Coping SkillsMindfulnessStress Management

Observing the Ordinary: Bringing Mindfulness to our New Normal.

After months of sheltering in place, New York continues to expand its reopening, and folks are understandably getting busier. Some people are getting more comfortable with travel and small social gatherings; others are returning to their offices and venturing to local restaurants. Our experience of how time passes depends on many factors; when we are bored, time seems to drag on; when we are enjoying ourselves, time flies. As we return to our diversions and begin to find more moments of joy, it’s important to remember to slow down and savor our moments. As things are picking up, I’m reminded of the famous line from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”

The pandemic has certainly shaken our tendency towards “auto-pilot” — it’s hard to feel like you’re just going through the motions when our most basic behaviors have changed. For example, the old “phone, keys, wallet” check on your way out your front door probably has a few extra steps involved, like including hand sanitizer and a mask. Mindfulness in its most basic form is the act of paying attention to one thing at a time, on purpose — essentially it’s the antithesis of auto-pilot mode. So, while it can be odd to add these extra steps to your routine, it’s also an opportunity to be more intentional and incorporate mindfulness into your day.

Returning to what used to be simple, normal, pleasurable activities might feel extraordinary in comparison with the lengthy period of isolation from which we are emerging. This gives us a chance to, as Ferris Bueller would say, stop, look around, and really take note of how special these experiences are. I often encourage my clients to “pause” when they start to notice a feeling, to be more purposeful in sitting with this emotion or sensation, and to observe it from multiple angles and perspectives. We often rush to judgment without really noting our feelings; like if we walk from an air conditioned room outside into hot weather, we may immediately think “ew!” and react instinctively to something we expect to be unpleasant. What if, instead of assuming that it will be a negative experience, we simply allowed ourselves to be curious about the difference in temperatures? What if, instead of always stressing ourselves out about our “to do” list, we slowed down and noticed what it truly feels like to be re-engaging in tasks that we once considered to be mundane?

I hope you’ll take some time out of the week ahead to pause and observe the world emerging around you. We are living in a unique time, and while it has certainly been full of challenges, there have also been moments that we don’t want to miss.

Katelyn Murphy, LCSW

Katelyn Murphy, LCSW

Katelyn is a therapist and clinical supervisor with Peaceful Way Psychology, specializing in anxiety and relationship issues. Read more about Katelyn

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