Believe it or not, the ability to worry about the future is adaptive in helping us to detect problems, identify dissonant relationships, gather information and plan for future events (think of gathering information before an important interview, preparing for a big test, recognizing a potential critical or abusive partner). When we are detecting and planning for potential problems, this is our sympathetic nervous system (SNS) hard at work on our behalf. Unfortunately, the SNS can also lead us to fear and avoid every day activities — the social engagement we duck, the appointment we cancel, the meeting we miss, or a class we skip. This avoidance then leads to more fear, more worry, more anxiety, and more avoidance.
Mindfulness practice, on the other hand, activates the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS), which restores balance and increases hopefulness, positivity, possibilities and resonant relationships. Research shows that a meditation practice can increase self-compassion, psychological health and well-being, and significantly lower levels of psychological symptoms, rumination, thought suppression, fear of emotion, and difficulties with emotion regulation.
Although you may not be ready to take up daily meditation, if you're like most people, you might be curious to see how being mindful can help you activate the PNS to increase hopefulness, positivity and possibility. Think of these moments as a renewal moment. It’s not rest; it’s about restoring the parasympathetic nervous system to increase feelings of hope, positivity and possibility.
As you walk to your car, through a grocery store, or around your workplace, pay attention to all the details around you. Observe your surroundings "as if" for the first time. Describe what you notice. It could be as simple as the color of a dress, a flower blooming, and a black dog with blue leash out for a stroll with it's owner.
Pay Attention to Your Emotions
If you are human you will have emotions, and they can be busy, painful, noisy and challenging at times. Observe your emotions in a moment when an emotion arises; turn toward it rather than away from it. Write down one of your emotions. What does it say? Is there a sensation? How does it look? What color is it? How does it feel? Don't judge it as 'right or wrong' just describe it.
Practice What You Value
Values are the glue between you and your goals. A goal puts you in the future, a value happens in the moment. Your goal may be to have a relationship, but the value or glue is to be more connected, open and intimate. Focus on the process not the end point. You are not trying to get from point A to point B, you want to be open and connected in a relationship. This you can practice at point, with any person until you meet the one that becomes your partner.