Have you been looking for a Beginner’s Guide to Mindfulness? Here it is! These are 10 Ways, 5 small and 5 big, to be a bit more mindful in your days. Choose one and get started today.
If you’re still on the fence as to whether you should add mindfulness to your life, here’s a pretty good reason: It’s the secret to a happy life. Period. Mindfulness is all about directing our attention with intention. Being mindful of what our mind is full of. Managing your mind and deciding what you want to think about is the secret to a happy life. If you are constantly thinking positive, wonderful things that you truly believe about yourself, you are going to feel much happier than if you’re thinking thoughts that are negative about other people or yourself.
When you bring attention to what is going on in your mind, you learn how to be more in control of your feelings and actions. Add to that, this is our human super power as homo sapiens sapiens. We were given a brain that has the ability to think about what we’re thinking about. Choose one of these ten ways and get started using your super power today!!
1. Three Breaths:
Pause wherever you are and count 3 breath cycles. Pay attention as you breath in and breathe out three times. That’s it. (I love doing this at traffic lights.)
2. 30-Second Body Scan:
Start at your toes and move up each part of your body. Pay attention to any tightness or stiffness. Relax those areas. When you get to your face, add a smile to your face and see if you notice a difference.
3. Phone Freedom
Before picking up your phone, ask yourself these two questions: (1) What am I getting on my phone for? (2) For how long will I be on my device? These 2-steps have changed my relationship with my phone and made me and my boys more conscious of our phone use (aka mindful!)
4. Shower Power
Use the time that you’re bathing to pause your mind also. Bring focus to the water on your body and how it feels at that moment. Let your mind rest on the physical sensation of the water on your wonderful body. Over the years I’ve had a tumultuous relationship with my body and I like to use this time to shower it with kindness. Your body is exactly as it’s meant to be. Pieces may not be as pretty as you’d like but use this time to focus on what they do and your gratitude for their efforts.
5. Get Out!
At some point of every single day here on earth, connect with what is happening outside. Feel the air on your face. Look up: What does the sky look like? Look down: What does the ground look like? Be here on this earth at this point in your journey. Whatever the date is on the calendar, this is the only one you’ll get. Choose to consciously connect to what mother nature sent our way.
This is what many think of as mindfulness yet it is one tool in the mindful toolbox. Mindfulness is not synonymous with meditation. You can be mindful without meditating yet meditating will greatly enhance your brain’s ability to pause before reacting.
Think of meditation as a push-up for your mind. The kind of meditation I recommend people start with involves three steps and can be done for as little as 1 minute. Don’t let your brain tell you you don’t have enough time. You have enough time. Don’t let your brain tell you you are doing it wrong. You aren’t. Your mind will wander. That’s what it’s designed to do.
The Three steps:
- Pay attention to your breath as you breathe in and out.
- Note when your mind wanders away from your breath.
- Bring your attention back to your breath kindly; without beating yourself up over it.
The mental push-up occurs between steps 2 and 3, when you direct your mind back to focusing on the present. Do it consistently and watch your brain grow.
If meditation is a push-up for your mind, then journaling is a deep clean of your brain. In meditation we let our thoughts pass by without bringing focus to them. In journaling, we intentionally bring focus to our thoughts.
Think of journaling as a food log for your brain. If you want to lose weight, write down what you’re eating. If you want to become more mindful, write down what you’re thinking about. Set a timer for 3 minutes and bring awareness to what is going on in your mind. Get curious about why you think what you think. Similar to a food log, you get to look at your thoughts and see which thoughts are helping you and which are not. You get to decide if you want to continue to think the way that you’re thinking.
Write out a plan for your day. I could spend an hour speaking of the benefits of writing out what you plan to do and then sticking to your plan; keeping your word to yourself though I will not here. I will say that if you feel overwhelmed or stressed on a weekly basis, I strongly encourage you to start scheduling your days.
You don’t need a fancy calendar or planner. To start, get out a piece of notepaper and write the numbers 6-12 and then 1-12 along the left hand column. Those are the hours of the day. Now start writing: Here are things to include: What time you’ll wake up, go to bed, eat lunch, prepare dinner, exercise, check social media, grocery shop, etc… There are two keys to this:
- Buffer: Give yourself more time than you expect it to take. Your brain will tell you that you can get ready for bed in 3 minutes. Allow 20. Your brain will tell you you can “pop in” to the market for a couple of things. Allow an hour. As humans we underestimate what we can do in a lifetime and overestimate what we can do in a day. Give yourself a buffer.
- Keep Your Word To Yourself. When you say you’ll exercise, use the 5 second rule to go do it. When you tell yourself you’ll check social media at 2 pm and your brain tells you to check at 10 AM, remind it who’s in charge.
At the end of the day, go back with the eye of a kind detective. Look at where you stuck to your schedule and where you didn’t. You’re not allowed to berate yourself here. You are allowed to reflect kindly as you learn about yourself. Look at what you did as if you’re a student of you; learning about you and your tendencies. What distracts you? When did you do what you said you’d do? When did you not do what you said you’d do? What are your main excuses? What do you tell yourself to stick to your schedule? What works for you?
9. MORNING INTENTION:
Start your day conscious and aware of what your day holds and how you’d like it to unfold. We are not in control of what happens in our days but we are always in control of what we think about what happens and how we react to what happens.
At some point before I leave the house, I ask myself how I want to feel when I go to bed tonight. Depending on my day, it could be something along the lines of calm or peaceful or assertive and confident. Throughout the day, I bring myself back to my intention. I remind myself: You want to feel confident; what would confident Susie do? Or, you want to feel peaceful; how would peaceful Mom Susie handle this?
Set specific times in your day when you can pause and be grateful. I have 5 specific examples in my blog podcast that work for me and many clients here. On our podcast last week, Laurie Cameron and I touched on the research done by Richard Davidson of the Center for Healthy Minds at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He shows that it’s possible to train your brain to shift attention toward the prefrontal cortex, where we have greater concentration and self-regulation. By focusing your attention with intention, you activate regions of your brain associated with happiness, belonging, and well-being. With repeated mental exercises (like a gratitude practice!), you gradually condition your mind to tap into joy more often than fear. Conditioning your mind means your mindset can shift from being judgmental, anxious, or uncomfortable, to more appreciative and compassionate. I am such an exhibit that this works, dear warriors. I used to spend a lot of my time in a state in worry, dread, and negativity. Today I spend so little of my time there. Try adding some gratitude to your life and see how you can change your brain.
And voila. Choose one of these ten ways and start being more mindful today. You may choose to think of developing a mindful practice in the same way you may develop an exercise practice. It’s not one and done: you don’t go to a gym once and expect to be in shape. Same thing with mindfulness. You don’t say what you’re grateful for once and achieve emotional stability. Rather, add it to the things you do daily to care for your health and you will feel forever calmer and more peaceful as you go. I like to say that I only exercise on days I want to feel good. I can add to that and say that I only practice mindfulness on days that I want to feel emotionally stable.
Do you already have some mindful practices in your day? What is it? Head to my instagram page and let me know. Or, if you used to do something regularly, like meditate or journal, but stopped, could you also let me know why? Your input helps me help you!!
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