Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Get tactical with your awareness

While developing a workshop about coping with stress in our lives I wanted to use concepts found in many different areas of psychology including mindfulness, psychological flexibility, acceptance/commitment therapy and others.  I started to pull from different areas and developed a definition that I now use coming from my law enforcement background, and called it “Tactical Awareness”. 

Very often the process of change for a person starts with just awareness.  The old adage “stop and smell the roses” is truer today than we all realize. 
Our fast paced, smartphone driven lives have almost become a blur and we are living in a trance like unaware state.  We are constantly thinking about what needs to get done later or increasing our anxiety about future events.  At the same time ruminating about the past and what did not go right, frustrated and often pissed off because of it.  We have forgotten about “now” and the present moment.  We have lost our focus on how important being aware of the present moment really is. When we start being present we become conscious to the life already around us.  It is time to change the lenses through which we view our lives and focus what we really value in life. 

This type of brain training and exercises has shown dramatic improvement with people suffering from PTSD, anxiety and depression.  Take a look at this quick outline and try it.  I am not saying that you have to sit cross-legged on the floor burning incense; you can if you want to.  Just start with a few minutes a day using the app I recommend at the bottom of this article, and “notice” what starts to change for you.

What is Tactical Awareness?

In a nutshell, Tactical Awareness means paying attention on purpose to whatever is going on in the present moment without passing judgment on it.  Being present to the space around you and whoever is around you.  Getting in touch with what you see, hear, feel, smell, taste and say at any given moment.

Why is this important?

There is a ton of research out there and I can tell you from personal experience that practicing this regularly increases your sense of inner calm, increases self awareness, helps with relaxation, reduce emotional reactivity and reduces the struggle with anxiety and depression over time. 

How do I practice it?

The simple way to start is to simply sit and breath calmly with your eyes closed in a quiet area, and for just a few minutes “notice” your breathing and focus your attention on your breathing.  If your mind wanders to other things, that’s ok, just refocus on your breathing. 

This is training your brain to pay attention with intention and activating very important parts of our brains.

If you have an iPhone, download the app “Mindfulness Coach”.  It is free in the app store and was made by the VA and The National Center for PTSD.  It is the best simple tool I have found so far to practice this.

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