Mindfulness is a lot more than just a habit. It’s more of a lifestyle change, a way of living, seeing and doing things. And, just like a lot of lifestyle changes, it takes time and effort to introduce it into your life.
It requires effort not because it’s a particularly difficult thing to practice, but it can be a little uncomfortable at times. Most of us lead very busy, sort of “loud” lives where there’s a lot of distraction, plans for the future, but also things like disappointments, failures. The latter two have a tendency of lingering around and we often spend too much time worrying, playing and re-playing different scenarios on a loop.
Wanting to hide from or not think about our negative emotions and fears, we cling on to those distractions. That resistance can sharpen those feelings, giving them more power. By practicing mindfulness you are allowing yourself to feel, not resist, observe and let go.
Having a lot going on and being busy shouldn’t be an excuse for not being mindful and running on autopilot through every single day. The busier your life is, the more you can benefit from practicing mindfulness, as it’s something that will help you find more peace and joy, even on those hectic days. Mindfulness is something you should strive to practice every single day. Good news is, you can practice being mindful in pretty much everything you do.
My mindfulness practice usually involves focusing on a few important ideas:
- Less judgment– I’ve always believed that less judgment is one of the key parts of living a more mindful life. It’s not necessarily about judging others, although this is important too. It’s more about learning to give less critical judgment to yourself, your thoughts, mistakes. A lot of those thought patterns run on “autopilot” and we don’t always see how constantly judging ourselves and everything we do or think about can disturb our daily lives.
- Staying Present– seems like this is more difficult to do than ever before. We’re surrounded by distractions, constant information overload, then there’s FOMO which most of us have felt at least once at some point in our lives. This strange need to stay continuously connected ironically takes us away from things we should really connect with- like being present, paying attention and not always wishing we were someplace else.
- Being more patient– this, again, is a big one and a very important thing to learn to embrace when life gets crazy. Impatience is often a breeding ground for frustration and anger. Building and learning patience is crucial to living a mindful life.
- Letting go– whether it’s a general annoyance or feelings of disappointment tied to one specific event or person, learning to let go can be very tough. There might be stories that you keep re-telling yourself, moments you keep reliving that have no purpose, other than triggering negative thoughts. Wanting more peace and stability in life might sometimes seem like it’s too much to ask for- neither is truly possible without the practice of letting go.
- Trust and acceptance- one of the most painful, kind of slap-in-the-face truths you can learn in life, is that things you never thought could happen to you, happen. Another thing you learn along the way is that you’re much stronger than you give yourself credit for. At one point or another, you might face situations or events that seem cruel, unreal and unfair. Things that are hard to accept and move on from. That’s when you have to trust yourself and take responsibility for your own feelings and actions.
HOW TO PRACTICE MINDFULNESS WHEN LIFE GETS HECTIC + BUSY
Usually, it’s the simple daily activities or habits that might seem dull or insignificant, that provide a perfect opportunity to practice mindfulness- especially during times when your life gets a little hectic and busy.
I used to really dread late Saturday mornings, which is when I usually do laundry. All that folding, sorting, ironing, handwashing more delicate pieces. It all kind of felt like a huge waste of time. In a really strange way, I rediscovered the joy of those simple chores when I was mourning the loss of my Grandmother.
When you lose someone that important, you often get lost in remembering all the things you loved about that person, all the beautiful memories you shared. I’d spend a lot of time thinking about my grandparent’s home and everything I loved about it. The warmth you’d feel walking in, the cozy kitchen where we’d spend most of our time, talking for hours. After a long day of playing out in the yard, cooking and learning how to knit, I always looked forward to crawling up in bed. The bedding and linens were always so fresh, crisp, the pillowcases ironed so flawlessly that I almost felt bad resting my head on them. Meanwhile, as a now somewhat properly functioning adult, I’d find my days to be so busy and hectic, that on occasion, I end up with three hampers full of clean clothes I didn’t get to fold right away. Or, I’d find myself ignoring the fact that my pillowcases aren’t matching, just because I’d be too tired to walk downstairs to my laundry room and look for one I misplaced.
