Only 14% of Americans are very happy. Which is a damn shame. We should all be happy and content in our lives. That’s what makes life worth living.
Can you look in the mirror, stare into your eyes, and see happiness staring back? Or do you see stress, exhaustion, and the need to just hide from all your problems?
If you can’t say that you are happy and have it be true, then it’s time to change that. It’s time to break the chains tying you to an unfulfilled life.
But how do we do that? How do we become happier, more productive, more enthusiastic? One of the ways is to practice mindfulness in daily life.
What Exactly is Mindfulness
Mindfulness is about purposefully paying attention to the moment. To not be dredged in the past or worrying about the future.
It’s about enjoying the present and all the little things that make us happy.
Practicing mindfulness every day is about being in the moment fully and enjoying what’s there at that time.
Sylvia Boorstein, an American author, has this to say about mindfulness:
“Mindfulness is the aware, balanced acceptance of the present experience. It isn’t more complicated than that. It is opening to or receiving the present moment, pleasant or unpleasant, just as it is, without either clinging to it or rejecting it.”
Why We Should Practice Mindfulness
- Reduces stress/anxiety
- Reduces depression
- Promotes better sleep
- Alleviates chronic pain
- Regulates emotion
Being mindful in daily life doesn’t just lead to a happier and more fulfilling life. It also leads to a healthier one.
Mindfulness has been linked to reducing anxiety, stress, and depression. It helps alleviate chronic pain and promotes a better quality of sleep.
It can also help treat physical symptoms like heart disease, gastrointestinal problems, and lower blood pressure.
This is particularly interesting because when you reduce stress on the body, it starts functioning at a better performance level. Your brain works harder, your immune system is boosted, and you feel better overall with a more positive outlook.
How to Practice Mindfulness in Daily Life
Mindfulness is a beautiful tool that we should all practice. Now the question is how. How in our busy, busy lives do we learn how to practice mindfulness in daily life?
Society tells us that if we aren’t going, then we are going to fail. We get on the hamster wheel called life and go as fast as we can until we drop from exhaustion.
And with all that going, it’s just never going to happen. You’re never going to learn how to be mindful.
But you’re wrong. Mindfulness should be done both in our downtime and when we are actively doing things throughout the day. It just takes a little practice. Here are 7 tips you can use to practice mindfulness every day.
#1 – Set Intentions
Start with the most essential part of your day. That moment just after you shut off your alarm and sit up in bed.
Take a minute or two to just sit there and set your intentions for the day. Think hard about what would do you the most good and what you would like to accomplish.
No, not the laundry list of honey-do items that you think should be done, but what intention would allow you to feel your best?
Would eating right make you feel your best? What about being nicer or kinder to yourself and others? Staying grounded? Being patient?
Pick one intention for the day, and then write it down somewhere where you will see it often. Then go about your day, and when you feel yourself start to slip, focus on your intentions.
After all, intentions help give yourself a purpose, and with that comes mindfulness.
#2 – Pause and Observe
Take the time to really get in tune with your mind and body. This allows you to have greater control over your mind and emotions, leading to soothing fear and anger quicker. It also gives you an anchor point for your mindfulness.
When you check in to your body, you’re being in the moment. Your body doesn’t care what happened to it 10 minutes ago or what it might be going through an hour from now. Your physical form is always in the present moment so take advantage of that.
Give yourself a couple of minutes to check in with yourself. How are you feeling? Where in your body is that feeling manifesting? Are your thoughts fueling negative emotions or promoting positive ones?
Whatever you are thinking and feeling, accept it. Offer no judgment, no condemnation for what you think and feel. Part of the reason we make ourselves unhappy is that we are so negative on ourselves all the time.
Observing without judgment helps you see patterns that you’d like to promote or change. You can do so without feeling shame or guilt.
#3 – Keep it Short
When starting out, practice mindfulness in bursts. Don’t try to run a marathon without practicing first.
Another way to look at it: practicing mindfulness is like learning a new language. You wouldn’t ever consider yourself fluent in Mandarin or German when you’ve just started out.
New York Times bestselling author Sharon Salzberg and co-founder of the Insight Meditation Society says:
“Mindfulness isn’t difficult. We just need to remember to do it.”
