Wondering what it means to truly be mindful? Mindfulness has become a buzzword when speaking of wellness and whole-body health. Buzz aside, it’s a powerful practice that can improve the quality of your life. There are a variety of mindful modalities to choose from, so you must find what works for you. Be patient with yourself and have fun with it.
What is mindfulness?
The definition for mindfulness varies from one person, therapist, or mindfulness practitioner to the next. What most definitions have in common is focusing on and living in the present moment. Without realizing it, many of us invest most of our time ruminating on the past, stressing about our daily schedule, and worrying about the future.
While you must feel your feelings regarding the past and present, replaying past hurts robs you of your current joy. This might mean only allowing a small sliver of joy before returning to worry or missing out on the joy altogether because you are so stuck in worry and rumination. You aren’t alone in this area of opportunity.
Thinking about past hurts and wishing things were different doesn’t just take you out of the present moment. It also makes you relive traumatic feelings or feel the feelings of the worst-case scenarios you imagine.
Since your brain can’t tell the difference between thoughts and experience, this creates emotional stress. For example, when your heart starts racing or you tear up thinking about a past stressor, hurt, or trauma. This emotional stress activates your body’s fight or flight response, which can lead to physical stress—such as decreased immunity.
Ruminating about the past or worrying about the future also creates unhealthy pathways in your brain. This means the replay or worry will essentially occur on autopilot. However, you can reprogram your brain by creating healthier pathways.
- High blood pressure
How do you live in the moment?
Living in the moment means living second by second, not day by day. This is easier said than done, as you are sure to have a busy schedule and a long to-do list. As with every lifestyle change you make, start small. This way you won’t become overwhelmed.
An excellent place to begin is by creating more space in your daily schedule. This means leaving more time between appointments, delegating more, and learning to say no. While these changes are effective, they can be challenging.
Leaving more time—there are a few different ways to create more time in your day. One is to double the time you allot for large projects so that you don’t have to rush to finish. Another is to leave at least one 30-to-60-minute gap in your day, other than lunch. Also, plan to leave for or arrive to appointments 10 minutes early. These small blocks of extra time can have a rapid and positive impact.
Delegating—delegate the tasks that you enjoy least or that don’t have to be performed by you. This might mean hiring a cleaning company at home one day a week, dropping off your laundry instead of doing it yourself, or delegating the research portion of a project at work. It also includes maximizing your time by utilizing delivery services. For example, having your groceries delivered instead of going to the grocery store.
Saying no—whether you say yes to it all because you want to be a team player or because you are a people pleaser, saying no will be really uncomfortable to begin with. Your family and colleagues expect you to say yes, so they will need to adjust to this change too. Say no with little to no explanation as you don’t have to explain yourself. A simple, “I’m already spread too thin” or “It doesn’t fit in my schedule” is sufficient.
Remember, any change takes at least 21 days to become a habit—so stick with it. The more time you create in your schedule, the easier it will be to remain present as you won’t be rushing from one appointment or task to the next.
What is mindful psychology?
Before we dive into mindfulness practices, let’s discuss the concept of mindful psychology. Being present requires you to feel your current feelings. Too often we stuff our feelings down or get stuck ruminating on them. Mindfulness can help you process your feelings.
Wait until you are in a safe space to allow yourself to feel. Depending on the circumstances this might be your car, a public restroom, your bedroom, meditation space, or therapist’s office. Then, allow yourself to acknowledge your thoughts and emotions without judgment. It may be helpful to write them down.
It’s easy to fall into self-criticism by believing you should be “stronger”, by comparing yourself to others in the same circumstances, or worrying about what others would think if they knew how you truly feel. Being vulnerable with yourself and those who are a safe place to share is courageous. It is a powerful stepping stone towards the authenticity required to live your best life.
How do I begin practicing mindfulness for others?
Mindful psychology can also be used when engaging others. It is a practice that empowers you to listen to others in non-judgment. It helps you avoid the temptation of “fixing” things, telling them what you would do in the same circumstances, or sharing what you think they should do. This is easier said than done, as we often translate what others share through our own life experiences. If what someone says doesn’t align with what you currently know to be true, you may not believe what they are saying.
Your individual life experience and knowledge base is small. Mindful listening will help you to open your heart and mind. It is essential for building meaningful and healthy relationships with friends, family, colleagues, or anyone sharing any experience with you. Even for empathizing when watching a documentary or reading an article or biography.
What is an example of mindfulness?
Now, let’s dive into a variety of mindfulness practices. Try several to identify what works for you. Begin with the practices that resonate with you the most—but don’t count out those that don’t. This is a journey, so be patient and remain open to the possibilities.
Put things in perspective—between 85 and 90 percent of the things we worry about in the future never occur. This can help you put things into perspective. Also, consider that there are an unlimited number of positive possibilities. Possibilities you may miss if you are only focused on the worst-case scenario.
Be attentive—so much of what we do each day is on autopilot. This isn’t a bad thing, but it can take away from being present. So, pay attention to the little things. The enticing aroma of your morning coffee, your child’s smile, the bright blue sky, your dog’s soft fur, and more. This is essentially the concept of stopping to smell the roses and see the color purple in the fields to ensure you enjoy the everyday beauty that makes life meaningful.
Journal—journaling is an effective way to express your feelings privately. You can write freely, write 10 things you are grateful for each day, or write in a journal that provides you with daily writing prompts. You can utilize a digital journal but putting pen to paper allows feelings to flow in a way that is different than thinking, speaking, or typing.
Monotask unplugged—multitasking gets a lot of praise, but it often slows you down. It’s also, the opposite of being present. Monotask instead by setting aside blocks of time each day that you can fully devote your time to the task or activity at hand. This should include primary projects at work, self-care, and quality time with loved ones. Unplug from your electronic devices during these times.
Do something for someone else—doing something meaningful and sincere for someone else doesn’t take much time or energy but will go a long way in making you (and them) feel connected and engaged. From sending a friend flowers or a snail mail card to paying it forward to the person in line behind you at the coffee shop, giving a sincere compliment checking in on someone going through a tough time, or catching up with a loved one you don’t always make enough time for. Larger time commitments include volunteering in your community, but smaller time commitments are just as important.
Wellness practices—explore everything from deep breathing exercises to yoga, meditation, wellness apps, and CBD. Wellness also includes investing more time in your nutrition, physical fitness, mental health, and spiritual well-being. Many mindfulness practices have multiple benefits. For example, yoga combines deep breathing with exercise, and meditation for spirituality.
How to do mindfulness meditation?
Looking for a mindful meditation how to? There are multiple meditation methods to choose from. Start small with 5 to 10 minutes at a time and work your way up to larger blocks of time.
The simplest method is to take slow deep breaths to reset your nervous system:
- Close your eyes and sit, stand, or lay in a comfortable position.
- Inhale through your nose for a count of 10.
- Exhale through your mouth for a count of 10 to 15.
- Repeat at least 10 times
Also, try live or live streamed yoga or meditation, sound therapy, and guided meditations. You can find guided meditations for free on YouTube or with a free trial of a mindfulness or meditation app.
To live in the moment gives your life meaning. It can transform your relationships, quality of life, health, and create a greater sense of fulfillment. The mindful examples above can be personalized to your current needs. Find what works, explore additional practices, and prioritize being mindful of others in your life.