How often do we stop and smell the roses and just be? I was tempted when I went for my first walk today to put on an audiobook but decided instead to walk with the furries and absorb Mother Nature.
Today, I want to share some ideas to help you to be more mindful. Some may work for you, and some not. I always think it's best to try something before dismissing it out of hand and then using what works for you.
Would would have thought a week ago that I would love chilling on my Shakti Mat? Yes, it does look like torture, but ahhhh I love it.
There’s no one “right” way to practice mindfulness. There are as many techniques as there are practitioners. Investigate what little triggers and strategies fit into your everyday life and then use them every day. Small moments of focused awareness are what mindfulness is all about.
While there are no right or wrong mindfulness practices, I want to suggest ways many people use mindfulness seamlessly throughout their days to bring themselves back to the present moment. You can use these immediately. When you find one that you like, put it into action today! And continue adding mindfulness tools to your bag as you grow your practice.
Take a mindfulness break
Take a mindfulness break when you find yourself frustrated or procrastinating on a task. You can sit quietly or take a mindful walk, focusing on the feelings you are experiencing. If you resist a task, tune into your body and environment. What is it saying?
We are all tempted to multitask occasionally because it’s been our default mode for so long. Instead, when you notice this temptation, use an alarm and set it for, say, 30 minutes. Give your undivided attention to the most important task for those 30 minutes. When the alarm sounds, take a short break to reconnect with your breath or walk to the kitchen for some water. Then, come back and set your alarm for another 30 minutes and focus on the next task.
You’ll find that you get more done and done well this way and feel much less stressed at the end of the day. I find Brain.fm helps me.
Try an App
We can use technology mindfully; one way is to utilise mindfulness apps.
There’s a wide variety of mindfulness and meditation apps available now, many of which are free. And if you think only newbies use apps, think again. Even long-time mindfulness and meditation practitioners use an app at least sometimes. It’s a nice way to try different meditation types and learn new ways of developing and deepening your mindfulness practice.
Though each app is unique, many of them offer guided meditations, ambient sounds to relax and meditate to, tips for mindfulness, bells or chimes to remind you to come back to the present moment, and even journals to make it easy for you to keep a record of your growth and insights. Try out a few to see which one you like best.
Some top ones are Calm, Insight Timer, and Headspace. And as I said, I also use Brain.fm.
Practising mindfulness doesn’t mean your life will suddenly be all rainbows and unicorns. Life happens to and for all of us. However, mindfulness does give us a more effective set of tools for dealing with daily life. When you experience difficult emotions, such as anger, fear, or frustration, it’s time to remember R.A.I.N.
R--Recognise what is going on
It’s amazing how unaware of our own emotions we are! And when we begin practising mindfulness, we become intimately acquainted with them—the good, the bad, and the ugly. Recognising may seem like a “duh” thing to recommend, but we are frequently out of touch with exactly what we are feeling. Practising mindfulness helps us experience our emotions without any overwhelm or resistance.
A--Accept it as it is; allow
It’s human nature to cling to feeling good and resisting what we consider to be negative or painful. Because of this, we often push away or push down our less attractive emotions. But in mindful living, we practice being with our thoughts and feelings exactly as they are. That develops self-knowledge, which leads to more enlightened and connected living.
I--Investigate the physical sensations, thoughts, and feelings
In other words, be with the sensations. Feel them fully. The investigation doesn’t mean analysing the sensations, thoughts, and feelings. The aim is not to figure out why you feel this way but to experience it fully.
When we experience strong emotions, we often identify with them. We create a story about them, maybe from past experiences from long ago. When we do this, we often end up making those thoughts and emotions part of us. “I’m overly sensitive. I’ve always been that way.” “My temper always gets the best of me.” “People always screw me over. Why do I always get the short end of the straw?” These thoughts and beliefs are samples of how we turn emotion into a part of us. We identify with it. We make it part of our identity.
One thing that I find useful is to say I may be feeling angry, but I am not angry, and what I am going to do is…
Part of the aim and benefit of practising being present is recognising that our emotions are just that. They aren’t us, and we aren’t them. Once we understand and feel this, we can sit with our difficult emotions and watch them dissipate.
The R.A.I.N. process will give you distance from the strong emotions you are experiencing so that you can understand that you aren’t your emotions and thoughts. You are simply experiencing them.
Notice Your Autopilot
We all have times when we go on autopilot. For example, when was the last time you arrived at your location, only to realise you have no memory of how you got there? You may zone out during meetings or when your partner tells you about their day.
It’s okay to do this, so don’t beat yourself up! Notice when your zone-out tendencies tend to be, and then begin practising bringing awareness to these times. Pay attention to your drive home for no other reason than to be aware.
Practice active, mindful listening during your next meeting, even if you have (or feel you have) nothing meaningful to add. And the next time you ask your partner how their day was, do it for the sake of really hearing what they say. These small aspects of your daily life will suddenly bring joy to your life.
I notice that when I walk the girls, I charge ahead and forget that Marley is getting old and plodding behind me. I stop, go and join her and plod along mindfully with her.
You’ll no longer miss the beauty around you as you drive. You’ll gain a better understanding of your co-workers and boss. And you’ll be able to support and celebrate fully with the ones you love most.
Let it Ring
Are you tempted to grab your phone as soon as it rings? Of course, you do because we are conditioned to do this. That’s even truer now that we all carry our mobile phones as if they were part of our bodies.
But what would happen if instead of immediately picking up the receiver or clicking “answer,” we stopped and took a deep breath or two to come into the moment, to become aware that we are about to speak to someone? Not much.
Alternatively, we can practice mindfulness, answer with a little smile, and practice mindful listening to whoever is on the other end of the line. Just this small practice can calm us. We won't rush through the conversation and hurry to the next thing on our to-do list. We can do this in the office as well as in our private life.
This practice can help us view the call as an opportunity to practice being in the present moment instead of considering it one more interruption in our day.
Five Mindfulness Journal Prompts
Write down three things you're grateful for today. Explore the feelings and details associated with each of them.
Describe in detail what you can see, hear, smell, taste, and touch right now. Pay close attention to the sensations and experiences around you.
How are you feeling right now, both physically and emotionally? Explore any sensations or emotions without judgment.
Close your eyes and take several deep breaths. Focus on the sensation of your breath entering and leaving your body. Write down any thoughts or distractions that come up.
Set a timer for one minute and sit in silence. Pay attention to your breath or a specific object in your surroundings. Write about your experience during that minute of mindfulness.
Look out for the other parts of this series, and if you love journaling, grab one of my ebooks.