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‘Be Where Your Feet Are’: How to Live in the Moment with Anxiety and Depression

‘Be Where Your Feet Are’: How to Live in the Moment with Anxiety and Depression

This material has been reviewed for accuracy by: Renee Albers, PhD

“Feels like I’m surfing on a sound waveBarefoot couple stands shoreline on a beach, showing how to live in the moment with anxiety and depression
Zooming through the universe
Feels like we’re bouncing off of light waves
I bounce so hard sometimes it hurts
Every time I think I’m stuck
The sun moves along and my shadow gets up
If you’re lost; relax; and be where your feet are…”

In his song, “Be Where Your Feet Are,” Jason Mraz tries to help his fans remember how to stay grounded when life feels overwhelming.

While his tone is playful, his message is serious. Learning how to “be where your feet are” can be a helpful tool when it comes to living in the moment with anxiety and depression.

Anxiety and depression can take you out of the present

According to a Psychology Today article, anxiety may cause those who suffer from it to think excessively about the past or future, essentially turning you into a sort of “time traveler” and taking you away from what you’re doing currently.

“As human beings, we may be designed to be on high alert for danger, but with information coming at us from all directions and at high speeds, anxiety is sharply rising, and this adaptation is starting to impair us,” according to the article. “Many of us can’t seem to stop our minds from racing forward to fixate over what could go wrong or backward into rumination over what has gone wrong. That is why a big step toward stopping our anxiety can be taken by stopping the act of time travel.”

Similarly, depression can affect how fully you take part in your day-to-day activities. According to the Mayo Clinic website, depression can include a loss of interest, fixating on past failures or self-blame, having trouble concentrating, and more.

However, finding ways to stay more in the present may help you feel calmer and happier.

“Harvard researchers found that the human mind wanders 47% of the time and that when you stray, you pay. When your mind wanders, you’re more stressed out and unhappy than when you stay in the here and now,” according to a Forbes article. “The Harvard scientists report that people are happier – no matter what they’re doing even working overtime, vacuuming the house or sitting in traffic – if they are focused on the activity instead of thinking about something else.”

Staying in the moment helps keep your stress down, makes you more effective at what you’re doing and helps you have a happier life, according to the article.

Living in the moment

Different clocks transposed on sunlit sky, showing how important it is to “live in the moment.”One way to learn to live more fully in the moment is by practicing the act of mindfulness, according to the Mayo Clinic website:

“Mindfulness is a type of meditation in which you focus on being intensely aware of what you’re sensing and feeling in the moment, without interpretation or judgment. Practicing mindfulness involves breathing methods, guided imagery, and other practices to relax the body and mind and help reduce stress.

Spending too much time planning, problem-solving, daydreaming, or thinking negative or random thoughts can be draining. It can also make you more likely to experience stress, anxiety and symptoms of depression. Practicing mindfulness exercises can help you direct your attention away from this kind of thinking and engage with the world around you.”

Mindfulness exercises can be simple or more structured, according to the website, and allow you to notice – yet move past – negative thinking so you can tune more fully into the present. Some examples of simple mindfulness exercises include the following, according to the Mayo Clinic article:

  • Pay attention. It’s hard to slow down and notice things in a busy world. Try to take the time to experience your environment with all of your senses – touch, sound, sight, smell and taste. For example, when you eat a favorite food, take the time to smell, taste and truly enjoy it.
  • Live in the moment. Try to intentionally bring an open, accepting and discerning attention to everything you do. Find joy in simple pleasures.
  • Accept yourself. Treat yourself the way you would treat a good friend.
  • Focus on your breathing. When you have negative thoughts, try to sit down, take a deep breath and close your eyes. Focus on your breath as it moves in and out of your body. Sitting and breathing for even just a minute can help.”

Mindful Breathing

While “sitting and breathing” may feel too simple to really help, mindful breathing may be a way to regulate your mood. In a 2019 study published in Mindfulness, the authors found that mindful deep breathing might reduce depressive symptoms.

