I recently finished a 10-week course on mindfulness and wellbeing, facilitated by a psychologist. Before starting the course, I didn’t think I was very mindful, simply because I’m an overthinker whose emotions seem to have a mind of their own.
However, halfway through the course, I realized that the way highly sensitive people (HSPs) experience the world is often — by default — quite mindful.
HSPs tend to notice the world around them, particularly sensory information such as sounds, colors, and scents. They’re also aware of emotions, especially the emotions of others, because they absorb them easily.
While many people go through life on autopilot, missing the beautiful subtleties around them, HSPs may be better at appreciating the small moments in life. They absorb and reflect on what is happening — both around them and within them.
And this, I’ve learned, is one of the core components of mindfulness.
The Benefits of Mindfulness
Although sensitive people naturally approach life in a more mindful way, many of us — including myself — do not practice mindfulness enough. We spend a lot of time lost in our minds, preoccupied with memories of the past, thoughts and worries about the future, and judgments and reactions to the things we encounter.
Personally, I could probably overthink myself into a coma.
Mastering mindfulness involves developing the ability to calm your mind to access its full potential. With a calm and focused mind, we can harness our thoughts to achieve far greater outcomes for ourselves — and for the people around us.
All of us face significant stressors and a variety of emotional influences every day. And HSPs tend to internalize these influences, sometimes to our detriment. By practicing mindfulness, we can reduce the effects these daily stressors have on our ability to focus on the present. We learn to:
- Deal with our emotions in a healthy way
- Break our habitual patterns of reacting by pausing and making better choices
- Improve our mood and lower stress
- Become more present and engaged in our work, relationships, and personal lives
As we learn mindfulness strategies, our brains become increasingly accustomed to this new way of operating, and eventually, it becomes habitual.
How to Be More Mindful
Here are three ways for highly sensitive people be more mindful in their daily life:
1. Remember that you are not your thoughts and feelings.
You are simply an observer of your thoughts and feelings. This is a powerful message for HSPs who often feel so overwhelmed by their thoughts and emotions that they become mentally and emotionally flooded.
By becoming aware of your thoughts and feelings — and observing them in a nonjudgemental way as they come and go — you will become more present.
Here’s a great analogy from my psychologist: Imagine your thoughts and emotions as trains at the station. You’re on the platform watching them arrive and depart. Although you don’t have control over which trains come and go, you do have control over yourself. You can make the choice to get on — or not get on — any one of those trains.
When a negative emotion like rage, jealousy, or fear comes up, try not to jump on and go for a ride to a place you don’t want to go. Instead, observe and appreciate the train while it’s at the station (yes, it will eventually leave). You are not your thoughts or feelings, and they are not you.
2. Focus on your senses.
One of the best techniques for becoming more mindful is to bring your awareness to every sense. What can you hear, see, touch, and feel right now? What are the sensory inputs around you and inside you at this moment?
Pause to smell the tantalizing aroma of coffee or the salty ocean air. Admire the beauty and diversity of nature in your neighbourhood, and the sound of chirping birds and the humming whisper of the wind.
Notice how your clothes feel against your body. The way soft clean bed sheets kiss your skin in the early morning. The taste of your lover’s kiss. The spikiness of freshly mowed grass under your feet.
Check in with your body and see how you’re feeling. Focus on the ache in your back, or the way sweat glistens on your skin after exercise, or the sound of your stomach grumbling.
Focus your attention on the simple tasks of your day. Don’t overthink or over-analyze them. Just appreciate the little moments for what they are. When you get into the habit of checking in with your five senses, you’ll better ground yourself in the present — and help keep anxiety and negative thoughts away.
3. Practice regular self-care.
Regular self-care is important for anyone, but for highly sensitive people who process stimuli deeply, it’s even more important. Self-care involves taking time for yourself and doing the things you love — the things that connect with your spirit and make you feel alive.
Self-care can help you lose your churning thoughts and worries if you pour all your love, intention, and attention into whatever self-care activity you’re doing.
So, when you treat yourself, relish it. When you travel, work to be present where you are. When you listen to music, actively tune into it. And if you like reading or writing, fully immerse yourself in it.
Mindfulness-based self-care is about having a few simple practices and habits that build a foundation for long-term stamina, resilience, and wellbeing. Practicing self-care in a mindful way keeps you “topped off” so you can nourish not only yourself but also be more present and energetic for others.
Need some mindful self-care ideas? Check out my article, 20 Self-Care Ideas for Highly Sensitive People.
But before clicking away from this article, please take a moment to pause, take a deep breath, and sense everything around you. Appreciate what it’s like to be alive in this very moment. By doing so, you’re taking the first step of your mindfulness journey.
You might like:
- Why Highly Sensitive People Get Mentally and Emotionally ‘Flooded’
- 21 Signs That You’re a Highly Sensitive Person
- What Happens When a Highly Sensitive Person Grows Up with Emotional Neglect?
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