There’s been a lot of hype around the term mindfulness. Apparently it’s one of the top trending words of 2014 and it seems that everybody and their dog has jumped on the mindfulness bandwagon. But what does it mean, exactly, to be mindful? Does it mean you have to meditate like a Buddhist monk or turn into a raw-food vegan?
Mindfulness is essentially about not allowing life to pass you by in a blur. It’s about not reaching the weekend or the end of the month (or year) and looking back and not being able to remember the highlights, the lowlights, or anything in between. It’s about remembering to be aware of the journey through life, even the little things. (Especially the little things!)
We've all become participants (victims?) of social media, experiencing both major and minor life events through the lens of a tablet/iPhone/Android in order to upload the photos/videos onto Facebook/Twitter/Pinterest.
If you, like me, want to live a more mindful existence, but don’t want to have to change drastically in order to do so, here are 5 easy ways that you can incorporate mindfulness into your daily life.
1. Chew your food.
This may seem incredibly basic and boring, but in my practice I have seen many people who suffer from indigestion, bloating, constipation or a variety of other digestive issues, simply because they were eating too quickly. My advice? Chill Out. Turn off your gadgets. Sit down at a table and enjoy your meal. Not only will this reduce the acid reflux you may get from wolfing down a plate that you barely tasted, but it will also allow you to actually appreciate your meal. Eating and chewing slowly forces you to eat mindfully.
2. Breathe deeply on purpose.
This is also another basic technique, but we're all victims of shallow breathing (i.e. short rapid breaths that only expand the upper chest rather than engaging our diaphragms for deep belly breaths). Although breathing is a very unconscious act, starting to be conscious of it will not only help your blood circulation (and stress levels and posture and energy) but it’s another simple way of being present and mindful.
3. Stop and smell the roses.
Literally and figuratively. There have been so many times that I’ve sped past a yard or park with gorgeous flowers and my thoughts went something like this:
Oh wow, what gorgeous flowers ... Flour ... Damn, need gluten-free flour from the grocery store ...
If you're like me, stop. That grocery list can wait 30 seconds. Your life will not end if you actually stop to smell those flowers. Or pet that dog. Or smile at that child. Or sit on that park bench. Enjoy the simple things, stop sweating the small stuff, and pat yourself on the back for spending those few seconds (or minutes) being mindful.
4. Don’t be afraid to say no.
FOMO, or the fear of missing out, is what drives us to go to those parties when all we really want to do is lie in bed with a book, or get into our jammies and watch Breaking Bad. Stop and take a moment to figure out why you want to go to that party/bar/birthday/event and ask yourself if it’s just that you're afraid of missing out or being alone. Ask yourself if you'd rather be doing something else.
Guess what? That thing you’re doing by checking in with yourself is being mindful. Staying present in your decisions, being aware of the impetus behind those decisions ... that’s what being present and mindful is all about. Don’t let life sweep you along by making decisions based on habit or avoidance. Take responsibility for your choices and be present while making them.
5. Find a hobby.
"Meditating" is this big scary word that automatically makes people think I can’t do that. Meditation is not necessarily confined to sitting on a cushion, forming a mudra with your hands, and observing your thoughts. Meditation comes in all forms, and hobbies that you enjoy are probably among the best forms of meditation. Remember what it was that you loved to do when you were six years old? Pick it up and re-discover it. Make it a priority during your free time. Getting lost in your music/poetry/writing/yoga/sketching is an excellent way to be present and mindful.