What is mindful breathing? Paying attention to how it feels when you take in and let out a breath. It’s literally being conscious of the unconscious act of taking in new air and letting out old air.

Here’s how to do a deep breathing exercise according to a Psych Central article:

“Lie down — or sit up — in a comfortable position.Button reading Find a Provider
Place one hand on your stomach.
Inhale for 3 seconds, noticing how your hand rises as you breathe in.
Exhale for 3 seconds, noticing how your hand falls as you breathe out.

Mindfulness Exercises

If you want to go beyond just breathing, consider implementing more structured exercises that use your whole body. Some examples include the following, according to the Mayo Clinic website:

Body scan meditation. Lie on your back with your legs extended and arms at your sides, palms facing up. Focus your attention slowly and deliberately on each part of your body, in order, from toe to head or head to toe. Be aware of any sensations, emotions or thoughts associated with each part of your body.A woman meditates in lotus position to help ensure she is living in the moment with anxiety and depression

Sitting meditation. Sit comfortably with your back straight, feet flat on the floor and hands in your lap. Breathing through your nose, focus on your breath moving in and out of your body. If physical sensations or thoughts interrupt your meditation, note the experience and then return your focus to your breath.

Walking meditation. Find a quiet place 10 to 20 feet in length and begin to walk slowly. Focus on the experience of walking, being aware of the sensations of standing and the subtle movements that keep your balance. When you reach the end of your path, turn and continue walking, maintaining awareness of your sensations.”

Mindfulness can be part of a physical workout, according to the Psych Central article. Doing yoga is a good example. Another example is going for a walk outside and paying attention to what you feel and hear, such as your feet on the ground or the sun on your skin, or the sounds around you, according to the article.

Mindfulness in daily activities

You can even apply elements of mindfulness into simple everyday activities, according to experts in a Good Housekeeping article. Some examples include the following:

“Candle Study Exercise. Light your favorite candle, sit comfortably, and watch the flame sway and flicker. ‘This is actually a form of meditation,’ says [therapist and yoga instructor Magdalene] Martinez, [LMSW]. Gaze at candle for five to 10 minutes and let your mind wander, she says. Observe your thoughts. Let them pass without judgement.

Button with GeneSight logo and text learn more about the GeneSight testTea Drinking Exercise. If you love drinking tea every day, why not try drinking it a little bit slower? Better yet, try drawing your attention to the sensations, smells, or sounds you observe from the moment you start brewing to the moment you finish your cup.

‘Notice how it feels to make the tea, the color of the tea leaves, the sound of the kettle, the shape of the mug, the scent that arises, what the tea tastes like, and how it feels in the body as you make and drink the tea,’ says [NYC-based meditation instructor Kirat] Randhawa. ‘Invite yourself to meet the activity with an embodied presence by noticing sensations that arise as you drink the tea and how often the mind wanders. Then with compassionate awareness, gently bring the mind back to the tea, back to the body, resting it in the present moment.’

If you’re more of a coffee person, you can perform this practice in the same manner. In fact, you can bring this sort of mindfulness to any activity.”

Finding your feet

Different people may find success with different types of mindfulness exercises. Starting small is OK, according to a Washington Post article.

Katherine Cullen, a licensed psychotherapist at Juniper Therapeutic Services in New York, suggested starting small with a few exercises a week and that in the beginning doing these exercises may feel uncomfortable – and that’s OK.A hand waters a seedling that grows into a plant, showing how taking small steps to living in the moment may help

“Think of it like exercise. You might go for a walk after being inactive for a while and it might feel uncomfortable,” she was quoted in the article. “The key, like with exercise, is to be consistent about it.”

Further, she said that trying mindfulness exercises may be helpful if you find someone to help.

“If you’re new to mindfulness and have never done it before, I would strongly encourage you to do it with someone else,” Cullen said. “It’s really helpful to have someone there to actively guide you through it and answer any questions you might have.”

Over time, with practice, it may become easier to “be where your feet are” – and to live more fully and happily in the moment.

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