You’ve heard about mindfulness, and you’re anxious that it means that you’ll have to start meditating. Maybe your doctor told you that stress is killing you, and you’ve heard that mindfulness is a stress management technique. Possibly, you’ve noticed that your daily life has started to float past you; without any remarkable memories and with little joy, while you’re consumed with worrying about the future. Maybe three people mentioned mindfulness to you at your last get-together, and you just can’t ignore the coincidence any more.
Most of us have heard the term, mindfulness, and while it’s widespread enough that you know you don’t have to join the hipster crowd, or change your life in a big way. You might not be sure whether it fits into your life, and whether it will be helpful to you at all. You’ve likely heard the word mindfulness and meditation in the same context, and that can sound like the most daunting, hard to reach part. The good news is, you don’t have to meditate to be mindful. AND, bonus: mindfulness WILL improve how you experience life.
Mindfulness has been linked to improved sleep quality, stronger relationships, and less stress headaches. Here are seven steps to help you find meaning amidst your world of to-do lists.
Mindfulness just means awareness, or being conscious. Mindfulness can simply start with making a choice to take a breath, and just …noticing. That means noticing your surroundings, your breath, your internal sensations. You can do this all day long, and the easiest way to start is small, while you’re already calm, maybe after the next period that you reach in this article. It’s a choice to be in the present. Both nature and the physical sensations of the body are great touchstones–sensations to focus on and pull your thoughts away from future stress and past regrets.
Use tools like alpha-wave music. Alpha wave music stimulates the brain waves that actually make you more relaxed and focused, aka alpha waves. Google yourself some alpha wave music, and give it a go for ten minutes before you go to bed, and again, notice whether your creativity or restfulness increases. It’s an easy mind “hack” that doesn’t require a skill or practice.
Mindfulness can be helpful all day long. At any moment. During anything. Mindfulness is about being exactly where you are right now. Showering, dancing, eating, fighting, driving, awkward, uncomfortable social situations–all of it. Use your five senses. Scan your body. Notice your mood. Where do you feel your mood? What does breathing feel like? Bringing this awareness, this brief pause, to the agitated moments, gives you a powerful moment BEFORE you act, and over time, might change the outcomes of your behavior, or how you react emotionally.
Eating is a great time to practice mindfulness. Taking a brief pause before you eat can give you space to consider whether you are acting on body signals, or environmental stress. Taking the time to notice whether you’re full, or are eating to the bottom of the bag. This isn’t the time to judge yourself for your behavior. Observing the taste, the temperature, the textures, and even who made it for you make it a richer experience.
Sleep is your best way to prepare for the day. There are tools and apps to improve the quality of your sleep, and monitor whether that improves the quality of your mood, your cravings, and your emotional stamina. Guard your sleep hours mindfully, and be intentional about a sleep routine, like you would guard a child or precious possession, and reap the health benefits.
Keep it short. You will always hear the word practice when people talk about mindfulness. That’s because no one starts off being good at it, and no one can do it for long hours. In fact, your body will make great use of learning almost any new skill in short bursts. Persistence is your secret ally in all things.
Don’t let meditation scare you. Yes, you could go on a retreat. You could look for meetups or even mediation centers that have open meditation hour, in which they welcome guests, in most cities. Alternatively, you could also just set your alarm, and try five minutes tomorrow. Each time you have a thought, just notice that you’re breathing. That’s it. You can set a challenge with a friend to see how many times you meditated this morning. You could join a free app-based community. You could listen to a guided meditation on Youtube. Whatever motivates you, and makes it the easiest way to fit it into your life.