment lapses into the next! So how is it that focusing on the present moment is linked to joy and freedom from worry? The answer is one that has been taught since ancient times and has been enjoying a comeback both in the field of mental health and the general population.

Living in the present moment is linked to something that we call “mindfulness,” a practice that can be done virtually anywhere, whether it be in your car, in your relationship, at work, during a meal, or even in the comfort of your own bed. The practice of mindfulness invites us to pause for a moment and focus our attention on what is going on right now. The focus can be on what is happening inside our bodies or in our immediate surroundings. It is often helpful to engage our five senses. For example, we might pause and notice the aromas in our immediate surroundings or the sounds of nature or cars going by. It is important to have no judgment whatsoever as we open ourselves to what is around us, perhaps the vibrant colors or patterns in nature. We might take a moment to feel a soft pillow behind our head, the texture of our clothing, or slowing down to taste a delicious meal! It is literally impossible to worry about the future or anything else when one is immersed in the present moment with non-judgment and intentional focus. Another beautiful practice is to simply “watch” your breath as you inhale and exhale, noticing the pace and the depth of each breath. This is particularly helpful when you are listening intently and without interruption to what another person is saying. This helps to truly appreciate what is being said and can lead to more thoughtful responses. It also helps the other person feel as though they are being heard.

As we enter into the special season of autumn, being in the present can be a very powerful catalyst as we usher in the stillness and wonder of the leaves falling, and the magnificent smells of pumpkin spice, apple cider, or burning leaves. Practiced more regularly, being mindful of the present moment can lead to an enduring quality of serenity, calm, joy, and even bliss! We here at Lakeshore invite you to be in the present moment with us as we learn to appreciate the calm river of peace and freedom from the shackles of worry and negative thinking. We can together enter a space of greater joy, authenticity and genuineness as we grow more comfortable with ourselves and others.