The other day I was feeling frazzled emotionally. A lot of things had been adding up, and while at that moment I was taking a nice leisurely walk, I couldn't get my mental "chatter" to slow down. I was struggling to be present and unable to enjoy the moment.
So I found a bench and watched the sun, how it shone through the leaves casting a beautiful moving shadow on the ground below. I was listening to a playlist from a friend on shuffle, and a song came up that I had heard a few times but never really listened to before. So for the next 3 1/2 minutes, I listened. I watched the invisible breeze moving the leaves and listened to every word and chord that came through my headphones.
For those few minutes I was present with something beyond my own racing thoughts. No other expectations or should's or tasks mattered. It felt like hitting a reset button in my mind. My stress and mental chatter didn't totally disappear after that. But I was reminded that I am not my thoughts. I'm separate from my thoughts - I can observe them and decide which are helpful and true for me and which aren't. I don't have to be bound and controlled by those thoughts and emotions.
Mindfulness and meditation experts describe thoughts as "mental events." Jon Kabat-Zinn writes that it is easy to differentiate the imaginary chair in your mind from the one you're sitting on, but it's much harder to do this with more abstract concepts, like our self-worth. Mindfulness interrupts your reactive stress response so you can process your thoughts with more clarity. You can step out of these racing thoughts to see them for what they are and for what story they're creating for you. Then you can decide if that's the story you want for yourself.
I often recommend guided meditations for beginners. But if that still feels strange for you, or you're just looking for a different way to engage in mindfulness practice, listening to a good song is just as beneficial. I happened to be listening to a song by Dawes the other day, and I'd recommend All Your Favorite Bands as a great song for fostering mindful loving-kindness. It's all about wishing the best for others, which is exactly what loving-kindness is. If you tend to struggle with self-criticism and perfectionism, try listening to this song as a self-compassionate message to yourself.
Choosing songs that are meaningful to you might be the best place to start. But if you aren't sure, there's a great list of songs with lyrics that align with concepts of mindulfness and helpful thinking (although I admit, the music styles on the list are all over the place!).
If you've been struggling to "make time" for mindfulness or have never tried it before, this is a great way to do it. We all have at least one song we love and we can all find time in our day to sit and listen to it.
For more on mindfulness and stepping back to observe the story your thoughts might be creating check out my other posts: