The year was 2020 and a life altering phenomenon occurred across the world. It was a pandemic that no one saw coming and few were prepared for. Most of us were at a loss at how to respond to such a devastating event. We found ourselves glued to the television or social media, trying to wrap our minds around what was happening in the world and in our very own back yard.

Although the pandemic has left its mark and many of its long-term impacts have yet to be revealed, many of us inadvertently learned to practice mindfulness. We all paused and worried about our neighbor, people across the globe, and loved ones more than we ever had. As the world stopped, we were forced to take a breath and rearrange our lives in more simple ways.

Aside from the rush on toilet paper and cleaning supplies, outdoor recreational equipment flew off shelves as people began spending more time outside and finding simple things to do at home to occupy their time. We came back to a place of rest that many of us truly needed. Our society doesn’t give much room for being mindful throughout our lives unless we make it a priority.

So, what does it mean to be mindful? We live out our days ruminating over our schedules, kids, appointments, responsibilities, tasks, etc. How much time do you spend daily being aware of your five senses? Do you notice the smell of fresh bread as you pass a bakery? Do you listen to the birds chirping? How often do you simply just sit in silence without any distractions? Do you listen to your body when it tells you it needs rest?

Being mindful is being aware of what is around you and what’s within you. If you do this you might notice the person in your office having a bad day. You’ll hear the joy of people laughing. You will see a person in need and your heart will feel compassion for them. The key is that you must pause long enough to notice what is happening around you.

There are people, things, places, and moments that carry such beauty, hope, love, joy, and peace. These things can fill your life with happiness and instill compassion, not only for others, but for yourself. Be brave, be wild, and push back against the daily worries that prevent you from observing life happening around you.

Try not to go on autopilot so you can recognize the silver linings that each day holds for you. The pandemic forced a lot of us to be mindful, so don’t lose sight of this. Stop and smell the roses, literally!

Krissy Melhiser, LCSW, is a Youth First Social Worker at Washington Junior High School in Daviess County. Youth First, Inc. is a nonprofit dedicated to strengthening youth and families.