March is for Mindfulness.

This quarter has been busy. With countless group projects, my research project in full swing, clinical practicum, leading groups on an inpatient psych unit, typical didactic coursework, watching neurosurgery, and neuroscience in general, school is consuming most of my thought and time.

Last week when leading group, we focused on Morita Therapy. Especially because it is an involuntary admission unit, I thought about ways to get the members engaged. For me, the past couple of months have been a whirlwind. There are days that go by where I get to the end and feel like – what just happened? I think about how short life is, and I don’t want days to just pass by while I’m busy thinking about other things.

Enter mindfulness. As OTs, we get to use all kinds of amazing, varied interventions. From physical to mental function, the options are seemingly endless – yet this one is a personal favorite. Mindfulness is the ability to be present in the moment and aware of everything around us. It takes us out of our heads and focused on the external world in the most aware kind of way. I have realized that the more time I spend thinking, the less energy I have to expend in the world – and that’s not a productive way to live. The more I subtract from my life, space, and schedule, the more energy I have to focus on being present and mindful.

After the group activity and reflection, I had everyone pick an object in the room – preferably close to them – and look at it for a minute. I advised them to look at the color, the texture, the writing – observe everything possible about the object and hopefully see it in a different light. As I focused on the pen, I heard sounds around us that I hadn’t paid attention to before. I felt myself grounded in the room and my mind had space. I felt space open up in my mind to relax and just “be” – and I hoped it did the same for members of the group.

In closing, I gave a “homework suggestion” of picking a routine – even something simple, like washing hands – and really focusing on it. Focusing on the soap, the water, the temperature, or whatever was involved in the chosen routine. but it was also an assignment for me. To stop rushing through the days, constantly thinking, constantly moving – and just be open. Be present and aware and enjoy it, even if things aren’t so easy or smooth or “pretty” right now (e.g. Chicago winter), enjoy every moment even if it doesn’t fit typical definitions of ideal.

Today, the sun is shining, I’m doing a take home neuro quiz, and I just ate some chocolate. I felt myself getting too inside my head, and I took a break to write- to be mindful.

OT is a profession that not just challenges me professionally, and terrifies me sometimes, but allows me to practice what I preach and change my life. To me, mindfulness creates space for gratitude that I may have closed before.

and I’m grateful for that.

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