What is Mindfulness?

Nathan Perkins • May 17, 2019

5 Tips to Living More Mindfully

Most of us move through our day lost in thought, whether it’s on the past, the future, or the kind of negative self-talk that results in worry and anxiety. The problem is that, when we’re living inside our heads in this way, we’re not really living at all. At least, we’re not living well.

To put it very simply, mindfulness is paying attention on purpose. When we are mindful, we are fully attentive on the present and we bring more awareness to all that we do. Being mindful is also about living without judgement and being able to maintain a mindful state, both of which make mindfulness trickier than it first may seem.

The human mind tends to wander, and for many of us, getting lost in our thoughts is a type of comfort zone. It’s also habitual and habits are difficult to break. Which means living more mindfully is going to require diligence and constant awareness of our thoughts, if only to let them go and return to the present moment.

Why should you live more mindfully?

Living mindfully has far-reaching benefits – physically, mentally, and emotionally. When we live with more awareness on the present moment, we increase our abilities to cope with life’s struggles and we’re better able to regulate our emotions. But it’s the reduction in stress and the improved state of relaxation that has powerful trickle-down effects, including:

  • Improved cognitive abilities
  • Increased immune function
  • Lower blood pressure
  • Improved concentration and focus
  • Less anxiety and depression
  • Increased feelings of connectedness
  • Improved general health
  • Internal calmness
  • Increased joy and happiness

Let’s look at mindful eating as an example. Eating mindfully means experiencing our food more fully – the taste, texture, even the sounds. When we eat more mindfully, we enjoy our food so much more. How many of us are distracted when we eat? How many of us sit down to eat and then suddenly our food is gone, and we can’t recall getting much enjoyment from the experience?

Sadly, this is normal. However, besides the increase in enjoyment we get when our minds are squarely on our food, there are numerous other benefits that include eating less, eating slower, improved digestion, and so forth.

How to live more mindfully

Until you break old habits and new habits are able to form, you’ll have to rely on constant awareness to stay mindful. And that begins with …

1. CONTROL YOUR THOUGHTS

You cannot be mindful and lost in your head. When you feel yourself slipping into day-dreaming or self-talk, break out of it with a strong internal shout to yourself. The problem is that within a couple minutes, your mind will likely stray off again, which means this process could be laborious. But what’s the alternative? Missing real-life moments that you can’t get back.

2. INCREASE YOUR AWARENESS

Yes, you need to be aware in general, but you can also increase this awareness by using your senses more. When walking, feel the weight of your body, how the ground feels under your feet, the chill or warmth in the air, how the sun or wind feels against your skin. What sounds do you hear? What smells do you notice?

Your senses are what allows you to live mindfully, so use them regardless of what you’re doing.

3. FOCUS ON YOUR BREATH

Your breath is the one constant you can always rely on to help return you to the present moment. The truth is that there is always something on our minds. The quickest way to drown out those thoughts and return your awareness to the present is to focus on your breath. Breathe in deeply, use your senses to experience it fully, and then exhale just as deeply and repeat. Whenever you feel yourself drifting away, use your breath to tether you to the here and now.

4. PRACTICE MEDITATION

Meditation and mindfulness are obviously linked. The big difference is that living mindfully is meant to be a 24/7 pursuit, while meditation is typically 30 – 60 minutes a day. Meditation is also a bit harder, as there’s nothing else to focus on except your breath, which makes getting out of your head more difficult. However, if you can manage to quiet your mind during meditation, you’re well on your way to breaking old habits, establishing new ones, and being more present in your day-to-day.

5. PRACTICE GRATITUDE

When we’re focused on things we’re grateful for, we’re naturally present. Expressing thanks for things that we’re grateful for also helps to make us aware of the things in our lives that make us happy. However, gratitude has its own set of benefits that have been well studied and documented and which closely mirror those you get from practicing mindfulness.

People watching is another great way to live more mindfully. Whatever you can do to get outside yourself and observe and experience life more fully is going to contribute to mindful living. But remember that this is a process and one that may take some time to develop into a routine and habit.

Living mindfully may just be the key to living our most healthy and happy lives. And as Andy Puddicombe tells us in this TED Talk, all it takes to begin is 10 mindful minutes.