In these chaotic times it’s natural to seek a sense of calm. Learning to stay more in the present moment can help.
Living in the pandemic era, we appear to be surrounded by constant change and uncertainty. It is natural to crave calm and to seek ease amid the chaos. We want to feel more grounded. Practicing mindfulness is an approach we can all adopt. It is free and accessible at any time. It is also a long-term strategy that helps build resilience to life’s ups and downs.
According to research by the American Psychological Association, there are many health benefits to incorporating mindfulness in your daily activities. These include reduced stress and anxiety, improved empathy towards others and oneself; more acceptance, kindness and compassion; and improved self-control, concentration and mental clarity.
Now who wouldn’t want to enjoy these benefits simply by being more aware while experiencing the everyday activities of life?
A Guide to Mindful Living
This is the first pillar of living a mindful life. Without awareness we cannot make changes, begin to accept things or let go of things that no longer serve us — if we aren’t even able to recognize them.
The practice of awareness is as simple as noticing what you notice. Mindfulness is built on the key foundation of the important characteristic of awareness: simply noticing what’s around you, what you are experiencing as you are experiencing it and using your senses to enhance this awareness.
Practicing Awareness in your Daily Life: The simple act of noticing you are breathing. You can even say to yourself, “I notice that I am breathing. I am breathing. I’m inhaling, now exhaling”. Follow your breath for three to five minutes, simply noticing your breath, not even changing it but simply being aware of it.
The next support in mindful living is practicing non-judgement. This is truly a practice because human nature causes us to judge. But if we are aware and notice our judgements, we can begin to practice non-judgement by listening to our thoughts, inner critic, and self-talk. A study published in the Journal of Evidence-Based Complementary & Alternative Medicine says paying attention to the present moment in a non-judgemental way will help with reducing anxiety, depression and pain.
Practicing Non-Judgement in your Daily Life: Every time you notice yourself judging someone or yourself, whether it be positive or negative, make a mental note. Better yet, keep a tally for 2-3 days. Bringing awareness to the number of times judgement crosses your mind is a great exercise to help you to begin to let go of these judgements.
Be curious as you move about your day. Adopt a beginner’s mind to have a fresh perspective. Taking on the mindset of a beginner is to act as if you are new to that activity or experience. In this state of mind, you are free of expectations and preconceptions and you are curious and open to possibilities. A beginner’s mind can evoke playfulness, wonder, fun and greater intention.
Practicing Curiosity in your Daily Life: Eliminate “shoulds” from your vocabulary. This helps to release the idea of your expected outcomes and widens your lens to more possibilities. Another way to be curious is to simply pretend you have never been there before or experienced what you are about to experience. Then involve all your senses and experience it with fresh eyes; allow new sensations and in turn a new lens by being fully present with the experience.
Accepting what isn’t, what is and what might be. Acceptance can be a challenging principle of mindful living. It’s not agreeing with what is, but simply acknowledging what is happening or the current state of affairs. Acceptance of yourself and others is an important piece of mindfulness. Showing yourself – and others — compassion and grace is all part of living a mindful life.
Practicing Acceptance in your Daily Life: Using your self-talk to help embed acceptance into your daily life is a practical strategy that’s implemented with the power of your thoughts. Statements like, “I recognize or I accept this today” or “This is what is happening right now” or “I see this for what it is.” These statements can anchor you in the present moment and also bring acceptance to the experience. Self-talk can aid in recognizing when events are out of your control and in turn assist in letting go of expectations, outcomes and judgments.
The attitude of gratitude is so powerful in helping to bring about more joy in our lives. The simple act of looking for what you are thankful for is accessible to everyone at any time. Studies cited in Psychology Today highlight that people practicing gratitude have stronger relationships, improved self-esteem and are more resilient in overcoming trauma.
Practicing gratitude in your Daily life: At the end of the day as you wind down and start your bedtime routine, you can adopt the habit of mentally recognizing — or writing in a journal — three things you are grateful for. They can be the simplest of things like your morning coffee or something more intimate like the thoughtful note your partner left for you before they left for work. Another way to practice gratitude is to sincerely thank others for their efforts, kindness and support. A simple “thank you” goes a long way. “Thank you” cards are also still “in”!
How to apply all of the five pillars of mindful living
Acceptance, when combined with awareness and non-judgement, can be especially helpful when dealing with our inner critics. When the negative self-talk is on “repeat,” perhaps about our body, acceptance and practicing mindfulness can be beneficial.
Instead of thinking, or saying, “My thighs are too big” or “I hate my thighs” you can first become aware of your thighs, noticing them tuning into your sensations. Then, practicing non-judgement, you can alter your self-talk to, “These are my thighs today”. Be curious about your thighs, exploring the muscle, skin, and their uniqueness. And finally, express gratitude for your thighs – and for all the things they do for you, all the places they take you, and for their existing strength.
Mindful living is possible and accessible. It is beneficial for those who practice it, even if only a little each day. The good news is that adding mindfulness into your daily life doesn’t need to be complicated or require large adjustments. Choose a few of the examples above to make small changes and reap big benefits as you begin to live the mindful life.
More Insight: Check out Doris’ great article on how not to blame being old for things in our lives.
Author: Doris Ward is a mind-body fitness coach that helps others build their fitness, body confidence and resiliency through mindful movement, education and coaching. She is an award-winning fitness professional who leads workshops, as well as specialized yoga classes for chronic pain management and for those who have experienced trauma. She is a regular contributor to OptiMYz and Silver Magazines. Read more about her work here.