“Mindfulness” is a word we hear more often these days in yoga studios, wellness blogs, and even elementary schools. But what does it mean, and how can it help?
Mindfulness is purposefully paying attention to just the present moment, not anything that happened beforehand or that will happen after “now.” It’s a kind of meditation that involves learning how to focus on only the sights, sounds, smells, and feelings that are happening in that present, mindful moment. When we practice mindfulness, we are being non-judgmental about our thoughts. After all, it’s our brain’s job to generate thoughts, and it’s natural for us to get distracted. But to be mindful is to notice that we are distracted and then gently bring ourselves back to the present. Mindfulness connects us to the people around us, creates an opportunity to slow down for a moment and check in with ourselves, and allows us to make more lasting memories as we focus on just one experience fully.
There are a lot of things about being a new mom that can be overwhelming — less sleep, new realities, juggling a newborn with older children, and adjusting to a shifting personal identity. Moms often feel a sense of duty to stay on top of every little thing, which can lead to feeling preoccupied and distracted all the time (aka “mommy brain”). While it’s easy to get caught up in the shuffle as a new mom, it’s also a time when finding meaningful ways to feel present and connected to your newborn (and yourself) can be incredibly grounding and help eliminate some of the frazzle.
Here are some mindfulness techniques to try one or more times a day:
Mindful breathing: While feeding your baby, resist the urge to turn on the TV, check email, or scroll through your phone. Instead, pay attention to your breathing and on your baby’s breathing, focusing on the calm, natural rhythm you’re creating together.
Mindful walking: When you are out with the baby in the stroller, pay attention to your steps either by counting them or by placing them in synch with your breathing. This is an intentional, visual way to remind yourself that motherhood happens when you put one foot in front of the other and take everything one step at a time.
Loving kindness: You’ll hear people remind you to “enjoy every moment,” but the early days of new motherhood are full of feelings that aren’t always enjoyable. Take time to notice all of the feelings and moments. When you feel frustrated or overwhelmed, acknowledge those thoughts and see if you can replace them with an enjoyable one that sends some kindness to yourself, your baby, or whomever you are struggling with at the moment.
Any moment can be an opportunity to practice mindfulness, to make the choice to be fully present in whatever you’re doing. Mindfulness gets easier with practice; it’s like a muscle that needs to be conditioned to do what we’d like it to do. Take in all of the little things, even during mundane tasks, and you might discover some harmony in the have-tos: feel the softness of the clothes being folded, smell the aroma of dinner as it cooks, enjoy every sip of coffee from the first to the last with intention. For more on mindfulness practice, visit https://www.mindful.org/meditation/mindfulness-getting-started/