Mindfulness Skills

Observe, Describe, Participate

When we are mindful, we are better able to notice our thoughts, feelings and sensations non-judgmentally and without attempting to change anything. We are free to experience our present moment.  

The Mindfulness Skill of Observing

To observe the present moment, we must notice our sensory environment. To observe is to experience. What do you see, hear, smell, taste and feel? Start to take a step back from your thoughts, opinions and judgements and gently surrender to observing your body and your surroundings. The observe skill can allow you to feel grounded in the present moment, which minimises worries of the future and minimises your focus on the past.

 How can we Observe?

  • Notice the pattern of your breath. Become aware of the gentle flow of air in and out. 

  • Listen to the sounds around you. Notice different sounds individually and hear the uniqueness of each sound.

  • Notice your thoughts as they pass by. Try not to follow or judge these thoughts, but rather allow them to float away without attachment to them. Become an observer of your thoughts and start to direct your attention to your body and physical surroundings.

For more Mindfulness Activities and Tips, click here.

The Mindfulness Skill of Describing

To build on the observe skill, we can describe what we observe. Describing requires adding facts and information about what you are observing. When we stick to the facts, we avoid misinterpreting our current emotion as a fact and avoid making assumptions about the actions or intentions of others. Only describe what you observe and avoid making interpretations.

How can we Describe?

  • Let go of judgement when describing. For example, feeling as though we are useless does not mean it is true. This is a judgement, not a fact.

  • Let go of judgement labels when describing. For example, “I am a worrier”, becomes “I am noticing my thoughts are racing and my heart is beating”. These are the facts of the current moment. Let go of labelling yourself and others.

The Describe Skill: An Example A friend takes a phone call whilst you are visiting them. This may bring up concerns or assumptions that your friend is not engaged or interested in your conversation or enjoying your company. However, when we describe the facts (your friend just answered the phone), we are able to avoid unnecessary worry and continue to be present in the moment.  We can check the facts. The Facts: My friend answered the phone. I hear her/his voice. My breathing is ....(slow/fast/regularly paced). “I am noticing the thought that ….”

When we use the describe skill, we are checking the facts and can minimise jumping to conclusions about ourselves or others.   

The Mindfulness Skill of Participating

Be in the moment. The participate skill involves being present – here and now. Become engaged and involved in the current experience of your life. Become connected with whatever you are doing. We are often caught up with our mind and thoughts or worries, which means we can miss out on the joy of the present moment.

How can we Participate?

  • Frequently we need to perform tasks that may be mundane. Instead of thinking “this is boring”, immerse yourself in the task. Observe and describe the task. For example, if you are mowing the lawn – be present. Let go of judgement, such as, “this is annoying” or “I don’t want to do this”. Instead, notice the smell of fresh cut grass, notice the sounds of the mower, and notice the change in what you see as you move over the long grass and it transforms to short grass. Being mindful and participating can make any task more enjoyable. Have a curious mind.

  • Fully experience the moment, let go of thoughts of self-doubt – Be present. If you are dancing, DANCE! Allow your body to move freely. Listen to the music and enjoy participating in what you hear and feel.

  • Participate in the feeling of uncomfortable emotions. The participate skill does not mean that each moment will be filled with joy. Sometimes we will have to experience uncomfortable emotions and we should not push them away. However, when we are participating, we are also observing and describing, which means we are still sticking to the facts and watching our thoughts (instead of getting caught up in our unhelpful thoughts). Experience your emotion as it is. Mindfulness allows us to move through the emotion without prolonging it.

    “What you resist,persists” ~ Carl Jung

These skills take practice and our psychologists at Bridge Street Psychology are able to help you develop mindfulness skills.