I often feel as though my mind is "full" but I am not being "mindful." Full of thoughts, feelings, to-do's, things I should be doing, etc. Have you ever caught yourself driving to your destination and you miss your turn because you were thinking of something else? Just the other day, I was thinking about my long list of to-do's and not focused on my driving when another car pulled right out in front of me, causing me to swerve and slam on my breaks. Yikes! This pulled me into the present moment pretty quickly. Now, if I can only calm my racing heart down too.
You've probably heard many people talking about being mindful or using the word mindfulness, but what exactly does it mean? Being mindful means being fully present and aware of your thoughts, feelings and actions as well as to what is going on around you. It's more than a mind-set, it is an integrative mind-body approach. When you energize your body, you energize your mind and vice versa. Mindfulness is when the mind is fully attending to what's happening, to what you are doing, to the space you're moving through.
Being mindful means being fully present and aware of your thoughts, feelings and actions as well as to what is going on around you.
Mindfulness has been known to help relieve stress, treat heart disease, lower blood pressure, reduce chronic pain, improve sleep and it also helps with digestion. It puts our body in a calm state and helps us to be really present to what is happening. Practicing presence, gratitude and acceptance are ways to be mindful daily. When you focus on a more positive mindset, you crowd out space in your life for things that drain you. Let's explore some ways to practice mindfulness with these concepts.
Mindfulness is when the mind is fully attending to what's happening, to what you are doing, to the space you're moving through.
Being present means being fully aware of what is happening internally and externally. When we practice presence, we are allowing for a deeper connection with ourselves as well as with others in a more meaningful way. Through this, we are also more connected with our surroundings and environment.
Practice active listening. The next time you are with a friend, child or family member who is talking, practice your active listening skills. Set your phone down. Stop doing what you are doing and just be present. Don't interrupt them or be thinking of other things while they are talking OR thinking about what you are going to say when they stop talking! Quiet your mind and use listening cues such as head nods and eye contact so they know you are listening. We all know how annoying it is when we don't feel heard or listened to. This type of presence and form of active listening allows for a deeper connection with others. I like to say that the best type of "present" you can give someone is to be "present."
When we practice presence, we are connecting with self as well as with others in a more meaningful way.
Pointed focus. When your next task comes up, give it your full attention, not trying to do multiple tasks at once. I used to really applaud myself for being a multitasker. It took me awhile to realize that things were getting done, but not getting done well and then I couldn't even remember if I had done the task or not because my mind was so frazzled! Whether you are reading, cooking or doing dishes try to just focus on one task at a time and see what happens.
Eat without distractions. The next time you sit down to eat, sit down without your phone, computer, laptop, tablet, tv, etc. and just enjoy your meal. Eat slowly, bite by bite. This may seem a bit strange at first as most of us aren't used to doing this, but it will also give your body the chance to let you know when you are full too. Eating slowly and taking your time when eating is easier on your digestion too!
I like to say that the best type of "present" you can give someone is to be "present."
Being grateful puts you in a positive state of mind and takes you outside of yourself. Having appreciation and gratitude for what we do have, not what we don't have allows us to be in the moment. Having a gratitude practice rewires the brain and shifts you into a happy place. For more on gratitude, you can visit my blog post "An Attitude of Gratitude" here.
Having a gratitude practice rewires the brain and shifts you into a happy place.
Journaling. Try a gratitude journal- start by writing down 3-5 things you are grateful for every day. What a wonderful start to the day! Or, try doing this right before bed to clear the mind for restful sleep.
Gratitude buddy. Another fun idea is to have a "gratitude buddy." My dear friend Anna and I practice this weekly with one another. We send each other 3 things we are grateful for every Friday via text. It is a wonderful moment to connect internally and really think about what it is that we appreciate and hold dear to our heart space.
Send a thank you. We all have people in our lives who have been kind to us throughout our lives, have stood up for us, or others who have been positive mentors along the way. Take the time this week to send them a message letting them know how much you appreciate them.
Acceptance is acknowledging your current reality-including what is going on for you right now-without resistance. Being kind to yourself and offering forgiveness are aspects of acceptance. It is also being ok without knowing everything. By practicing acceptance, you actively choose to hold uncomfortable emotions rather than trying to fill the void or escape with distraction. Lean into the discomfort.
Being kind to yourself and offering forgiveness are aspects of acceptance.
Impermanence. The understanding and acceptance that nothing is permanent, meaning that everything changes and moves such as thoughts, feelings and emotions. "This too shall pass" can be a helpful mantra when an uncomfortable emotion arises. Try and sit with emotions and feelings as they pop up instead of trying to distract the mind and push them away. I am a fan of Tara Brach's RAIN method. Recognize, allow, investigate and nurture. This is a practice that I am constantly working on in my own life. Understanding where the emotion is coming from and what is driving it and being kind to myself through the process. Really letting yourself feel, allowing emotions to come and go. It isn't an easy practice, but one that puts us in the here and now.
Curiosity. Become curious of emotions and challenging situations. What is going on here? Why is this happening? Where is this emotion coming from? This allows us to be investigators on ourselves and allows us to dig a bit deeper into self awareness.
Start with yourself. Self-acceptance and self compassion can very challenging. It is a great place to start. When we honor ourselves and are kind to ourselves with our actions, thoughts and beliefs, we are able to have energy and loving compassion towards others. To learn more about self compassion, listen to my podcast episode with Anna Rapson on self compassion here.
As you move through your days, practicing mindfulness one thought or action at a time can be very beneficial to the mind and body. Remembering to be kind to yourself along the way. Open your heart and mind to the possibilities and reflect on it and see how you feel. Would love to hear how practicing mindfulness has worked for you!