how to incorporate mindfulness into your life
About 6 years ago I was introduced to the concept of mindfulness when I started practicing yoga. It was something I did not completely understand how to incorporate into my life but over time and through constant practice, mindfulness has become a way of living.
Mindfulness is traditionally a Buddhist practice which has now been adopted into the Western society. The overarching purpose of mindfulness is understanding the inner workings of the mind so that we can begin to free it of the clutter, thoughts and concerns that make us operate in a certain way, influence our feelings, and govern our reactions.
Mindfulness is also a useful way to live in the moment by paying more attention to our surroundings, listening to the sensations in our body, reducing our anxiety and taking us out of out head. This age-old Eastern practice is now being introduced into Western Medicine to help with mental health, and beat anxiety and depression.
Our minds are there to be challenged and altered. This allows us to retrain our mind and reframe our thoughts and concerns so they are helpful rather than chaotic. The ultimate starting point for me was learning the meaning of self compassion and how to balance my thoughts.
How has mindfulness changed my life?
Learning to enjoy the little moments - before starting to practice mindfulness I would always be thinking about the future, what was coming next, like when would I get married? Have babies? Get a promotion? Even while I was working out I would already be thinking about my next session. All this did was take me away from the present moment and create chaotic thoughts. It left me feeling empty and miss the little things like how delicious my dinner was, or how special it was to be feeling the sun on my skin. Mindfulness has allowed me to be in the present moment and enjoy the journey, because the reality is, the little things are what makes life special!
Manage my stress and anxiety - When we become attached to our thoughts we create internal conflict and are faced with emotions such as anger, confusion, aversion, and worry that can lead to stress and anxiety. Mindfulness allows me to free myself of these conflicting thoughts and become the observer. . It is a way I can let go of thoughts of judgment, lack of self-worth, the need to achieve perfection and what I think other expect of me.
Listen to my body - you only have one body right, so why should we always put it through so much stress and never listen to what it is telling us it needs? For years I did just that. When I started to listen to my thoughts I was also able to listen to my body and notice when it had had enough and when I was pushing it too far. This has helped me overcome some health obstacles and truly relax rather than push.
Improve my relationships - Yep, when we are not mindful or present in our relationship, whether they are with your partner or friends or family they can start to suffer. Mindfulness has helped me to stop, take a breath, and be there in each conversation, with each touch and with each tear. This has brought me the closer, deeper, and more valued bonds that I cherish today.
Find balance and contentment - If you spoke to me 7 years ago you would have noticed I had no balance and I was someone who was always “chasing the wind”. My life was ruled by restrictions and control. What I now realise was those “healthy restrictions” covered up an extremely unhealthy. When I become aware of the thoughts that drove me, and noticed that the restrictions only created more chaos in my mind and body, I can began to trust myself ,and let go of the need to compare myself with other. From this, I was able to let go and find that balance and contentment.
How you can start practicing mindfulness?
These are some things you can do to bring more mindfulness into your life.
Notice your thoughts - the average human can have between 50 to 70 thousand thoughts a day. Most of these thoughts are one that we can play on repeat. Notice when your mind is wandering and creating a story out of your thoughts. Acknowledge this and try let go of the story before it manifests into anxiety and stress. When you notice your thoughts dominating your mind, close your eyes and take three deep, slow, long breaths. Count to 5 for the in and count back to 5 for the out. With each breath imagine your thoughts fading, changing and drifting away.
Be aware of your daily routine - that is eat mindfully, notice how you brush your teeth, and become aware of your surroundings.
Breathing, meditation and/or yoga - Breathing exercises, meditation and yoga all slow down the mind, make you aware of your thoughts and engage the sympathetic nervous system to relax and reset the body.
Limit your screen time - I’m not going to sit here and write that I switch off my phone after 10 and stop looking at social media, because that is just a lie, but I will tell you that when I am around my friends and family I try not look at my phone. Pick a time of day or a period of time, for example at the dinner table, that you put your phone in another room so that you can take the time to be present. Doing that helps you be there in that particular moment. No distractions.