Mindfulness Practices: How to be more mindful and why?
Mindfulness is a topic that has been going around and something that I have been trying to incorporate more and more into my everyday life.
But first of all, what is mindfulness?
In my opinion, it is a very straightforward concept, and it means that the mind is fully aware of what is happening and of what you are doing.
This seems pretty easy, right? Except that our minds constantly play tricks on us, often wandering around, lost in thought, reminiscing or concerned about something. And as our mind gets lost in all of this, we lose touch with our body and the present moment, very often leading us into anxiety.
Many argue that the only way to be truly happy is through being fully in the present moment, as the present moment is all there is. Think about it, the past is gone, so no longer should have power over you, and the future hasn’t even happened yet, so why fear it or worry about something that hasn’t happened?
And we do have this innate ability to be present, aware of ourselves and what is happening around us. Mastering this ability can prevent us from feeling overwhelmed or being overly reactive to situations.
Mindfulness is our own ability to snap right back every time our mind drifts away. But even though it’s an innate ability, it can be cultivated through many techniques.
Here are a few other things you need to understand about mindfulness:
- It is not about adding or changing something in your life. Being mindful doesn’t require you to change yourself and it’s free of judgment. We already have the capacity to be mindful, and through it, we can cultivate a better version of ourselves.
- It is evidence-based. Both science and experience demonstrate the benefits of mindfulness. It directly improves our health, our happiness and relationship with others.
So now that we are clear on what Mindfulness is, let’s move on into practices we can all do to become more mindful:
Beginning your day with an intention is extremely powerful! The truth is, our unconscious brain controls most of our actions throughout the day and whether we like it or not it is in charge of most of our decisions.
By setting an intention for the day align our conscious thinking with a purpose, self-identity and values. This can literally change your day, making it more likely that your words, actions and responses are more compassionate.
To do this, make sure that when you wake up you take some time to seat and take a few long deep breathes, and then ask yourself what your intention for the day is. Once you know what it is, just affirm it to yourself.
It can be something like:
“Today, I’m going to be kind to myself and others, I am going to eat well and be productive”.
And then don’t forget to check with yourself throughout the day to make sure you are acting as per your intention, also reflect on it at the end of the day.
This is a big one for me and I will explain why shortly.
Eating is one of the most pleasurable and rewarding things we can do as human beings, yet we often eat without even thinking about it. We almost see mealtimes as an opportunity to catch up on other things, like social media, watching the news, talking to others and sometimes we even eat on the go.
Eating in a mindful way can turn it into a much richer experience, satisfying your nutrition needs but also your senses.
When we bring attention to our bodies, we are more likely to only eat what and how much our body actually needs, but we also enjoy every bite.
In order to do this, start again with some deep breaths before you start eating, and listen to your body. Are you actually hungry? And how much? What is your body asking for?
Also, eat peacefully, try not to engage in other activities whilst you’re having your meal. This will prevent you from overeating and will make the experience so much more pleasurable.
Why is mindful eating important for me? As you might now, I’ve managed to lose a lot of weight in the last year and I still struggle to maintain a healthy weight.
Mindful eating not only prevents me from overeating but also makes me more aware of everything that I put into my body every day. Also, allowing myself to be fully present and enjoy the taste of every bite makes it more likely for me to feel satiated and satisfied after every meal.
If you want to know more about my weight loss journey have a read here:
Do not underestimate the power of just taking a walk!
I personally enjoy taking walks, just leave the house and go for a walk in nature or along the river, specifically for the purpose of mindfulness, as a form of walking meditation.
But you can turn every walk into a mindful practice, as simple as when you walk to the train station to go to work every morning, or even when you get up from your desk at work to make yourself a cup of coffee.
Try not to just walk mindlessly, trapped in your thoughts, bring your attention into the physical movement that you are making, pay attention to your body. Notice the weight of your body shifting from one leg to the other. Notice how your body feels, your breath, the temperature, etc.
Mindful speaking and listening
Become a better listener, don’t just listen to reply. Instead of immediately think about what answer you will provide, really take in what is being told to you and then notice your internal dialogue.
Having a conversation is not just about exchanging words. Take a few seconds before you answer. Listening is an act of generosity.
This can also be helpful in situations of conflict. Is there anything of what’s being told to you that is triggering? Are these triggers urging you to be over-reactive? Take a moment, take a deep breath, be aware of yourself, your thoughts and what is coming to the surface within you. You don’t have to say everything that comes into your mind.
I personally struggle with being reactive, and I am determined to work on this point!
I’ve written a post about meditation, so if you are interested in knowing more about it please have a read – 5 things I have learned from Meditation.
When we are new to meditation, we can get confused about what to do with our thoughts. But mindful meditation begins and ends with the body, it’s about being aware of the body and paying attention to how we feel, where we are and what is going on.
How to do this? First, make yourself comfortable. A lot of people sit for meditation but honestly, I think any position you are comfortable in, will do.
Start by closing your eyes and then be aware of your surroundings, notice the sounds of the things around.
Then, take deep and long breaths and notice the rise and fall of your body that comes with every breath. Counting your breaths can also help you be more present and aware of the sensation.
Then go back to your regular breathing and start scanning your body from top to bottom, noticing all the sensations without any judgment.
Remember: “Mindfulness is awareness that arises through paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgmentally” – Kabat-Zinn.
If you don’t have much time to spend on meditation, something very quick and enough to ground you and bring awareness to your body is to just stop and notice:
- 5 things you can see
- 3 things you can feel
- 2 things you can hear
- 1 thing you can taste
Yoga is for sure my favourite workout for this purpose. Mindful yoga connects your mind to your breath, and the main focus is on mind-body awareness.
Bringing mindful awareness to any physical activity creates a focus to whatever you are doing at that moment, transforming the movement into a form of meditation.
But this doesn’t have to apply only to yoga, you can cultivate mindfulness in any activity you like. It can be dancing, swimming, whatever you prefer.
So, first of all, be clear on your purpose. This could be anything like “noticing the wind on my face as I run”, or the “feel of the water around me as I swim”, etc.
Then start by focusing on your breathing and then try to coordinate breath with movement. As you start to challenge yourself (whether is by running faster, more repetitions, or whatever is relevant for the workout you have chosen) start to notice how that makes you feel alert and alive.
And when you decide to cool down and come to a standstill, keep noticing how your body feels and the sensations flowing.
These are some of my preferred way to practice mindfulness, but you don’t have to do them all and choose only the ones that you are comfortable with.
The truth is that you can cultivate mindfulness in so many other ways, here are a few examples:
- Mindful driving
- Mindful showering
- Mindful reading
- Mindful writing
At the end of the day, is about getting out of your head and into your body, being aware and in the present moment, and this can be done many times throughout the day and in many different ways.
I really hope you enjoyed this post and that it was useful and inspired you to become more mindful every day
Thanks for reading!
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