By Deborah Walsh, Ph.D. Clinical Director, Summit Psychological Associates
Every year I order magazines from the school to support my child’s various extracurricular activities and every year I wonder if I will have time to read the magazines that arrive at my home on a monthly basis. This month, I was leafing through several of the magazines I received and I came across an article in Good Housekeeping by Jennifer King Lindley about stress and mindfulness. Since much of my psychology work involves assisting clients and professionals in dealing with stress, I decided to take a moment to read the article and pull it out for future reference.
In the article, Lindley related how some Buddhist monks and nuns were known to practice mindfulness by ringing a bell at various times during the day to remind the entire monastery to shift their awareness to the present moment. According to the Merriam and Webster Dictionary, mindfulness is defined as “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.” Being mindful means shifting our attention away from the future or the past and any judgments we might make about them and instead focus on the present moment. This allows us to slow down, breathe and deliberately be aware of our present thoughts and feelings which can lead to a sense of calmness and relaxation that we all need.
The last time I had a bell ring throughout the day was for class change in high school, which was not at all a sense of calmness and relaxation. Now my “bells” come in the form of alerts and reminders on my cell phone or watch that inform me of a new text or email, or remind me of an upcoming appointment I need to attend. For the past several years, I have used these new “bells” to help me be mindful much like the nuns and the monks do at the monasteries. Just like you can set up your phone to remind you of work or social appointments, you can tell your phone to remind you to breathe at certain times of the day. I have asked my phone to remind me of good memories and to provide affirmations. My favorite reminders are location reminders. They pop up on my watch when I arrive at work and make me think about my family and friends. I have location reminders that come up when I arrive home that remind me to focus on my family and friends instead of continuing to think about the work day and the unfinished business that can wait until Monday. By now these reminders don’t even have to be looked at – just hearing the beep or feeling the phone or watch vibrate is enough to remind me to be mindful of the moment, to not focus on what happened in the past or worry about things in the future. Staying in the moment helps me to focus on the important things in my life. The reminders make me pause, breathe and smile and who does not need that at several points during their day?
If you have a smart phone or watch, try setting up one positive reminder that will help you be mindful once a day. It can be a simple word, like “breathe” or “smile” or the name of your pet. Choose the thing that will make you pause and re-focus. Give it a try; all those monks and nuns can’t be wrong.
Deborah Walsh, Ph.D. is the clinical director for Summit Psychological Associates, Inc. where she has provided clinical services since 1996. She has also served as the Training Director for The APA accredited Ohio Psychology Internship since 1998. Dr. Walsh provides clinical training in ethics and professional development to the interns and to clinicians employed at Summit Psychological Associates, Inc. She also provides training in child assessment and treatment.