Being mindful is an important part of a happy, healthy existence; and it’s a pretty simple concept: being mindful is essentially paying attention. Without it, it’s easy to become someone that life is simply happening to, instead of a person who is living life to the fullest.
By becoming more mindful, you can learn to appreciate what you have and the world around you, take in the small moments, and have full, true, and meaningful experiences. Too often we are overwhelmed with thoughts or to-do lists and forget to be aware of what’s going on around us.
If you need more convincing, being mindful also has health benefits, like decreasing stress and anxiety. It can also help you relax and become that much closer to the relationships in your life.
Here are 5 ways to start being more mindful.
1. Be more aware.
The first step for being more mindful is just being more aware of your surroundings.
For example, the next time you take the dog for a walk, don’t bring your phone to make a call or text you’ve been meaning to make. Instead, look around and appreciate nature around. Take in the fresh air and the sunshine.
Another example is that when you’re out to eat – or just having dinner at home – put down the electronics and mindfully enjoy your meal. Allow your senses to take over as you see, smell, and truly taste what you are fueling your body with.
2. Put. Down. The. Phone.
As a society, I don’t have to tell you how obsessed we are with our electronics. It’s hard to even have a face-to-face conversation with anyone these days without someone having to check their phone for whatever reason.
On a recent vacation, I forgot my phone in the room where I was staying when we went out to explore the city. While at first it was a little stressful, it ended up being extremely liberating and I was able to take in the sights and stay off my phone. (Sidenote: everyone I was with had their phones, so that is important in case of an emergency!)
The point is: do what you can to unplug a little more. Don’t look at a screen an hour before you go to bed if you can avoid it and try to limit your overall screen time if you find yourself constantly in front of one. It’s easy to scroll through Facebook or Pinterest, but it’s also mind numbing.
No, you don’t have to become a monk or go through any sort of formal training in order to learn how to meditate. Take 10 minutes or so to sit in a quiet room in a relaxed, comfortable position. Then follow the same rules as yoga: try to clear your mind, but if it wanders, that’s ok. Simply clear it again and just try to relax.
There are plenty of apps and web resources that will also help with meditation tips.
If meditating just isn’t your thing…that’s ok, too. Try to do a quiet activity as often as you can – once a day if possible! Try 10 or 15 minutes of yoga or simply taking a bath. For some people, running, swimming, or other cardio is a great chance to refresh your brain by thinking of nothing at all.
4. Listen to your body.
A lot of what it is to be mindful is also to be self-reflective. Learn to do body scans and listen to your body and what it needs.
Sometimes you may have more physical needs. You may notice that you’ve been getting headaches after a second cup of coffee, so it’s time to limit yourself to one a day. Or perhaps you’re feeling achy when you first wake up, so you take some extra time to do some light stretching and drink extra water throughout the day.
Many times, listening to your body may be more of a mental state. Maybe you just feel “icky” all of a sudden; so you decide to take a short walk outside or change your surroundings. Or perhaps you find yourself a little angry and, when you think about it, you realize something a friend said yesterday really bothered you; so you decide to reach out to that person and talk through your differences.
Listening to your body’s needs will go far on the road to better mindfulness.
5. Remind yourself.
Remember that mindfulness is a habit most of us have not yet acquired. It’s a skill that takes time and practice, so give yourself a break and don’t expect results right away.
Depending on what works for you, give yourself little reminders to be more mindful. For some, you may want to leave a sticky note for yourself on the mirror to say “Be mindful today.” For others, you may just need to give yourself little subconscious queues throughout the day.
No matter what you need to do to remind yourself to be mindful, remember that it’s a journey to get there.
Being more mindful is a personal initiative I’ve tried to take in my own life of late. It’s helped me already to take situations in stride and become more aware of my body’s physical and emotional well being.