PODCAST: April Lemon, LCSW, encourages taking time for mindfulness 

CHC/SEK Director of Behavioral Health April Lemon, LCSW, explains mindfulness and offers tips for being more mindful during the day, such as walking or taking a breath outside after the kids go to bed. 

What is mindfulness?  

Being mindful is not worrying about the past or the future and trying to acknowledge where you are at this moment and what’s in front of me, what do I have control over at this moment in time? So often we get caught up in worrying about the past or what is going to happen in the future and not living in this moment in time. We try to bring it to what do I have control over right now? And do I have to have an agenda right now. 

Is this something you use during therapy sessions?  

So many patients that we see, and people in general, have some anxiety. I think remembering what we have control over and what we don’t have control over and letting go of what we don’t have control over is huge.  

Tell me about your presentation on Mindful Walking for the Pittsburg Public Library’s summer reading program. 

They had asked for me to come talk about mindful walking as a part of that.  

We always usually have to have an agenda. I’m going to go walk a mile or whatever, this is just letting go of those expectations for ourselves and being aware of what’s around us.  

There’s some beautiful trees around College Lake and one of the trees, I saw had a little basket that was about hand big, and I thought why is this basket in the tree? … I picked up the basket out of curiosity and there was a toad sitting in the crevice of the tree and that was like his home … I probably never would’ve seen that if I was just walking to get my steps in our exercise or whatever. Slowing down and seeing what’s around. Seeing the little fish that’s in the pond or watching the dragon flies buzz around. Looking for the awe, trying to find the moment of awe. Watching how the sun comes down through the trees and the individual leaves and watching how the wind plays off of that. Feeling the wind on your face as you’re walking, being mindful of all of the sensations. 

Why do you think we “hold on” so tight to our past and worry so much about the future?  

That’s the $100 million question. I think that the world that we live in has a lot of anxieties now too. There are a lot of reasons that people are more anxious I think today. Financial situations, prices are expensive, worrying about “how am I going to do this?” 

We have a lot of things to worry about. It’s just definitively important to help people remember, let’s just think about what you have control over now, what can you do in the moment and sometimes just letting those things go. Taking some time out being in the moment which is what mindfulness is all about.  

What are some benefits to being mindful?  

Reducing your stress and anxiety levels can help improve mood as well as physical benefits too. And when you combine that with nature, then that’s like a double whammy. Just wonderful, so many more benefits to that.  

One of the apps I like to recommend is Nature Dose and it measures the amount of time away from buildings, away from trees. And it sends you notifications and research with benefits about being in nature and the improvements to your cardiovascular, mood and all of that stuff. 

How to take the time to be mindful?  

I think the time thing is a huge thing because it seems like we have to rush, rush, rush and we get home and we’re too tired. But setting that time, even if one day a week. If we want to do it really “right” we would not take a watch, no phone, and just let ourselves go. Really embrace the experience. It can be that we’re there for a few moments or we’re there for an hour. Just really devoting ourselves to de-plugging from technology and really being there in the moment.  

What are some tips?  

We can imagine that our thoughts are like thought bubbles and the thought bubbles are clouds and they are just passing on so it’s not about saying “oh no I’m not doing this right.” There’s a thought, I’m just going to let it float away, there’s another thought and I’m going to let that float away and pay attention to what’s around not beating yourself up. Because we’re humans we’re going to have that human experience thoughts coming and just accepting it and letting it go.  

I think that’s a big thing, self-acceptance not I am thinking have to do this a certain way. The great thing about mindful walking is that there’s not a right or wrong way it’s just what works for you.  

What are some ways to sneak mindfulness in throughout the day?

Sitting a few minutes after the kids are in bed and look up at the stars in the stillness of the night. That can be a great metaphor to getting back to the quietness and stillness in ourselves. There’s so much to learn about nature and bringing it to ourselves, into our lives. Or, getting up early and watching the sunrise. Listen to all the birds as they wake up, all the beautiful sounds.  

Is mindfulness part of your daily routine?  

I don’t take as much as I should. I like to go camping and backpacking. I try to get out as much as I can. Sometimes it is just sitting outside. When I take my dogs out at night, I look up at the stars and think wow that’s pretty awesome and listen to the quiet. Trying to bring that into myself. 

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