Mindfulness is a popular term we hear in the wellness world. It’s offered as a way to cultivate a better life.
But if you don’t know how to bring mindfulness into your life, no worries!
I gathered 4 exercises that I’ve been practicing to transform my thinking patterns. Keep reading to plant the seeds of mindfulness into your life.
Firstly, what is mindfulness and why is it important?
Mindfulness is simply being aware of everything that’s happening in the present moment. It requires us to open our senses, enjoy every moment as it is, and embrace all experiences in life.
The past and future have some value, of course. But they aren’t our focus in a mindful life.
Because the past is in the past and we can’t change what was done. But we can use past experiences to bring awareness to our present moment. We can take the lessons and detach ourselves from those moments we regret.
What about the future? Can I not dream about tomorrow and plan anything?
I hear you asking this question. Mindfulness doesn’t tell us to not dream about tomorrow. It tells us to be in the present moment and not attach our happiness to the result of a plan. Because our plan may not go the way we anticipated due to some external reasons that we can’t control. And let’s not forget that our present actions affect our future moments. That’s why it’s important to be fully present and make the best out of the now by living mindfully.
- Do one thing at a time
We’ve been deceived by the idea that we have to do many things at the same time. To most of us, it shows that we’re intelligent enough to deal with several things at the same time. We even put this description in our CVs being very proud of ourselves.
Let’s look at this way. When we do multiple things at a time, we can’t give our full energy on one thing. We have to divide it among all of them instead. We end up having a half-done work and probably we’re not satisfied with the work we’ve done either. Even if we can handle several tasks simultaneously, imagine how much rush it creates in the mind and body. Our minds run from one task to another panicking to finish them.
But when we do one thing a time, it helps us be present for the work that we’re doing and we can catch the errors easily.
Next time when you’re writing an email, don’t open a second tab and scroll through the internet at the same time. This way you’ll train your ability to focus and gain more productivity at your job while practicing mindfulness in your daily life.
2. Observe your surroundings
This is one of the simplest technics to bring us back to the present moment. When we’re caught up by the thoughts or feelings, observing our surroundings is a big help.
It only requires a playful curiosity. For this one, we need to open our senses to watch what’s around us. When you feel lost in your mind, count three things that you see, hear, smell, taste, or touch.
“I see a red-colored car passing by very fast.” “I hear the child telling a story to his mom.” “I smell someone’s cigarette and it bothers me.” Whatever surrounds you, be mindful of those things and identify them. You’ll be able to detach yourself from the drama in your mind quickly.
3. Use your breath to face challenges in your daily life
Breathing is an indication of being alive. As it’s natural to us, we forget that we breathe or don’t appreciate the value of a healthy breathing pattern. We only notice our breath when we can’t breathe properly. But let’s not wait for a cough or sneeze to become aware of the most beautiful tool that we can use to start a mindful life.
Mindful breath helps us calm down and be present in the moment. I’m sure you know the feeling. Whenever we feel stressed, it causes strain in our bodies. But when we bring awareness to our breath and take our breaths into a deeper level, we feel relaxed.
The Buddhist Monk, Thich Nhat Hahn describes the breath as a link between the body and mind. Sometimes our mind is thinking of one thing while our body is performing another. In this case, he suggests bringing the focus to our breathing by silently repeating “in” and “out”. This way our conscious breath allows us to have a united body and mind.¹ (Kotler 1991, 9)
And there is another way that we can use our breath for mindful living. We can breathe in and out consciously before facing any challenging situation in our daily life too.
Do you have an important call to make? Take a few deep inhales and exhales before you answer the phone. Do you have to talk to someone that makes you nervous? Breathe consciously before the meeting.
It’ll bring clarity into your mind and you’ll be able to deal with the situation with a calm attitude.
4. Remind yourself to be mindful
These technics are easier said than done. And we tend to forget them in a daily rush. One thing that worked for me at the beginning of my mindfulness journey was to remind myself with sticker notes in my workspace or reminders on my phone screen.
If you’re working on a desk, you can stick a note saying “Take a few easy inhales and exhales. Unclench your jaws. Relax your forehead.”
Or you can set one of the inspirational quotes that you like as your phone wallpaper. Remember to read the quote whenever it shows up. It may sound cheesy but it’ll be your inspiration to become mindful about your behaviors and feelings.
It’s your turn now. Start choosing at least one of the tips and practice it for a few weeks to create a mindful habit. Be creative about the ways you can bring mindfulness into your life.
¹ Kotler, Arnold, ed. 1991. Peace is Every Step: The Path of Mindfulness in Everyday Life. US: Bantam Books