When I first began practicing mindfulness, it seemed like a chore.
Staying mindful, paying attention to every moment, being always present, learning not to judge my thoughts…
I mean… that is a list of things an anxious person does not do.
There are so many different thoughts, scenarios, plans, outcomes running through my head- how can I focus on and find joy in simple things like doing my dishes, or drinking tea?
Or so I thought.
Mindfulness is a way of engaging in the present moment. It’s a way of being present without judging, without attachment. It can be a difference between moving through your life, running on autopilot where you wake up, go about your day then go to sleep and do the same thing the next day, and fully living your life.
You don’t have to spend your days, weeks, months and years waiting for “something” to happen. Every little moment is only as special as you make it.
We spend over 45% of our time thinking about something other than what we’re doing. When you start being kind to and pay attention to the present moment, something amazing happens; you become happier.
4 WAYS TO BE MORE MINDFUL
I’ve learned that a lot of times we seek escaping the present moment due to what I like to call a “false sense of lack.” We rarely allow ourselves to be truly present because we wish we could be someplace else, doing something different from what we are doing right this moment. It can feel almost as if our lives are suffering from some sort of deficiency. As ordinary as your life might seem to you, it is often those little, ordinary moments that make life special.
Short, mindful breathing practice is a habit that can help you with the hyper-connectedness that seems to be an everpresent aspect of our lives these days.
Whenever you start feeling stressed, when you notice your heart beat rapidly, your breath becomes shallow and your mind suddenly starts racing- become aware of and tune in to your breath. Allow your breath to anchor you.
Breathing meditation can help control emotions and center the mind. It can help you release tension and get in tune with your body. You can practice simple, mindful breathing pretty much anywhere, although ideally you would be either sitting or lying down in a comfortable position.
- Focus on your breath and feel its natural flow fill your body
- Take a slow, long breath in
- Slowly release your breath and pause again
As you practice mindful breathing, you can also visualize your breath leaving and entering your body. If you find yourself in a particularly stressful situation or you sense yourself become anxious, you can also try combat breathing. This technique will help you calm your nervousness:
- breathe in through your nose, expanding your diaphragm, counting: 1,2,3,4
- hold your breath and count: 1,2,3,4
- exhale counting: 1,2,3,4
- hold for another 4 seconds and repeat until your breathing returns to normal
Many times when we find ourselves having to wait we grow impatient, restless and uncomfortable. Nothing is a waste of time when you allow yourself to be mindful and present. Having a lot going on and being busy shouldn’t be an excuse for not being mindful. The busier your life is, the more you can benefit from being mindful.
Work on re-framing your thinking- if you find yourself having to wait, in a doctor’s office, at a long line in the supermarket, being stuck in traffic- don’t look at it as a waste of time. Instead of complaining about having to wait for something or someone, use that moment to practice mindfulness. See it as an opportunity to slow down a little. Once you get into the habit of bringing yourself back into that present moment, you will never “waste” time again. This practice will also help you overcome your mind’s need for constant stimulation, leaving you feeling less tense and more at peace.
COMPASSION + ACCEPTANCE
Having “bad” or negative thoughts is part of being human. Negative thoughts have their purpose, too. You shouldn’t try to resist those negative emotions. Instead, be mindful about them and allow yourself to feel, not resist them. Recognize those negative thoughts as just that: thoughts. Then, allow that thought to pass. Your resistance can sharpen negative emotions, giving them even more power.
Truth is, you can’t be mindful all the time- but that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t try to mindful most of the time. Don’t judge those negative thoughts that cross your mind. Feel them and release them without any judgment. Practice compassion, kindness, and acceptance toward yourself.
Mindfulness is all about being aware. Your brain will tell you to focus on other things around you- it’s your job to gently bring it back to what’s important, to pay attention to what matters.