Tips for Being Mindful Throughout the Day
Life can pass us by without us really being present in it. We spend thousands of dollars on vitamins and wellness products to extend the number of years we have on this earth, but how many of these years are we actually living? Do you find yourself living mostly in your mind, either focusing on events that happened in the past or speculating on what is going to happen in the future? Do you flit from one task to the next on autopilot barely noticing what is going on in the world around you? It is true that many of us do not know how to live in the moment which is causing us to become anxious, depressed and generally dissatisfied. Being mindful, or present, can help us break out of our routines and bring about a feeling of happiness and satisfaction with our lives. Fortunately, being mindful is not difficult. It takes commitment, but the payoffs are monumental. Here are some helpful tips to remain mindful throughout the day.
Eating on the go or wolfing down our food robs us from fully experiencing a truly pleasurable activity. The next time you sit down for a meal, slow down. Treat each forkful as an experience, rather than a means to an end. Observe your food; regard the different colors, textures and consistencies. Smell your food; how many flavors can you detect when you inhale its aroma? Feel your food; take note of the way your mouth receives it, feel it roll around in your mouth. Hear your food; does it crunch or squish? Finally, taste your food; is it sour, sweet, salty? How does it make you feel when you experience these flavors? When you slow down and intimately experience a meal, you’ll see how much pleasure you’ve been missing.
When someone talks to you, do you really listen or are you thinking about what you want to say next? Perhaps when someone is relating a story to you, your mind is drifting to the myriad of tasks you feel you have to complete that day instead of simply listening. When engaging in a conversation with someone, slow down and really listen to that person. Observe your companion’s body language, the words she uses, and the manner in which she says those words. If your mind begins to drift to other things, gently bring it back to your conversation. The whole exchange will feel more complete and more satisfactory.
Mindful Habit Breaking
Habits can be very useful and efficient. For example, when we tie our shoes, we barely have to think about the thousands of intricate muscles movements that it requires to complete the task. This saves us a lot of time. But sometimes our habits limit us. They keep us from experiencing life more fully. Throughout the day, think of one simple habit to break in order to bring about new vitality into your life. The habit can be as simple as changing the seat you normally take at meetings, or choosing a new location for lunch. How about taking an alternate route home from work or watching a movie you wouldn’t normally select?
Meditation has an untold number of positive effects on our well-being. Studies have shown that practicing meditation regularly can actually change the structure of the brain. While meditating, the right side of the brain—the more creative side—becomes activated while the left side—the more analytical side—is quieted. This leads to us being more in touch with experiencing life as it is rather than living in our minds analyzing and ruminating about things over which we have no control. Meditation does not have to be complicated. Simply find a quiet space where you will not be disturbed, set aside a small amount of time, like ten minutes, close your eyes, and sit. Observe what goes on in your body and mind. Do not judge what comes up. Simply regard it with kind curiosity. It is the nature of the mind to wander and become distracted. When that happens, gently bring it back to what you were focusing on before. One simple meditation is to observe your breath. During a breathing meditation you are completely in the present moment experiencing the inflow and outflow of air to your lungs. With consistent meditation, you will see an increase in satisfaction in your life while depression and anxiety naturally fall away.
Mindfulness in Routine Tasks
Routine tasks like washing dishing, walking the dog, or brushing your teeth are things many us have to do almost every day. Why go into autopilot and miss out on these mistakenly boring tasks, when you can approach them mindfully? Pick a task each day that seems mundane to you. Instead of completing it just to get it over with, take your time and really experience it. Taste the foamy toothpaste in your mouth, feel the warm water as it washes over the dishes, and breathe in the fresh air when taking the dog for a walk. Remember, these “boring” tasks take up a lot of your life. Don’t waste your life waiting for them to be over.
Another helpful mindfulness tip is to set up a mindful reminder system. Set an alarm on your computer or phone that goes off every hour to remind you to be present. A tiny “ding” every 60 minutes will tell you to get out of your head and focus on the world around you. It is a small, gentle way to get you in more in touch with your life. Many smart phones have mindfulness reminder apps available that you can download for free or a for a small fee.
There are many ways to be mindful throughout the day. The key is consistency and practice. Although it might seem like too much of a bother to live mindfully, try to keep it up. You’ll be amazed at how life opens up to you when you pay more attention.
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