Mindfulness has become a bit of a buzz word in the personal development space. And as happens with many buzzwords, that means it runs the risk of being misunderstood or misused. And when that’s the case, you might miss out on a lot of value for how mindfulness can greatly improve your life.
What comes to mind when you think mindfulness?
Common answers might be: to be present, and to be consciously aware of the present.
I’m sure you can agree that it’s a very valuable skill to be able to focus on the present. It’s the only moment that is truly ours. The past is gone, the future hasn’t happened yet.
But so many of us struggle to be truly present. And many of us don’t even realize how bad we are at it!
It’s also easy to miss just how much mindfulness can help you with controlling the narrative you’ve written for your life.
There’s a big gap between understanding the word mindfulness, and truly knowing how to use it as a tool in daily life. And that’s what I hope to help teach you in this post!
So let’s start with the basics.
What is Mindfulness?
Mindfulness is a focus on being intensely aware of what you’re sensing and feeling in the moment, without interpretation or judgement.
It’s about awareness & acceptance of your current experience WITHOUT rushing to evaluate/label/provide commentary on it. In other words, notice more, objectively sit with what you noticed, and take overthinking out of the picture.
Mindfulness is also:
- A tool that strengthens your ability to focus your attention & your awareness on what you CHOOSE, not on your conditioned habits
- Full conscious awareness of whatever thoughts, feelings, or emotions are flowing through your mind and body
- A powerful tool to gain relief from anxiety, stress, depression, exhaustion, and physical pain
- A powerful tool to understand how the mind works, and how it is connected to the body
What Mindfulness is Not
Mindfulness is not inherently religious or spiritual.
It’s not meant to be used as a tool to fully “detach” from the world or ignore any future consequences.
It’s not a way to clear the mind of all thoughts whatsoever, especially negative thoughts.
And it’s not just about learning how to meditate, practice breath work, or do yoga.
How Mindfulness Can Greatly Improve Your Life
Every aspect of life can be used to increase mindfulness.
Once you understand this, it comes down to finding what works for you, what resonates with you, and what helps you notice positive impacts on your ability to remain present, aware & kind to yourself no matter what emotions or feeling arrive.
When practiced regularly, you’ll notice benefits in all areas of your life.
To name a few…mindfulness can help you:
- Improve your relationship with yourself
- Enhance your body’s functioning — healing, immune response, and general sense of physical well being
- Relieve stress
- Improve your sleep quality
- Reduce chronic pain
- Strengthen your relationship with others
- Improve your mental health
- Reduce emotional reactivity
- Improve your ability to focus on the tasks at hand
Get started today! 8 Mindfulness tools to help transform your life
Now that you’ve learned what mindfulness is and how it benefits your life, let’s start to look at some tools you can turn to to help make mindfulness a part of your daily life.
1. Mindful movement:
The next time you exercise, pay attention to the sensations in your body. It’s that simple!
2. Try a body scan:
Similar to mindful movement, starting with your head, scan your entire body for various sensations in particular tension/tightness.
Notice if your breathing is shallow, if your jaw is clenched, if your forehead is tense, if your chest is tight. These are all signs of some emotion or feeling that you are holding within the body and that may benefit from being released.
Visualization may sound counterintuitive to the goal of mindfulness (to stay aware and focused on the present, without judgement).
However, it is a valuable tool that can be used to navigate the feelings and emotions you recognize whilst being present.
Adding visualization exercises to your mindfulness practice can help you drive your brain where you want it to go. (Check out this article for some specific examples)
4. Mindful eating
When you eat, your food should be your primary focus. Slow down, don’t rush. Pay attention to your body’s cues. Use all your senses to become fully immersed in the experience & to enjoy every bite.
Here are some mindful eating tips you can check out.
5. Breath work:
Pretty much every emotion or feeling that you experience day to day can be controlled through breathing. It’s so simple, yet so powerful to focus on your breathing, yet it’s often so overlooked. Here is a great article to introduce you to some breath work exercises.
6. Follow a guided meditation:
Good news for you — if you just can’t seem to get into meditation, that’s okay. In my view, it’s not a pre-requisite for a mindfulness practice since I truly believe that a variety of tools are helpful, but the MOST important factor is picking what works for you. That said, I do find some value in following a guided meditation for those stressful life moments where you just can’t seem to get out of your own head or relax. There are a ton of great options to make it super easy to try meditation. Search on YouTube, or try out one of these Mindfulness Apps:
7. Mindful Walks:
You walk every day (I hope), but how often do you get lost in your thoughts? How often do you think about that big assignment you have coming up for school, or about your ex from 6 months ago and whether or not they’ve moved on? These days due to technology, a lot of people also walk with headphones on more often than not (guilty, at times), fully immersed in a digital world and on autopilot in our physical surroundings. The next time you go for a walk, whether a route you routinely take or in an entirely new place, make a point to notice a new detail in your surroundings.
A personal favorite of mine as I love writing (in case you couldn’t tell).
Take 2-5 minutes to just write down what is going on inside your head — whether positive or negative. If you need more guidance into getting into a journaling habit, check out my free guide for inspiration below.
There you have it — how mindfulness can greatly improve your life and how to get started. Small, seemingly insignificant steps are always the way to get started. But I know it can feel like a challenge to go from knowing to doing.
So tell me — what do you struggle with the most when it comes to being present?