Practicing mindfulness in daily life isn’t difficult. Being in the moment and happy shouldn’t be something to forget. And yet, our brains are wired so that it constantly fails to remember important things.
Instead, it likes to focus on stress and worry, which isn’t good for you or anyone else out in the world.
Mindfulness isn’t hard. It just takes practice.
Even brief moments of mindfulness can help create the foundation for a better life with less stress. Start small and grow from there.
#4 – Slow Down
Have you ever heard that to speed up, you should slow down? It’s not just meant mentally.
Physically slowing down helps your brain do the same. Even just watching something slower allows your brain time to relax.
While playing a matching game that allows you to control the speed of your tiles, play at the fastest speed you can until you feel comfortable. Then switch over to the slowest. You’ll find that your body and mind slow down to match the speed of the tiles.
We as a society have equated rushing with stress, and when we’re stressed, we don’t have time for anything or anyone else. But if we take things at a slower pace, not only do we have time to see the things that we’ve missed, but it helps put priorities into perspective.
We suddenly have time to be more compassionate to others and lend a helping hand. We make more time for ourselves than being in a mad scramble and never seeing that we’re wrecking our bodies and relationships in the process.
It also works on chores. You slow down and find yourself done in no time because you were focusing on the moment.
When we slow down, the little things in life can make themselves known. It helps you make every moment of life enjoyable because you have the time to find something good in the moment.
#5 – Learn to Meditate
Meditation is a topic that people either love or hate, but it can’t be denied that it has its purpose. Meditation is the ultimate form of mindfulness.
It makes you be in the moment by being perfectly still, focusing on only your breath, and perhaps some soft music of guided meditation. Being so still takes such great concentration that you can’t focus on anything but being in the moment.
Don’t worry if you can’t hold onto this stillness and tranquility for long. Like any muscle or skill, it takes time to work up to bigger and bigger numbers.
YouTube has plenty of guided meditation videos ranging in length—so go find one that will help you get started.
#6 – Nothing Time
Take five minutes a day and do nothing. Go sit in a comfy chair or out on the back porch and enjoy the day.
Don’t take your phone or anything else that might distract you. Just sit there and do nothing.
It sounds easy, right? You’d be wrong.
Society has taught us that we should be doing something every minute of every day. If we aren’t doing anything, then we should feel guilty about all the free time on our hands. Taking time to ourselves to do nothing shouldn’t make us feel that way.
Nothing time allows our minds to wander or to notice all the beautiful things that we’ve skipped over in our race to be busy bees. Allow yourself time to enjoy and be fully in the moment.
Who knows, you might find you like it.
#7 – Stay Present
Staying present is the cornerstone of mindfulness and should not be forgotten or ignored. That being said, it is something that can and should be practiced daily.
Focus on the moment and not on all the distractions around you. Be in tune with what you’re feeling and what your senses are telling you.
If you’re sitting down to a meal, do not immediately pick up your phone and start scrolling through social media. Put it aside and spend a bit of time focusing on your food.
What does it smell like? Is the taste sweet, sour, creamy? What textures are there? How does it feel when you swallow? Even focus on the sound of your fork hitting the plate.
This could be done for any number of activities, including chores, bathing, driving, you name it!
Thich Nhat Hanh, a Buddhist monk, brings up an exciting way of looking at staying present and enjoying life:
“Drink your tea slowly and reverently, as if it is the axis on which the world earth revolves—slowly, evenly, without rushing toward the future; live the actual moment. Only this moment is life.”
Take the time to savor each thing you do without immediately thinking about the next thing on your honey-do list.
That’s All, Folks!
We think that it’s our lives that need improving when it’s really just us. We need to stop trying to distract ourselves from a life that’s ours to live. Because when we are distracted from life, we aren’t really living it, now are we?
Learning how to practice mindfulness in daily life helps us live happier and more fulfilled lives. We should continue to practice mindfulness until it becomes a habit. Be consciously aware that you’re turning mindfulness into something you do without a second thought.
By focusing on each task that comes throughout your day, these tasks go by faster than if we decided to do and think a million different things in the process.
Mindfulness gives us a chance to catch our breath in the never-ending rush to get things done.