To be more mindful means to be more aware – more tuned into – and accepting of your thoughts, feelings, and actions in the present moment. But too often, mostly out of habit, we simply go through life doing things mechanically, or mindlessly.
Have you ever driven by your exit on the freeway, or eaten something and couldn’t remember if you did, or gone into a room to get something and left without it?
These are all acts of mindlessness. No, we’re not losing our minds or getting old. It’s just that our minds are so filled with ‘noises’ of the day that doing things without thinking about them seems to save energy for the things that require extra thought and effort.
However, studies have shown that clearing your mind, focusing on one thing at a time, and creating a habit of being in the present moment at all times will dramatically increase your energy, health, mood, well-being, and overall enjoyment of life.
Aside from those powerful benefits, being mindful or ‘in the present moment’ awakens you to many things you otherwise would miss as you go throughout your busy day.
To heighten your level of mindfulness, try these simple activities.
Activity #1: “Open Your Eyes”
Slowly look around the room you are in, taking in everything with your eyes. While you notice the objects in the room, hone in on the things that are red. Write down 10 things that have the color red in them.
When you have identified 10 items with red, answer the following questions:
- What does it take to be aware of something?
- How did having a specific thing to look for change your mindset?
- Give an example of something you started seeing all the time once you became conditioned to seeing it?
- How does ‘finding what you are looking for’ apply to your business or personal life?
- What are some visual triggers that have challenged your level of awareness?
While going through your day, deliberately notice and acknowledge the things you see.
It may sound like this:
- “The leaves on the trees are so vibrant.”
- “The water glistens as the sun reflects off of it.”
- “The mountains are hazy today behind the clouds.”
- “My lunch is perfectly balanced on my plate.”
- “The sofa brings out the blue in that picture.”
- “My socks are slightly different shades of black.”
Activity #2 – “The Sounds Around You”
Get to a place where you can sit, get comfortable and be uninterrupted for one minute.
Close your eyes and listen to your surroundings, noticing the sounds you hear in the ‘silence.’
After one minute, answer the following questions:
- What did you hear in the ