Mindfulness – the buzzword many strive to practice but struggle to grasp in tangible, practical ways. Often mindfulness seems to become another ‘thing’ to do, ironically creating more stress. Fortunately, mindfulness doesn’t require more time you don’t have, but a simple shift in awareness that can be applied to all of the things we do every day. Being thoughtful of what you are doing, saying, and thinking can put you back in the driver’s seat of your life, allowing for gifts to be offered every moment of every day. Here are a few tips on how to bring the benefits of mindfulness to your everyday activities.
Notice Your Thoughts
Buddha described our thoughts as drunken monkeys, vying for attention, creating endless chaos in our minds. Our thoughts ping-pong all over the place, sometimes allowing worst-case scenarios to storm the peaceful waters we want to cultivate. The bombardment of stimuli and daily demands create a ripe environment for our thoughts to take over and control the show, versus the other way around.
Knowing when you’re NOT mindful is a great place to start. Try setting an alarm throughout the day as a reminder to take inventory of what is going on in your mind. Are your thoughts creating scenarios that haven’t yet happened? Observe how you’re feeling based on what thought you are having. Why do you feel this way? Has your brain gone on autopilot and you’re completely cut off from what you’re doing and everything happening around you? Bring your awareness to what you’re thinking to get more into the moment, and discover the opportunity to perceive what you may have tuned out.
Getting into the habit of observing your thoughts empowers you to act from the entirety of who you are. This is helpful in managing the relationships with yourself and others. Deepen your awareness of yourself by being mindful of your thoughts, feelings behind them and exploring what contributes to what you think.
Be Present with Those Around You
How often do you ask the person you’re with the same question because you weren’t listening when they answered the first time? How many times have you noticed your thoughts wandering to your grocery list or a previous conversation as you’re talking with someone else? Mindfulness can deepen and give more meaning to everyday interactions, leading to a general sense of living a more satisfied life.
Really listen to what the person you’re talking with is saying. Become aware of their emotions, their body language, and their responses. What do you see in them that reminds you of you? What do you hear that challenges you? What do you feel as you really listen?
Each person is a reflection of some aspect of you, as well as a unique expression separate from yours. Being mindful of them and how you are responding to each person allows an endless opportunity for growth and reveling in the richness inherent in life.
One of the easiest mindfulness techniques is focusing on our breath. Breathing happens without us being aware it is. Because it is so automatic, reminding ourselves we can control it, and tuning into the current pattern immediately brings us into connection with our bodies. Notice how you are breathing. Is it shallow and fast? Deeper and relaxed? Inhaling and exhaling for a few seconds several times in a row can activate your parasympathetic nervous system, immediately leading to a more relaxed and focused state. Tuning into your breathing is a wonderful practice as it can happen regardless of what you’re doing.
Notice the New in the Usual
Our lives become routine. We see the same people, go to the same job, drive the same cars, visit the same stores. It is easy to feel like we don’t have enough variety; life can start to become lackluster. No circumstance can ever be exactly the same. Try to notice what you may have become accustomed to thinking is mundane. Have you studied the details of the new artwork at your favorite coffee shop? Have you really paid attention to the way a coworker greets you and if it changes day to day? What differences do you notice in how your children or pets cuddle up next to you today vs how they did yesterday? No day is alike, allow yourself to see every day as an unpredictable gift to discover.
Image: We don’t own the rights to this image, but it is available for free use, to our knowledge. We found it on University Health Services, University of Michigan.
Resources: From Hack Spirit online “6 Mindful habits that are hard to learn but will benefit you forever” by Lachlan Brown