One thing that my clients (and myself for that matter!) have in common is that we can spend a lot of time thinking about the past or the future and end up getting absorbed in our thoughts. Ever have those days where you feel like you've been on autopilot and wonder things like "I can't remember anything from the drive home from work". Sure, there are times when getting caught up in your thoughts can enhance what you are doing, such as when you get lost in a book or watching a movie. It can also help you to be creative while day-dreaming. But, quite often we can get so caught up in the words and pictures and sounds running through our head that we lose contact with the here and now.
Imagine this; pretend for a moment that your hands are your thoughts (bear with me). Holds your hands together, palms open, as if they are the pages of an open book. Slowly and steadily raise your hands up towards your face. Keep going until they cover your eyes. Now, take a few moments to look at the world around you through the gaps in between your fingers and notice how this affects your view of the world.
What would it be like going around all day with your hands covering your eyes like this? How much would you miss out on? How well could you do your job, or interact with your friends and family? This is what it is like when we get so caught up in our thoughts that we miss out on a lot of the her-and-now experience. Do the exercise with your hands to your face again, but this time lower then from your face very slowly. As the distance between your hands and your face gets bigger, notice how much easier it is to connect with the world around you.
So how do you get your hands/thoughts away from your face so you can see the world around you, and connect and be more effective in what you are doing? Ah ha! Great question! There are some very effective ways an ACT (Acceptance and Commitment) therapist can help you out.
To start with though, how about trying to reconnect with the moment you are having right now? Try this; I call it the 'senses anchor'. You can do it any time, whether you are standing in a room, sitting in front of your computer or waiting in a line. Take a moment to notice the feel of your feet on the ground, and the sense of the ground beneath your feet. Draw in a couple of intentional breaths, noticing your lungs fill and your chest rise and fall with your breath. Now, find 5 things around you that you can see and pretend you are a curious child seeing them for the first time - what colour is it? what shape? Next, find 5 things that you can hear. Take your time. What about 5 things you can feel? Perhaps a breeze against your skin, the feel of your watch on your wrist or the smoothness of your computer screen. The other senses (smell and taste) can be tricky depending on where you are. Try to experience one of each, even simply drawing your attention to the sensation in your mouth and in your nostrils.
This is also a great experience to use if you catch yourself with your 'hands to your face' (in other words, are caught up in your thoughts). Stop, take in a few breaths and experience one thing for each of your five senses. It'll help you to 'drop anchor' in the present moment. You may be surprised to see (and hear, smell, taste and touch) how much you've been missing out on! For those of you who ran your finger over your computer screen - perhaps you realised how dusty it is (I know I did!).
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