by Liberty Stembridge, Lifestyle Columnist
Published in Lifestyle on 26th July, 2018
Mindful living is the practice of remaining present and conscious of our actions in everyday life. A regular mindfulness practice helps to foster an awareness of our environment, both internal and external. This helps us to foster feelings of gratitude, contentedness and increase our happiness. When we practice mindfulness, we are able to reflect on our emotions without judgement, and live a life that is more in-tune with ourselves, and through this practice many people have found relief from illnesses such as depression, anxiety or chronic pain.
It's not as simple as just "becoming more aware", how do we actually do that? The best way to practice mindfulness is through meditation, but there are also a lot of tactics you can use throughout your daily life that will help keep you mindful and grounded throughout the day and extend your meditation practice. These tactics will help to improve your focus and productivity, as well as your mental and physical health.
Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, and we should honor it as such. Too often we grab a granola bar and head out of the door, eating it completely mindlessly while we scroll through our phones. Instead, start your day off right with a mindful breakfast. In many Buddhist monasteries, they teach the practice of becoming more aware of your eating. Often, they practice "raisin mediation" where you are given an hour to eat three raisins. They look at the raisin, focus on it's texture and feel in the hand and then spend a lot of time meditating on it while they chew very slowly. This cultivates an awareness and respect for the food you're eating.
To eat your breakfast mindfully, you certainly don't need to spend an hour eating three raisins. Instead, try taking your breakfast somewhere you won't be disturbed too much, perhaps outside and remove all distractions. Take your fork or spoon and focus on the taste, smell, texture and sound of the food you're eating. Focus on what you like and dislike about the food. You'll probably notice once you're finished with your food that you feel much more satisfied, and probably won't need to eat again for a while. This is because focusing on our food and eating it slowly gives our brain a chance to process and catch up with the digestive system, so it can send and receive signals that let us know that we are full.
This is a little exercise that sounds very easy, but can actually be quite hard. Set yourself the challenge of becoming aware of every time you stand up from sitting or lying down. It doesn't have to be major or take up a lot of time, all you need to do is make a mental note to yourself every time you stand up. This way you stay present and connected to your body throughout the day, and you might just find out that you're a little less present in your everyday life than you thought you were.
Journaling is an excellent practice for anyone who is looking to become more mindful, more connected to themselves or simply grow as a person. At the end of each day, make a note of what happened and how you felt that day. It doesn't have to be long or even written in full sentences. It can be as simple as a bullet point list of what happened and how it made you feel. This allows you to reflect on the day just past, process what has happened and remain present before you go to bed.
How many of us can't got to the bathroom without taking our phones to scroll mindlessly? Probably more of us than are happy to admit it. Going to the bathroom is something that everyone on the planet does multiple times a day, so it's time to re-claim this activity as a time to be mindful and present, so put your phone away next time you feel yourself reaching for it as you brush your teeth.
Most of us workout, run or do yoga to a background track of blasting music. While, music can be a great way to motivate ourselves and help us to enjoy exercise, you might want to start cutting back and including a few more "mindful exercise" sessions.
Mindful exercise involves being present and aware of how our body is moving and our breath working while we exercise. It's been showing to have numerous benefits and actually improve performance, no matter what you're doing. Music can distract us from tuning into our bodies during exercise, resulting in more injuries, and a less efficient workout. So next time you go out for your morning run, try sticking on a running meditation workout track instead of your workout playlist.
Yoga is an ancient discipline, and not just for middle-aged suburban moms looking for a time-killer (although that's cool too). The practice of yoga was originally developed as a tool for connecting to the body and practicing mindfulness. There's a reason you'll often feel refreshed, relaxed and calm after a good yoga class - it's because you've taken the time to be truly present and connect with your body. So relish that time and start practicing a little more often. It can be as long or short as you want, even just five minutes a day can make all the difference.
Meditation can be really hard, and not everyone has the time to meditate for hours everyday. But if you're really intent on reaping all the benefits of mindful living, meditation is a must. By incorporating it in short bursts throughout the day you can build up your practice and re-center yourself all day long. This will help you to remain calm, relaxed and focused throughout the day. There are a huge array of short guided meditation sessions online ranging from three minutes to twenty, so try an take the opportunity whenever you can to have a mindful moment.
Mindfulness probably won't fix all your problems, but it can make them a lot easier to deal with. By utilizing these tactics throughout your daily life, you will be able to foster a mindset that it a little bit more present and connected, which can make all the difference.