I know, this might sound a little silly. I also know for a fact that I’m not the only one who sometimes throws clean laundry back in the dryer because… well, I didn’t fold them right away and don’t feel like spending the next two hours ironing. Worth mentioning that this also usually involves a lot of feelings of guilt and slight embarrassment, because… you know, you’re a grownup now. As it turns out, doing the laundry is an ideal opportunity to practice more patience and direct yourself away from those self-denigrating thoughts. It can, actually, be enjoyable- you just have to learn to stay present in what you’re doing. Again, the idea is to shift your focus onto your senses- the textures, the warmth of your towels as you take them out of the dryer, the smell your fabric softener. This simple, mundane task helps tune out all the noise- as long as you do it slowly and mindfully. Even on those really “bad” days, my little mindful laundry ritual doesn’t fail to make me feel more calm and relaxed. Plus, nothing beats crawling into a cool bed with fresh, crisp linens (and matching pillowcases).
SIMPLE THINGS THAT BRING YOU JOY
Things changed when Mark got me a guitar. To be honest, at first, I was a little upset. “Do you really think I have time to learn how to play guitar? I don’t even have enough time to finish reading a book.” I used to play the violin and took a few guitar lessons when I was much younger, but those were the days when all I had to worry about was my homework. As frustrated as I was, the day after, I found myself picking up that guitar. The next thing I know it’s 3 hours later and my fingers were already blistering. I spent that evening browsing through my old CD collection, downloading a bunch of songs I haven’t heard in years and just listening. My mind seemed so clear, free of worry and anxiety. It was the kind of calmness I haven’t felt in a very long time and I actually found myself tearing up. All those things I usually worry and stress about suddenly didn’t seem so overwhelming or significant. The lesson this has taught me is that just because you’re dealing with a lot of stress, overwhelm and frustration doesn’t mean that you should stop doing the things you love. In fact, it’s even more important to create some white space to focus on the things that bring you joy, to practice mindfulness during those tough times. And, you should indulge in those activities mindfully and guilt-free. Those are the things that will help you stay strong during difficult days.
Someone once said: “miracles happen every day- change your perspective and you’ll see them all around you.“ Practicing more gratitude can not only help you become more mindful it can completely change your perspective and outlook on life. You will begin to see those small miracles all around you. How does this tie in with knowing how to practice mindfulness? When you take time to consider what you’re grateful for, you will also become more mindful, aware, actively searching for those things. Look around the room you’re sitting in right now- what or who do you notice that you feel grateful for? Maybe it’s your dog that’s resting his head on your lap, maybe it’s the photo of you and a friend, your healthy body that keeps you strong and helps you do all those things that you love. Each morning, take a few minutes to write down 5 things you feel grateful for. Don’t just write them down though; try to really feel that gratitude with all your heart, take the time to truly appreciate everything you listed. Do this for a week, two, three, until it becomes a daily habit.
As you start practicing and exercising mindfulness, you’ll experience increased feelings of gratitude. You’ll notice that when your mind is constantly racing, it often blocks you from seeing and appreciating all that is good in your life. This awareness will help you notice when some of those negative-thought patterns take over.
Remember that learning how to practice mindfulness can be a long, and sometimes even an uncomfortable process. We’re so used to being busy and distracted and usually try to get through things quickly so that we don’t waste much time. It’s also perfectly okay if your mind starts to wander- if it does happen all you have to do is gently bring your focus back to the present moment. Don’t stress out if you can’t find that peace right away or stop your thoughts from racing.
Mindfulness is just like a muscle. The more you practice, the stronger and easier it will get. The mind-wandering isn’t a problem at all- as you notice it happen, you practice your awareness. As you practice your awareness, you also learn that your thoughts are just that: thoughts. You can then let go of them, without judgment. To me, this is exactly what practicing mindfulness is all about.
What are some things that you do every single day, that could help bring more mindfulness into your life? Think about how you can make some of those simple tasks more enjoyable, how can you use that time to bring yourself to a place of peace?