In a world where most of us feel driven to make the most of every moment, the art of mindfulness has become increasingly popular – if not downright essential. Studies show that being mindful improves your ability to focus, helps you stop worrying, and improves your satisfaction levels. For all of those reasons, more and more people are plugging into life using mindfulness techniques. Why don’t you give it a try?
What is mindfulness?
Mindfulness is a psychological process that helps us to live in the moment. It’s the practice of avoiding life’s usual distractions and calming our own anxieties, emotions and stresses, so we can fully experience what is happening around us. As a life skill, it’s a nifty one to possess, enabling us to make the most of each day.
So how can you improve your ability to be mindful in a way that fits in with your busy life? Here are seven simple ways.
1. Practice being grateful
Bad days can be salvaged if you can find something to be thankful for. Keeping a ‘Grateful Journal’ is a good way to consciously think about the acts or moments during the day that make you feel thankful. The things you’re grateful for don’t have to be momentous, and you don’t have to write them down in a gilt-edge diary (notes on your phone will do just fine) – but you do need to keep them fresh. Focus on different events, occurrences, or rituals that make you feel grateful. Small things can accumulate, and have a major impact on your happiness.
2. Look for benefits when things go wrong
When something unexpected happens, and life doesn’t go according to plan, your ability to adapt and learn from the experience can only benefit you – both in your personal life and at work. Being mindful helps you stop dwelling on what hasn’t happened, freeing you up to re-evaluate what it is you want and why.
3. Counteract fear with positive action
Fear can be debilitating, but when you are mindful, you can recognise how fear is shaping how you feel, and the choices you’re making. Fear also has physical consequences, impacting on your ability to relax, focus, and even sleep. Counter fear with positive thoughts and action. Start small (‘I can do this’) and build up to little actions, like investigating new job options if it’s a career change you’re after. You can even use psychological techniques like Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT) where you tap your finger repeatedly on a meridian point and think affirmatively. The process of tapping helps relieve your stress, and pulls you back into the moment, so you can be more mindful of what’s happening – and take control of it.
4. Nurture yourself
If you want to make the most of each day, you need to look after yourself first and foremost. Whether you’re juggling a family, a career or studies, you can’t fully embrace it if you’re off your A-game. So nurture yourself. “Yoga is a great way of keeping your body and mind fit,” says Lily Mason from Lily Mason Yoga, based in regional Victoria. “The breathing techniques you learn are readily transferable. You might not choose to do a downward facing dog posture in your office when you need to stay in the moment, but you can do the breathing without anyone even noticing.”
5. Acknowledge and repeat your positive actions
Don’t just be accountable for your mistakes, acknowledge the good decisions you made along the way as well. Repeat those actions when you need them. When you’re being bombarded with deadlines at work and university, remember that you’ve already been brave once – when you first decided you needed to begin, change, or cement your career – so you’re capable of being brave again. Learning to push through is a great life skill, which you’ll use again and again.
6. Accept that life can be messy
Despite your best efforts, there’ll be times when life is messy beyond your control. But in times of chaos, you’ve got the opportunity to practice and strengthen important life skills, such as keeping calm under pressure, time management, patience, and listening to others. Try to live in the moment, and remind yourself that if you take it one moment at a time, you’ll find your way out eventually. What’s more, if you change your perception of stress, you’re less likely to find yourself overwhelmed when life gets hectic.
7. Do nothing for 15 minutes a day
Some people say 2 minutes is key, some say 10 minutes (see Andy Puddicombe’s Ted Talk), but however long you can manage – you’re doing a positive thing for your blood pressure. No talking, no TV, no scrolling through your device. Just do nothing. It’s counterintuitive when you are trying to make the most of each day, but doing nothing can actually make every other moment of your day more effective by giving you much-needed reboot time. Why not give it a try? You might be surprised by the outcome, and be motivated to incorporate it into your daily routine.