“Mindfulness is simply being aware of what is happening right now without wishing it were different; enjoying the pleasant without holding on when it changes (which it will); being with the unpleasant without fearing it will always be this way (which it won’t).”
– James Baraz
During this past weekend, I dramatically slowed my life down as I knew that when today (Monday) arrived, my life would quickly pick up speed. After leaving the hustle of NYC, I escaped for a few days to my family’s country getaway where I could be alone, walk on quiet gravel roads and sit out on the deck taking in amazing few of what Mother Nature has created. (My dogs too enjoyed this decision as they didn’t have to be on a leash the entire time.)
This getaway afforded me the opportunity to read with abandon, and one of the books I’ve been wanting to make my way through was the recently released Happier at Home by Gretchen Rubin. A wonderful book, laid out monthly in order of the school year (beginning with the month of September and wrapping up in May) all the while sharing ways to create a, you guessed it, happier home. One of the statements that I latched onto immediately was the fact that in general, mindful people are happier. She goes on to explain that if you are living mindfully, you are creating a home and a life that speaks to who you are, what your needs are and what your pleasures are as well.
So I couldn’t help but contemplate this idea of mindfulness. How does one become more mindful? For myself, the ability to slow down my life when I need it by getting away is very grounding. It allows me to settle down and make sure the trajectory I am on, whatever that may be, is the right one. Because what I have found when you’re going a million miles a minute is that it’s hard to notice that you’ve missed the exit for your dreams. And even if you do notice it, you’re going far too fast to change lanes. And this is where mindfulness comes into play. When we are mindful, we are aware of what is going on in the present moment, we are are aware of the decisions we are making and the direction they may take us, we are aware of how we are living our lives, and are at peace with it – thus filling our lives with more happiness.
Today, I’ve gathered together 11 ways to become more mindful in your day to day life. With so much stimulation due to technology and media, it can be easy to lose our focus, lose track of time and forget why we’re doing what we’re doing. But by living consciously in the present, and choosing to be more mindful, we are helping ourselves to create a more fulfilling life that is in alignment with what we wish our lives to be.
1. Be present in the now. Stop dwelling on the past – learn the lesson and move forward. Don’t get lost in thoughts of the future – set your goals and a plan to achieve them, then get busy in the current moment. If someone is talking, give them your full attention. If you’re at a meeting or at the dinner table, put your phone away. Give the moment you’ve chosen to be in or are required to be in your full attention.
“The most precious gift we can offer others is our presence. When mindfulness embraces those we love, they will bloom like flowers.” -Thich Nhat Hanh
2. Eliminate multi-tasking. Choose to one thing at a time, doing it to the best of our ability (which is now possible because you’re giving it your full attention). Always keep in mind quality, not quantity, even when it comes to completing tasks.
3. Create bumpers in your schedule. Instead of scheduling everything back-to-back, make sure you schedule time in between where nothing is expected of you. Why do this? So that when you are at the meeting with your colleagues, they have your full attention and you’re not checking the clock to see when you need to dash out the door to your dentist appointment. By doing this, you not only reduce your stress and anxiousness, but you also allow yourself to be present which increases the quality of work you offer at that particular moment.
4. Eat slowly, appreciate the food you are feeding your body. So often, when we are hungry, we just shove food in – any kind of food – be it bland and tasteless or processed and unhealthy. By choosing to slow down when you eat, you experience all the flavors, and if something doesn’t taste quite right, you stop eating, but if something tastes delightful, you can savor it and allow your body to tell you when it’s full.
5. Carve out time to just be by yourself . . . to do nothing. Five minutes of just chill time to catch your breath, put things in order in your mind so that you can let them go or maybe to close your eyes is a simply luxury that is a necessity in our daily lives. Do not feel guilty scheduling this time into your day.
6. Be the master of your life, rather than letting your life master you. When we slow down our lives and aren’t rushing from one obligation to the next, we are forced to come to terms with how we are living. I genuinely believe that part of the reason so many people cram their days full of demands and activities is because they don’t want to address the reality that the life they’re living isn’t exactly what they would prefer. But they’ve acquiesced to what has evolved and keep going at mach ten so they don’t have to deal with how they might really feel when they realize they haven’t mastered their life, but in fact, the exact opposite has happened.
”The range of what we think and do is limited by what we fail to notice. And because we fail to notice that we fail to notice there is nothing we can do to change until we notice how failing to notice shapes our thoughts and deeds.” -R.D. Laing
7. Understand what you need. When you find time to quiet the world around you, you become more in tune with what brings you joy and conversely what makes you uncomfortable. At this point, you are then able to dissect why you feel these particular feelings. Once you understand what makes you come alive, what brings you tranquility and what agitates you, you can then design your life accordingly, thus being the master of your life.
8. Prioritize and eliminate. Priorities will change as you evolve and grow, and that it why it is important to regularly (yearly, bi-yearly, etc) assess what it important to you so that you can create the life you wish to live. When you are clear about your priorities, you will then need to let go of things that are no longer supporting the life you wish to create. For some this will be easy, but for many this will not; however, there are only so many hours and so much energy in any given day. Find your strength, know that the life you desire is worth it and become the master of it. Initially eliminating sounds harsh, but look at what you’re gaining. More time with the people you want to foster quality relationships with, more productivity in your chosen career, ultimately, more quality which will create a more fulfilling life, and before long, you won’t miss what you’ve let go because you’ll be too busy reveling in what you’ve finally been able to create.
9. Incorporate the phrase, “Let me get back to you.” Often, we are invited or asked to do something when we are speaking to someone face to face or on the phone, and robotically we say yes. Depending on the person who is asking, we may have the reflex of saying no. Either way, choose instead to utter the above mentioned phrase, giving yourself time to digest, contemplate and check to see if you’re able to and/or want to involve yourself. By doing this, you eliminate the need to break your word when you remember you aren’t able to help because of a conflicting appointment. And more importantly, it allows you to be very mindful about the decision you make.
10. Be aware of your surroundings. While you’re walking, driving, standing, or sitting, be aware of the nature, people, architecture that surrounds you. So often we go about our days that become routine and we fail to notice the changing of the leaves, the birds singing to welcome the day or the detailed architecture that we pass by. While sometimes it seems easier to notice what is wrong, why not choose to notice each day what is working, functioning well and going about as expected?
“The present moment is filled with joy and happiness. If you are attentive, you will see it.”
― Thich Nhat Hanh
11. Notice a need and act. Simple acts of kindness throughout the day aren’t expected, but are almost always appreciated. If you see your secretary is frazzled, asked her what you can do to help. If you notice someone could benefit from you holding open the door for them as they are leaving the grocery store, hold it open. Simple gestures that demonstrate your mindfulness of what is going on in the present moment are ways you can be more mindful. By involving yourself in this way, you are cultivating a more positive environment.
As you can see, it doesn’t take grand gestures, large amounts of money or excess amounts of time to live more mindfully, and the pay off can be quite amazing.