As a yoga instructor, I frequently have students asking about mindfulness and how to live more mindfully. A good place to start, is defining the term. The commonly acknowledged definition of mindfulness is a mental state achieved by focusing one's awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one's feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations.
Mindfulness is often practiced and cultivated through meditation, but being mindful does not require you to sit and meditate for long periods of time. To me, being mindful is more about just being aware and paying attention to the present without judgement. Recognizing feelings & sensations and noticing them. Mindfulness has been linked to reducing stress, and improving one's physical health, mental health, and well being. Mindfulness has been found to be the key element of happiness. Mindful people are overall healthy and happier. The moments we spend being mindful compound and pay interest in the form of clarity, gratitude, and presence.
When we start paying attention to how much we pay attention, we’ll notice how often our attention dwindles and it’s hard for us to actually pay attention. Sounds confusing, right?! Our minds are constantly moving, thinking, processing, and being over stimulated that it is actually hard for us to become more present.
When we make the decision to stop and focus, to be grateful, to notice our emotions without trying to change them, we not only improve the quality of the present, but invest in our ability to be mindful in the future. The time we spend lost in thought, emotionally scattered, anxious and stressed become compounded and lead to unhappiness, stress and depression. So adding up mindful moments whenever we can is so valuable and healthier for us.
Carving out time in your day to become more mindful will only help you appreciate the present. Remember, every moment counts!
Here are a few things that you can do to become more mindful:
Take a yoga class:
Yoga can help teach you how to become more mindful and aware. In a yoga practice, you focus on movement and breath and everything else seems to fall away. When we become more present and mindful on our mats, we can start to become more mindful in our daily lives.
Go for a walk:
Get outside. Take in the sights and sounds, enjoy nature. Feel the weight of your feet pressing into the earth on each step you take. Notice the sun on your face, wind at your back, and the sound of your breathe. Enjoy it!
And if you can’t make time to “go for a walk.” Do this when you walk to your car in the morning or after work. Do it when you walk towards your bed at night. Walk and be present.
Write down 3 things you’re grateful for every morning:
Maybe start a gratitude journal. Take a few moments every morning and reflect on how wonderful your life is. Stop stressing and thinking about all the negative (what you don’t have, want) in your life and begin to think about the positive. What’s good in your life, what is it that you love, & what you’re grateful for.
Check in when you move:
Moving from one position to another gives us a chance to check-in with ourselves. When you stand up from your chair, getting out of your car, moving from your desk at work, are you in a hurry? Notice how you feel. When you sit back down does your mind begin to rush towards the rest of your day before finishing the task at hand? Gently reel yourself back to the present. Close your eyes, take a breath, release tension in your body & jaw and focus on what’s happening right now. Allow the rest to fall a way, you’ll get to it with time. Be present.
Enjoy your food:
When you eat, are you always ready to devour your food? Where are you when you’re eating or what are you doing? Are you on the couch, watching TV, checking your phone? If so, you may realize that before you knew it, your food is gone and you have no recollection of chewing. Instead, during your next meal, sit at the table, avoid distractions and focus on those first few bites. Notice the smell, identify the flavors and taste. Tune into your body and mind during the meal.
Turn off your devices:
Every once in awhile, turn off your electronics (i.e. phone/ipad/ipod) and engage with the natural world around you. Have a proper conversation with someone, rather than like what they did on FB, talk to them and tell them what you liked in person. Enjoy the company of friends and family, make the time to spend with them and enjoy life together.
Listen to soothing music:
Turn on relaxing and soothing melody and really listen to it. Lay down or sit in a comfortable position, close your eyes and feel the music in your soul. Soothing melody will help you clear your mind and thoughts after a busy or stressful day.
Sit quietly and focus on your natural breathing or on a word or “mantra” that you repeat silently. Allow thoughts to come and go without judgment and return to your focus on breath or mantra. Sit in stillness for a few moments or an hour, just relax and listen to the sound of your breath.
When we are mindful, we learn, grow, and have an overall better quality of life. Just remember, when you’re practicing mindfulness, there is nowhere to arrive at. If you focus on what is going on right now, the rest take care of itself.