GUEST BLOG BY CATHERINE BEARD – ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED ON THE BLISSFUL MIND
Meditation and mindfulness are becoming increasingly mainstream these days, and it seems like the cure for practically anything is sitting down, closing your eyes, and trying to be at peace with your thoughts. We all know how important it is for us to slow down and be more present in our day-to-day lives, but it’s just so easy to forget about being mindful on a regular basis.
Sure, you might have days where you are really in-tune with your surroundings and thoughts, and you’re feeling more grateful and appreciative than usual for your own blessings (this is especially true in light of the recent tragedies in Paris, Baghdad, and Beirut), but it’s difficult to train yourself to be constantly aware of the current moment.
I think it’s safe to say that no one is ever going to be present 100% of the time, but there are a few ways you can sneak mindfulness into your everyday, hustlin’-and-bustlin’ life without having to meditate or talking to a Buddhist monk.
But before we get into the tips, let’s talk a little bit about mindfulness.
WHAT IS MINDFULNESS? HOW DO YOU BE PRESENT?
a mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations, used as a therapeutic technique.
When I was first learning to drive, my stepdad told me that his driving instructor made him say every little thing he was doing out loud, like ‘turning on my blinker to turn right‘ or ‘slowing down at the stop sign.’ While I don’t advise doing that regularly unless you want to drive the passenger in your car crazy, the point is to make you completely aware of your actions as you’re doing them.
Being in the present moment means you’re experiencing life as it’s happening, which includes paying attention to your thoughts and feelings, what other people are doing and saying, and what’s going on around you both obviously and maybe more subtly. You’re not worrying about what’s happening at work tomorrow or what’s on your to-do list.
Sometimes when I’m laying in bed and worrying about tomorrow, or next week (or next year for crying out loud), I start asking myself about my surroundings to bring me back to earth.
Where am I? Under the sheets, in my bedroom, in my apartment.
What do they feel like? Warm and cozy and perfect.
Are there any noises? The footsteps of the elephants who live above me.
Am I feeling anything in particular? A little restless and anxious about tomorrow.
It’s weird to start observing every detail around you because it just seems…obvious and uninteresting. But rarely do we take a moment to fully pay attention to the little things.
Why be mindful?
Being mindful helps you to slow down and quit rushing through your days; to actually pay attention to what others are saying when they’re talking instead of half listening; to stop waiting for the week to be over and dreaming about your next vacation (although sometimes that’s totally acceptable in my eyes). But I’d rather not spend my days waiting for them to be over, ya know?
It also helps you to stop dwelling on the past and wondering how things might have gone differently if you’d have done x, y, and z another way. By staying present, you can make the little moments more enjoyable and memorable, and you’re going to start appreciating life more.
7 SIMPLE WAYS TO BE MORE PRESENT
Now that we know what it means to be mindful and the benefits of being present, the tricky part is remembering to be present. And once you do remember, it’s not likely that you’ll be able to do it 24/7. The good news is there are a few simple things you do throughout the day to add a dose of mindfulness into your life.
Savor Your Morning Cup
In the morning with your cup of tea or coffee, try to take even a minute to appreciate the smell, the warmth, and the taste. I know I’m guilty of downing my coffee while checking emails and before I know it, I’m left with an empty cup and I didn’t get to savor any of it. Appreciate your morning cup without distractions or trying to multi-task so you can start your day slower and with a little more intention.
Eat Without Distractions
On that same note, something that can make a huge difference in your state of mind and also your relationship with food is to eat without distractions. It’s hard not to eat lunch without watching a YouTube video or scrolling through Facebook, so sometimes I leave my phone in another room while I take my lunch break and focus on what I’m eating instead.
After all, I don’t want to spend all that time making myself a meal just to wolf it down in 2 minutes and miss all of that deliciousness. P.S. Did you know you should let a square of dark chocolate melt on your tongue to really get all of the flavors out of it? Dark chocolate is the perfect food to help you get more mindful 😉
Use Essential Oils
During the work day, I love to add a few drops of essential oil to a diffuser to keep my desk area more enjoyable. Lavender essential oil is my go-to for staying relaxed, but an aromatherapy roll-on is also perfect for awakening your senses and reminding you to focus on what you’re trying to accomplish. Many of us try to get our projects and presentations done as soon as possible, but remember to enjoy the creative process, appreciate what you’re learning and ask how you could improve your work.
Take Regular Walks
Are you guys tired of me suggesting you go on walks yet? I swear it’s the cure for so many different woes. But in order to get the most out of this time, you have to leave the phone at home. Even though I love listening to music while walking, I often feel tempted to check my phone and then I basically spend the whole walk on my phone and I might as well not have gone on a walk in the first place. Go for a walk and listen to the birds chirping, look up at the airplanes and make up stories about the passengers’ lives, and let yourself be content with the way things are.
Appreciate Your Workouts
You know when you’re exercising and you can’t stop waiting for that moment for it to be over? Like, while you’re running you’re thinking, ‘WHY WHY WHY I hate this, only 2 more miles to go,’ but then when you’re done you’re all, ‘I LOVE RUNNING.’ The feeling afterward is SO much better than the process, right?
But I don’t want to spend 30 minutes hating what I’m doing, so try shifting your mindset to get a little more appreciative about the amazing things your body can do (even if it’s not all that flexible or agile, be proud of what you can do, sista). While working out, stay focused on the moves and exactly what your body is doing, even through the struggles.
And if you’re doing yoga, take advantage of that Savasana at the end. A workout that lets you lie down and practically take a nap when you’re done? That’s the absolute best way to be mindful. Don’t rush through that, okay?
Take A Bath
This probably isn’t something you’d want to do every day, but make it part of your #selfcaresunday and treat yourself to a bath. It’s basically one of the best ways to get away from everything and focus on the present moment – the warmth of the water, the quietness, the lack of distractions. And if you’re not a bath person, a shower is one of the most underappreciated times to be mindful. I mean, you get that time all to yourself to lather up, hash out all of your problems, pretend you’re Adele singing Hello…that is some precious time right there. Soak it all up (ha-ha, bath joke).
Reflect On Your Day
In the evening, our minds can become a pile of mush after spending the whole day rushing around and waiting for it to be over (if you’re not being mindful, eh?). To start being more present during your evenings, try one of these ways to relax after work that don’t involve Netflix and why not start a night routine that helps you wind down and stop thinking about the next day.
In order to settle down before bed, I usually light a candle and spend a few minutes writing in my One Line A Day Journal. This way, I can reflect on what happened during the day and it gives me time to think about what I’m grateful for. When you’re reflecting on your day, try not to think about what went wrong or what you need to do tomorrow. Give yourself the time to focus on what went well and anything that made you laugh, inspired an idea, or piqued your curiosity. Write those things down because those are often the parts of life that get forgotten first.
And lastly, to make sure you don’t forget about everything I just told you, keep a sticky note in a place you’ll see if often that says:
The Blissful Mind is your guide to being the calmest, healthiest, most productive version of yourself. Whether you’re trying to slow down, de-stress, or feel more content, Catherine is there to help make life a little less complicated. Follow Catherine and The Blissful Mind on Instragram, Pinterest and Twitter.