Many times I have been caught where I begin a conversation with a client or colleague, I am discussing mindful living and I realize it is not exactly clear what being “Mindful” really looks like. In fact, when certain language is used such as Mindfulness or meditation, we do not naturally see how it can already exist in normal, everyday life. Here’s some ways you can do small things daily or frequently and see some BIG differences in thinking, feeling or behavior.
1: Start a mindful routine that begins early. Waking up at the same time each day and thinking about certain things, first thing in the morning, can really have an impact on the events of the rest of your day. Try creating a daily gratitude list, starting a meditation practice or doing some exercise. The key to making this routine, is working to keep a present mind, and rolling with judgment that might creep in, without any reaction to it.
2: Focus on gratitude during your day: Expand on having a routine that starts your day; training our brain for gratitude is a small action that packs a big punch. This action takes just a few moments and can be done anywhere. Many do not know that Mindfulness science is based on Neuroscience, and something called Brain Plasticity. This means that the things we do and think about physically change the structure of our brain over time. Just like humans wearing out a trail through a wooded area, the pathways in our brain becoming more engaged with repetition. So, as we focus on gratitude for what we have and appreciate, we ingrain the feelings that come along with it. This is likely most challenging when life is “kicking our butt” but probably most needed at these times to move through tough transitions.
3: Practice “informal” mindfulness: Most Mindfulness based Stress Reduction programs (created and popularized by Jon Kabat-Zinn and his now many followers), differentiate between “formal practice,” that includes the different types of meditations and yoga that many of us utilize and “informal practice.” This means while doing something mundane, I work to be present and aware, no matter how “uneventful” it is. A great way to do this is to engage the senses. We have 5 senses that we think about most, and these can be used to keep our mind from escaping into worry and discomfort, like a toddler attempting to run away from a parent. Even during my walk to the car from my home, I can pay attention to the feelings of the wind or sun on my face, the smell of fresh air, and the sounds of the birds or even cars passing. This is a mindful walk to the car.
4: Find an activity you love and do it in a mindful way: Many of us have hobbies that we already enjoy, whether it is a sport or exercising, sewing, or chess. Many of us also know the feeling of our mind being “elsewhere” and not performing as well as we would usually. I train in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, martial arts like this are perfect examples for a mindful application, as they combine the physical and psychological with quite a balance. I know that when I practice BJJ, mindfully, I don’t go into “panic mode” when in unfavorable positions and make better decisions throughout. I do better when I focus on controlling my breath in order to slow down my nervous system. Many other types of athletes know this intention quite well, and they will describe a present mind while playing as “in the zone” or a state of “flow”. My guess is that a talented basket weaver or chess player would also know this concept with these “thinking activities.”
5: Do a 1, 2, or 3 minute meditation: Many of my clients hear the word meditation and give me a very similar reaction. It falls along the lines of “I can’t do that kind of thing” or “I am not the meditating type”. They also discuss a seemingly impossible feat, like a monk meditating silently for hours on end. I tend to follow this with an explanation of Mindfulness meditation, with its focus on simply and intentionally paying attention to something, in the present moment, and allowing our mind to “roll through” the self-judgment. This can be done in a short amount of time, and still be effective. In fact I believe that this cannot be done wrong. Even if we only dedicate one minute, and our mind goes elsewhere. Many times, our only job is to bring it back to our breath (or whatever we are paying attention to) each time, and we can call it a Win! Whether I am having a stressful day at work and need a break, sitting at the beach, or competing in a sport I can take a minute or a few, and give my brain the reboot it deserves. Just like a computer, if it is always running it will start to malfunction and get bogged down.
If you try these out and still need some help living your ideal life, give me a call at (954) 204-4123 or click here. My clinical work as a therapist happens to compliment and incorporate mindfulness quite well.