Mindfulness: – A peaceful mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations.
Life is hectic. In today’s digital age there’s a high demand to have everything now. Time is against us and stress and anxiety run rampant. Luckily, breathing is one of those things we don’t have to think about. It happens by instinctive habit to keep us alive. However, focusing on your breathing, even for just a few moments a day, can have a resounding impact on how you feel.
Focused breathing does a few things for us: It allows our brains to slow down and focus on one simple task, it helps pump more oxygen into the bloodstream, and it allows you to be present in your body and to notice how you feel.
Ever notice how your breath quickens when you’re stressed or scared? Or how it tends to be deep and full when you’re comfortable and relaxed? Taking a few meaningful breaths in a tense moment can ‘trick’ your body into calming down and the focus can give you a moment to recognize your thoughts and how the situation is making you feel.
Have you ever been sitting at your desk so long that you suddenly realize you’re hunched over and your head seems to be sinking into your shoulders like you’re imitating a turtle? Well, I have. And I’m sure it wasn’t pretty. I try to set aside a few moments throughout the day to check-in with my body, stretch and adjust and avoid the awkward turtle-hunch.
I read somewhere that the ‘body is meant for motion and the mind for stillness’. Makes sense to me but it seems these two are often reversed. Taking a few moments to stretch can help get us back in alignment with this concept; giving our bodies some needed motion and our minds some needed rest.
So stretch your neck back out of it’s hiding place, work that knot out of your shoulders, straighten up your back and get some blood flowing through those limbs. While you’re at it, do a mental body scan and take note of any areas that could use some extra TLC. It’s an excellent practice to do this in the morning when you wake and then check-in and reevaluate throughout the day.
Thanks to the internet and social media, we have a near constant connection to family, friends, and perfect strangers. With just a tap or a swipe we can get information on what’s happening just about anywhere. This is great and certainly has it’s advantages but every once in awhile, we just have to unplug.
It’s difficult to live in the moment with so many distractions of what’s going on elsewhere. The only way to truly be present is to break away from these distractions. At least for a little while. I challenge you to set a few hours a day or a day a week where your devices are out of sight and out of mind. This may be hard at first, as so many of us are totally reliant on our phones, tablets or computers. Start with an hour or two at night, or make lunch time a no-phone time.
Bonus: Try keeping the devices put away and/or powered off when spending time with friends and loved ones. It’s amazing how the interactions can change when no one feels compelled to check their phone!
Break the Habit Loop
My work days tend to be a blur. As soon as that alarm goes off, my autopilot kicks in and before I know it, I’m at my desk at work uncertain of exactly how I got there, much less how I managed to dress myself. I’m thankful for those habits so that I can make it through the day while my mind is on other tasks, but the more I’m on auto-pilot, the less I’m in the moment.
Change your routine. Do things out of order. Explore a new route to the office. Breaking our habits every now and then help us to be more alert and present. Don’t let your life pass by on auto-pilot. Take charge. Being mindful of our habits can also help to pinpoint the ones we’d like to change, or areas to add new ones. Does your routine align with the person you want to be? If not, change it up!
There’s an ongoing inner monologue in all of us. Much of it we don’t even pay attention to because it’s always been there. That little voice nagging about this or that is just part of the everyday norm. Listening in and acknowledging this chatter can give you some much needed insight into yourself.
This is an important step in our self-love challenge this month. Especially if that chatty voice has some not-so-nice things to say. I don’t know about you, but I am certainly my own worse critic. I can remember times in depression when I would tell myself I wasn’t loveable, or I didn’t deserve happiness. I’ve caught my inner voice telling me I wasn’t good enough or that ‘people like me’ could never be ________ (rich, happy, loved, etc.). These thoughts played on repeat until I believed them and made them my reality.
It wasn’t until I started listening in that I began to really notice how mean that b*tch is. Whenever I felt anxious, for example, I could listen in on that voice and more often than not, it’s negativity was the source of my anxiety. So I had to change the words.
- Tune in – Acknowledge those negative thoughts and look for patterns. Observe them and remember that they’re just thoughts, not your truth.
- Feel – Mindfulness is awareness so be aware of how these thoughts are making you feel. Feel it. Surrender to it. Avoiding the feeling doesn’t make the thought go away and can prevent you from learning and growing from it.
- Compassion & Forgiveness – You likely wouldn’t let a friend tear themselves down; you’d argue the negativity and be their cheerleader. Do that for yourself. Be forgiving, kind and understanding and you sort through the thoughts and chatter in your head.
Small Steps Toward a Big Future
These steps should be easy to implement into your life, starting today. A little intentional focus today will make mindfulness easier in the future, allowing you a happier and more fulfilling life. What’s your biggest struggle with mindfulness? What other methods to you use to be present in the moment? Let me know in the comments below!