Have you ever struggled from overwhelming worry, thinking about something over and over and over again, like it was almost driving you crazy (or who knows maybe it was!). I know I’ve been there. Today was an exceptionally bad “in my head” type of day. I felt like my head is literally going to explode. It was that kind of a day.

In fear of a mental explosion, I put on my walking shoes and stepped outside the door. Wandering though my neighborhood I started to notice the way the clouds were streaked with pinks and grays, the way the last rays of the sun shone through the tree branches, the many types of succulents in my neighbors garden, the smell of a peach rose…. And as I was wandering around just noticing what was around me, suddenly I felt lighter, and clearer. And more joyful.

Which is considerably different from how I was feeling just a 10 minutes earlier. Now granted I was walking so physiologically natural endorphins were being released  which might explain the clearer head… but I think it was something much deeper.

When we stop and notice what is happening in the world around us, we literally get out of our own way. We remind ourselves that there is a whole big world out there, much bigger than what is happening in our own minds.

But, here is the key, it works best when we notice without judgement. We notice the fruit tree in our neighbors yard but we don’t compare it to our own garden. Or we notice the texture of the base boards in the room that we are in but we don’t judge it for the dust that has settled there.

EXERCISE:
Stop reading this for a moment and look up right now and find five new things to notice. Take this as an opportunity to notice that photograph on the wall that you love but simply got used to and stopped noticing. What else do you notice around you?

NATURE EXERCISE:
Go to the beach, the forest, or a 10 minute walk around your neighborhood and just notice the natural world! For this near the sea:
Go to be beach, sit down and begin to notice what’s going on around you. The color and texture of the sand, the smell of the sea, the color of the ocean waves at each point in their journey, the sound of the waves, of birds overhead, the temperature in the air, the sun on the body. Spend 5-10 minutes doing this and then reevaluate how you feel. Do you feel more grounded, peaceful, balanced and centered?

Ellen Langer PhD., often dubbed the mother of western mindfulness remarked that she always tells her clients to “just notice” what is around them in order to bring a greater degree of happiness into their lives.  She argues that to be present we don’t need eastern practices like meditation or yoga, we just need pause and notice what is. The simple yet profound act of noticing brings us into the present moment. If you’d like to learn more about Ellen Langer visit the On Being Podcast: Science of Mindlessness and Mindfulness.  You can also watch the video below: