Do you go through life on autopilot? If so, you’re not alone. After all, we lead busy, and often stress filled lives. But, what if being on autopilot does us a great disservice? Deprives us of greater happiness and joy? And better health. That’s why the opposite of autopilot—Mindfulness—is getting so much hype.
Mindfulness is being aware of the present moment, without judging it. In other words, accepting what’s happening in the moment, without labeling it as good or bad, for example. Extensive research finds Mindfulness has numerous benefits. It improves our mental and physical health, and our overall well-being. And reduces stress.
You don’t have to meditate to be Mindful. Here are five ways to bring Mindfulness into your everyday life.
1) Take a breath: before you start your day, take three slow, deep belly breaths, in and out. This momentary pause calms our nervous system, breaks the loop of constant thinking, and evokes the "relaxation response." Just a few minutes of this a day can decrease our stress and make us less prone to disease. We can use it at anytime to calm ourselves, when needed.
2) Notice three things: whether you’re rushing to work, stuck in traffic, or taking a leisurely stroll, notice what you are experiencing through three senses - sight, sound, and touch. Take a few slow breaths and ask yourself: what are three things I see? For example, you might see the look on a passerby’s face, a storefront sign, or a piece of furniture. Then, what are three things I hear? Bird chirping, heels clicking on the ground, the wind? After that, what are three things I feel? The seat under you, your phone in your pocket, or the clothes against your skin? Engaging your senses brings you right into the present, and mindful moment.
3) Focus on the mundane: what do you normally do mindlessly? Brush your teeth, pet your dog or cat, or eat? See if you can bring your full attention to the task, instead of thinking about everything else but what you’re doing at the moment. Involve all your senses, slow down the process, and be fully present as it unfolds. Who knows, you may find what you’re doing enjoyable, and not boring.
4) Mind your thoughts: take a moment to notice what you’re thinking. Are you obsessing about something that happened in the past, or something that hasn’t (or may never) happen? If so, take a breath. Notice if you’re thinking negative thoughts. Without suppressing the thoughts, see if you can view the thoughts without judgment, and bring that non-judgment to yourself [instead of telling yourself you shouldn’t be thinking the thought(s)]. Try finding a way to accept what you’re thinking, and move on. Just by being aware, and accepting of negative thoughts helps to tame them, according to a recent New York Times article.
5) Check in with yourself: take a moment to bring your attention to your body, doing a mental scan from head to toe. Notice any feelings or sensations? Tightness or tension? Try observing what you’re experiencing without applying any commentary. Allow any thoughts, emotions or physical sensations to be. This is a form of body scan that can be very helpful in working with stress, anxiety, and physical pain.
By aiming to have moments when we’re fully present, without judgment, we increase our capacity to experience happiness and joy. Plus, we break the loop of constant thinking, and help to ease our minds and bodies.
If the idea of practicing Mindfulness appeals to you, access my free, 5-minute guided Mindfulness meditation here.