Many people assume that mindfulness is related to meditation, and although it certainly can be, the essence of being mindful is the simple act of being aware of one’s current feelings and sensations. It is an ability to be present in the moment so that we are wholly conscious of what we are doing, where we are, and how we are feeling. 10 Tools for Living Mindfully
Living mindfully can have numerous benefits. Research shows that mindfulness can improve sleep quality, aid weight loss efforts, reduce stress, decrease symptoms of depression, lessen pain, and make us feel happier overall.
However, when we are constantly thinking about tasks we need to complete or worrying about possible problems, it is challenging – if not impossible – to live mindfully. Fortunately, we can develop a toolbox with exercises and other tools to help us reap mindful living benefits.
1) Perform a body scan. A mental scan of our physical selves can help us become mindful of tension, pain, or anything out of the ordinary. Relax, take a few deep breaths, and focus on any area of your body. Pay attention to any pain, discomfort, or other sensations you pinpoint. Imagine releasing tension or pain as you breathe slowly and deeply. Move on to the next area of your body when you are ready.
2) Sit with discomfort. It’s human nature to move away from pain or distract ourselves from uncomfortable feelings. But learning how to sit with the physical sensations of stress, anxiety, and complicated emotions can be valuable. We can better recognize our feelings, find new ways to manage them and learn that they will pass.
3) Focus on breathing. Notice each breath without trying to adjust your breathing. Feel the temperature of your breath as you inhale and exhale. Pay attention to the rising and falling of your belly as you breathe. Observe the brief pause between inhaling and exhaling. Mindful breathing is a tool you can use virtually anywhere.
4) Journal in the present. Writing down future goals or memories has many benefits, but to practice living mindfully, we want to write about what’s going on with us right now, in the present moment. When we journal for mindfulness, we can sharpen our focus and learn to turn our attention inward. Write about things you are grateful for, worried about, or start jotting down whatever comes to mind and see what develops.
5) Make time to meditate. Set aside some time, every day if you can, and find a quiet space where you can sit or lie down comfortably. Then, simply observe the present moment. Let any judgments roll by, and when thoughts or worries come to mind, acknowledge them and then return to your observations of the present moment. Continue for 5 to 10 minutes, or longer if you’d like.
6) Practice gratitude. Mindful gratitude is a beautiful way to start the day on a positive, conscious note, but we can reflect on things we are grateful for at any time. Thinking about something specific that we are thankful for at that moment and learning to express appreciation when we’re in the midst of a difficult time can help us live in the now and realize how much goodness is all around us.
7) Unplug from electronics. We often get lost in our devices and miss small but meaningful events around us as w. When trying to be more mindful, we might schedule a phone-free day or at least disable notifications. Taking a walk with family members, reading a book, or relaxing on the porch will allow us to recalibrate and reconnect with what matters.
8) Listen actively. Sometimes when we’re listening to someone, we’re not really hearing them. It’s not that we don’t care; it’s just that we have so much on our minds. Being present with our partners, children, friends, and colleagues can boost relationships, open doors, and help us remember more details. We can become mindful listeners by removing distractions, noting the speaker’s nonverbal communication, and having empathy for their emotions.
9) Make time for fun. We’ve all heard the adage about all work and no play. However, research shows that even pre-pandemic, more than half of all adults have skipped enjoyable activities such as vacations, concerts, movies, and more. Laughing, playing, and enjoying the people and places around us is a fantastic way to be more mindful, so don’t skimp on playtime!
10) Letting go. Letting go of things we only perceive control over can make it easier to live in the moment. When worries or ruminating thoughts take over, we should take an honest look at them. If we can solve a problem, taking a step can relieve the anxiety and bring our attention back to the here and now. If it is out of our hands, learning to let go provides freedom.
Sometimes, the weight of the world seems just too heavy, and mindful living seems nearly impossible. If you struggle to let go and have fun, if it feels like you have nothing to be grateful for, or if sitting with uncomfortable feelings is just too painful, you don’t have to go it alone. Therapy can help you recover strength you thought you had lost, discover skills to deal with challenges, and uncover the joys of living in the moment.