Slow down, tune-in, and create a more mindful life with these starting points
Living mindfully isn’t always easy, especially in this fast-paced world where we can feel like we are always switched on. But, there are techniques we can use to help us relax and be more present in our lives.
As a mindfulness meditation teacher, I help people become aware of their internal world (their thoughts, and emotions), and their external world (what is going on around them).
While there is no quick fix to mindful living – it’s a state of awareness that takes time and practice – there are habits you can add to your daily routine to help you live more mindfully. From meditation to gratitude, here are my top five tips for building a life rooted in mindfulness.
Create a meditation practice
For many people, mindful living starts with meditation as it teaches us to become aware of what’s going on in our mind and body, and in the world around us. If you make meditation part of your everyday life, not only will you feel calmer, but it will also encourage you to live in the here and now.
An easy way to build a meditation practice is to embrace the method of habit stacking. Make a cup of tea every morning? Try meditating while you wait for the kettle to boil. Commute to work via train every day? Take this time to practise breathwork. This might sound small, but it can have a big impact on your wellbeing, and set you up for the day.
Go for a mindful walk
While meditation is a gateway to mindfulness, it’s not the only way to be more present in your day. If a focused meditation practice feels inaccessible for you right now, try going for a mindful walk instead. As you walk, tune-in to your senses one by one. Think about what you can hear, see, smell, feel, and taste. It could be the feeling of the sun on your skin, or the sounds of dogs playing nearby. Leave your headphones at home so you can really be present in the moment. When you unplug, you might even start to see your local area in a whole new light.
In recent years, research has shown us just how powerful a gratitude practice can be. One study, published in Psychotherapy Research, found that those who wrote gratitude letters to other people in their lives over the course of three weeks were happier in the weeks following than those who didn’t pen letters. What’s more, people who practise gratitude also sleep better! Yes, that’s right. Another study, published in the Journal of Psychosomatic Research, found that sleep quality was related to what was on our minds, and when we’re in a state of gratitude, and embracing the positives in life, we are more likely to fall asleep faster, sleep for longer, and have better quality sleep.
So, why not try practising gratitude by thinking or writing down three things or three people you are grateful for each day? It could do wonders for your wellbeing, and help you live more mindfully.
Leading mindfulness practitioner Jon Kabat-Zinn defines mindfulness as an “awareness that arises through paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally”. This is what the practice is all about. Training ourselves to consciously become aware of our experiences, and accepting them without judgement. Of course, life can be difficult at times, and sometimes challenges come our way, but by living mindfully we can learn to observe those experiences, accept them for what they are, and then act upon them with resilience, rather than reacting impulsively.
So, next time you are faced with a difficult situation or a challenge in your life, see if you can turn inward. Ask yourself: How am I feeling right now? What has made me feel this way? How is my body reacting to this challenge? Am I tense?
Check-in with yourself
Now we know that mindfulness is a state of awareness that comes from taking small steps that make a big difference, try to embrace mindfulness techniques in everything you do. Make bringing yourself into the present moment a part of your everyday life. It could be as simple as every time you get an email, taking three deep breaths before you open it. It could be checking in with how you are feeling today by doing a quick body scan on your morning train commute. Or, it could be practising mindful eating during lunch, eating slowly, listening to your hunger cues, and knowing when you need to fuel your body. Your journey starts now.