Mindfulness is the state of focusing your attention on the present moment in a purposeful and objective way. It is a conscious direction to "be in the moment;" to deliberately notice the sensations around you without forming any kind of judgment about those sensations. Proponents claim that it can shift your thoughts away from your usual preoccupations towards a calmer perspective on life. Improving mindfulness has been shown to increase happiness and significantly reduce anxiety and stress.
For introverted intuitives, living in the moment can seem like a tough challenge. You enjoy tinkering with abstract ideas and can spend a lot of time inside your own head thinking about the "big picture." Your ability to focus on specific sensory information is weak, like a muscle that has atrophied. At times, you may feel as if your mind is completely detached from your body. This is the opposite of mindfulness, which demands that you remain acutely aware of the concrete world.
How are we to develop mindfulness under these conditions? Here are some tips to help natural overthinkers still their minds and start living in the moment.
1. Focus on what's in front of you
To bring your mind into the present, designate a specific time in your day to focus on what's in front of you. This could be an object in your home or office, a person on the train or even a spot on the wall. Focus all your attention on that object and bring your awareness back to it every time your mind wanders. Ask yourself, what do you see, hear, smell, taste, feel? Set a timer for 10 to 20 minutes so that you can stay focused.
As your awareness develops, expand the technique to really tune into the things and events around you as they happen. For example, when you have a cup of coffee in your hand, describe the sensation in your head. Grip the cup, run your hands over it, and feel the warmth of the liquid. Allow yourself to experience drinking the cup of coffee, paying careful attention to each step of the process.
2. Do something physical
Sports, and especially team sports, are great ways of forcing your mind to engage in the present. Let's face it, you have to be aware of your environment - the ball, the officials, the speed of the other players - if you are to succeed in the game.
If sport is not your thing, then any type of physical activity can make you more adept at sensing. Dancing, gardening or turning cartwheels with the kids in the park force you to connect with your body in a visceral way. Alternatively, try some arts and crafts. Teachers often use art to improve a child's dexterity and attention span. Try to focus each brushstroke, color or stitch on one specific outcome, and slowly savor the process of creation.
3. Perform one task at a time
If you divide your attention between multiple tasks, then it is almost impossible to live in the moment. Instead, try focusing all of your energy on one project at a time. If you are preparing dinner, then focus on chopping the vegetables. If you are writing a report, write the report and nothing else.
Some personality types will find single-tasking more challenging than others. Perceivers, for example, tend to enjoy the adrenaline rush of juggling multiple tasks and priorities. But focusing on one task at a time is the only way to eliminate distractions and connect with the thoughts and feelings you might be having in that moment.
4. Let go of fear
Focusing on the moment without judgment runs counter to the introverted intuitive's preference for reflection. You're wired to have a busy brain, and often use your daydreams as a way of solving problems. It may feel strange or tiring to get out of your head, since your strong point is sloshing ideas around and making connections.
The answer to this is simple - realize that you will not be stuck in the present moment forever. The idea is not to turn you into something you're not, but to train your mind to become better integrated with the world around you. When the time is right, your mind will naturally focus on something else. But you will have learned the rituals that allow you to notice that your mind has wandered, and then bring it back on cue.
Final piece of advice - be patient. Learning any new skill takes effort and time. To live in the moment, you are going to have to step outside your comfort zone and try some behaviors that aren't really you. No one likes to do that. But living in the moment, at least some of the time, can give intuitive introverts a real chance to dial down the internal noise and connect with their environment. Life is lived in the present, and you can't participate if you're not really there, now can you?