10 Tips for Living a Mindful Life
Written by: Jenny Tanis, LMSW, RYT 200
Mindfulness: you’ve heard of it —from your friend, in a yoga studio, or on that Instagram account you follow thinking— and thought, “That all sounds lovely.” You’ve heard of it because mindfulness has become a buzzword in health and wellness communities, but the practice of mindfulness itself is not new. Mindful meditation has been a Buddhist practice in the East for centuries and made its way to the West in the late 1970s when Jon Kabat-Zinn began using mindfulness-based interventions with individuals to improve mental and physical health.
So, what is mindfulness? To quote Kabat-Zinn, mindfulness is “awareness that arises through paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgmentally.” Simply put, to be mindful is to be aware of your thoughts, feelings, sensations and physical surroundings. It’s s practicing moment-to-moment awareness with acceptance and compassion.
It’s no wonder this concept of acute awareness and attuned attentiveness is on the rise. With constantly busy schedules, meals on the go, smartphone and technology dependence, the idea of mindfulness sounds refreshing, doesn’t it? Incorporating a practice of mindfulness into one’s life has been shown to reduce stress, anxiety and depressive symptoms.
Mindfulness can be practiced by anyone, anywhere. You don’t have to be a certain age or ability; you do not need to go out and buy something new or subscribe to a certain club. Every person has the innate ability to be present and cultivate a practice of mindfulness that can be beneficial in countless ways.
Here are 10 ways you can practice mindfulness in your everyday life.
1. Be Still
Some may call this meditation or prayer. One person may choose to set time aside first thing in the morning; others may choose the evening time before they fall asleep. Whatever works for you, find a time in your day where you can be completely still, alone and uninterrupted for five, ten or twenty minutes. Choose how you use this time. If you are spiritual, maybe you use this time to connect through prayer. Perhaps you choose to focus on a mantra or positive affirmation. Even still, maybe you simply sit in silence and concentrate on quieting your mind.
2. Connect To Your Breath
Thank goodness our bodies are designed to breathe on auto-pilot. Most people go through their day without ever bringing attention to their breath. Notice your breath. Is it short and shallow? Or is it long and deep? It is not good or bad, it just is. Just notice. Once you’ve become familiar with your breathing patterns, play with your breath. Maybe you notice your belly balloon out as you deepen you inhales filling your lungs completely. Maybe your lips flutter like a horse as you fully empty your lungs, pressing out every single air molecule. Eventually, you can learn different breathing techniques to help address things such as anxiety or insomnia, but it all begins with connecting to your breath.
3. Eat With Intention
How often do you eat food without actually tasting it? The Earth produces so many incredibly delicious things made for us to put in our bodies. Challenge yourself to approach your meals with mindful intention. Protect yourself from the distractions of technology, and carve out time in your day for your meals rather than eating on the go. Chew each bite slowly and name the flavors resting on your taste buds. Acknowledge when you are satisfied before you become engorged.
4. Take a Tech Break
Has picking up your phone become such an instinct that you don’t even recognize you’re doing it? At a stop light. At the dinner table. In a movie theater. On a walk. Give yourself the gift of a technology break to bring your awareness back to the present moment. Notice the scenery outside of your car or observe the instruments crafting the song on the radio. Converse with the person across the table from you or notice the textures in your food. Feel the crushed velvet of the theater chair against your skin and smell the aroma of popcorn around you. Take in nature’s beauty and take each step with awareness. And be kind to yourself when your hand reaches for your phone because it will; then make the intentional choice to try again.
Take time to listen to people, sounds, and silence. When was the last time you left a conversation not knowing what the other person said because you were so focused on the next thing you had to do? Our schedules are full and so are our minds. Challenge yourself to slow down enough to hear the people and sounds that surround you.
6. Get Grounded
Wherever you are, notice what is physically supporting you. Press every part of your feet into the strong, sturdy floor you are standing on. As you sit down, notice the texture and comfort of your seat. Place your hands on the surface in front of you and feel its temperature. Connecting with the physical space around you helps you slow down and reorient to the here-and-now.
7. Acknowledge Your Senses
Stop. Name one thing you smell, one thing you see, one thing you hear, one thing you touch and one thing you taste. Recognize and acknowledge your senses. Feel gratitude for your body operating and working for you in this moment. Connect with your surroundings.
You are not your thoughts and emotions. That is an important truth. As you become an observer of your thoughts and emotions, you develop the ability to acknowledge without judgment and make a conscious decision about how you choose to move forward. In this practice, you will notice yourself acting from a space of intention rather than reacting from a space of impulse.
9. Cultivate Gratitude
What are you grateful for right now? Not something that happened yesterday or last year or something you are anticipating a week from now. Right now, in this very moment. Are you grateful for the food digesting in your body? Are you grateful for a body with the ability to digest food? Are you grateful for clean air to breathe or the warm cup of coffee in your hand? Are you thankful for the cute new pair of shoes you are wearing or for Spotify knowing exactly what song you needed to hear? In this very moment, what are you grateful for? Actively choose to incorporate a gratitude practice and mindful living will follow.
10. Mind The Gaps
We are frequently running from one meeting to another, taking phone calls on our way. Find the gaps of space in your day; that time in between activities and obligations. Pause and create space. Let the phone ring two or three times before answering. Listen to the doorbell reverberate throughout your home. Smell the aromatic coffee before rushing to the pot and pouring a fresh cup. Cultivate space. Be present. Notice.
In all of this, always remember that self-compassion is a key element to Mindfulness. This is a practice you are choosing to cultivate in your life. Be kind to yourself along the way!