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Reduce Stress by Learning to Live in the Present Moment by Kelly Harris

When individuals suffer with anxiety and feelings of depression they wonder why they can’t just go with the flow and instead worry about everything from school, work, family and relationships. Cognitive behavior therapy can help people recognize these negative thought patterns that can impact their mood and relationships with others.

Incorporating mindfulness into therapy can be helpful in creating a positive shift in thinking. Mindfulness combines awareness of our present experience with a non-judgmental, accepting stance towards that experience. This means noticing thoughts, feelings, behaviors and external events as they occur and approaching them with an objective and balanced perspective. Mindfulness also means staying in the moment, not worrying about what happened last year or what may or may not happen tomorrow.

Many of us spend our lives worrying about multiple things, often all at once. Worrying about past problems and future concerns can make us feel anxious, depressed, frustrated and miserable. Learning how to incorporate mindfulness into our everyday lives helps us gain control over the here and now. Training our minds to focus on the present moment leads to increased happiness and reduced stress. Below are two simple, yet effective, mindfulness techniques that can be incorporated into your daily routine.

Mindful Breathing

Take a few moments 3-5 times a day and focus on your breathing. Slowly, take a deep breath in through your nose and then slowly release it through your nose. Pay attention to your breathing and any sensations you notice in your body. Allow thoughts to enter your mind objectively and then exit. Don’t judge your thoughts as negative or positive, instead just notice, acknowledge and accept them. You might say to yourself, “I am having a thought and it’s making me feel sad,” and then let it pass and return your focus to your breathing.

Noticing Your Senses: Vision, Hearing, Touch, Taste and Smell

Choose an activity where you find your mind consistently wanders. This could be your commute to work, shopping at the grocery store, going for a walk or eating a meal. During this activity, pay attention to what you see – the trees or sky or food on a plate. Next notice what you hear – the wind whirring or a child laughing. Touch – what do you feel? The sun beating down on you or a soft or hard object. Taste – are you eating a snack or having a meal? Think about the flavors and texture. Eat slowly, really enjoying and noticing every bite. Lastly notice any smells you encounter – the smell of fresh flowers or coffee. The practice of noticing and acknowledging your senses as you experience them brings your focus and attention to the present moment.

Kelly Harris is a licensed clinical social worker and the founder of Hudson Valley Psychotherapy. She and her colleagues use multiple treatment modalities to help treat children, teens and adults who struggle with anxiety, panic attacks, depression, OCD, phobias, ADHD and self-esteem as well as life transition issues such as career, relationship and family dilemmas. They now offer group therapy sessions for adolescents struggling with self-esteem, anxiety and social skills. The office is located at 99 Main St. in Nyack. For more information and to schedule an appointment, contact 500-8675 or kharrispsychotherapist@gmail.com or visit HudsonValleyPsychotherapy.com.

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