I was sitting in the car earlier this week when I realized that it’s practically April. Yes yes, I knew what day is was, but still, like when did March even happen?! When I was a kid, my parents used to say how time will go by faster and faster when I get older and I don’t think I fully understood that until now. Let me explain … my niece (who you’ve seen in my Insta stories) was born in November and I got to see her in December. She’s now almost five months old and I’m not sure when I’ll be able to see her again. With the year going by so quickly, I need to make travel plans home soon otherwise I’ll miss the entire first year of her life!!
Anyway, this uncomfortable realization had me thinking in general about where the first part of the year has gone. We’re already fully into a new season and in business speak, Q1 is over. So to reflect on my year to date, I pulled up the blog post about my 19 intentions for 2019. As I read through the post, I noticed that even though all the intentions centered around my whole “new year, better you” concept, most of them also touched on the idea of being more mindful.
So what does being “mindful” even mean? Quite simply, mindfulness is just being present in the moment. It’s about being aware of your body, your senses, your feelings, and your thoughts in a nonjudgemental and accepting way. This shouldn’t be confused with meditation, however, and the simplest way to discern the two is that you would would practice mindfulness during meditation.
Mindfulness can be practiced at any time, wherever we are, whoever we are with, and whatever we are doing, by showing up and being fully engaged in the here and now.Thrive Global
Let’s circle back to that Intentions blog post and approach an example through a mindful lens. If the intention is to drink more water, I can do so mindfully by taking note of the temperature of the water, or noticing if I chose tap or filtered, or feeling the textured glass in my hand, or appreciating the simple fact that I have access to clean water whenever I want it. All of these thoughts are ways to be in the moment.
For me, mindfulness goes hand in hand with appreciation. We’re all busy and life pulls us in a million different directions every single day, so those quiet moments where we can just stop and breathe are more and more valuable. If your mind is busy contemplating the nuances of your one glass of water, you can also get a (short) break from whatever might be stressing you out and it gives you the space to enjoy a moment of appreciation.
If you’re still wondering whether this concept is worth your time, consider this – according to an article by Harvard Medical School, “mindfulness has been found to be a key element in stress reduction and overall happiness.”
Great, so now that we’re all in agreement that mindfulness is awesome, let’s get into some easy ways to be more mindful every single day.
1. During routine activities
Finding a moment of focus during our daily activities can be really grounding. I mean, how many of us just go through the motions while showering or even driving? Next thing you know you’re turning off the water or arriving at your destination. Instead, notice the scent of your body wash, or the uneven tile grout, or how you can never seem to find that perfect balance between warm and hot water. When in the car, feel the fabric of the steering wheel, really see every single street sign, or enjoy the rhythmic silence of the road. I find myself drawn to this approach while I’m doing my skincare routine. I try to take notice of the texture of my products, how the feel on my fingers, and how it then feels when applied.
2. While eating and drinking
I’m really big on this one, as well. Too often we’re either eating out with friends, or drinking at a bar, or having takeout on the couch watching Netflix. It’s challenging to be present in the moment because there are too many distractions, too much stimulus. When you’re eating, try to finish and swallow every single bite before picking up more food, or look at the texture of everything on your plate, or think about where the food came from. When you’re out drinking, try to taste each ingredient in your cocktail, maybe think about why you always order the same thing, or admire the color of your wine.
3. Checking-in with your body
This is great alternative to reaching for our phones during the inevitable periods of waiting throughout our day – at a traffic light, in line at the grocery store, or at a medical appointment. Take a moment to just stop and ask yourself how your body feels. Are you sore from yesterday’s workout? Is that knee injury still bothering you? Have you been feeling particularly rundown or tired lately? A good trick is to start from the toes and work your way up by actively thinking about each body part. This would also be a great time to do a quick breathing exercise! Here’s a simple one – inhale for a 4 count, hold for a 4 count, exhale for a 4 count. Easy!
4. Actively listening
In every acting or theatre class I’ve ever taken, the teacher emphasized how we should listen to our scene partner, not just respond with our lines. Listening actively to comprehend and understand versus listening simply to respond is an important part of being a good communicator, but it also provides us a valuable opportunity to practice mindfulness. It’s about focusing on more than the words; it’s about the delivery, the stresses on certain phrases, and the body language. Maybe you’re having a subconscious response to what you’re hearing or maybe you’re preparing a counter-argument before the other person is done talking. If so, ask yourself why.
5. Getting in touch with nature
This one totally depends on weather, but just going out for a walk can be so helpful. There’s something about being outside – maybe the smell or the sounds – that really invites us to take a break. Allow yourself to hear the leaves rustling or see the tiny sprouts of spring peeking through the dirt. Then take a moment to assess how those things make you feel. Do you love spring or long for fall again? Are you feeling a chill or a warm breeze?
I didn’t touch on meditation, but of course that’s another wonderful tool and I look forward to talking about that in a separate blog post. Anyway, these are just a few of the ways I like to approach mindfulness, but regardless of how you choose to practice or incorporate these ideas into your daily life, just remember, a mindful existence is all about being present and in the moment.
What are some of the ways you interpret mindfulness and how do you bring it into your daily life? I’d love to hear your perspective in the comments!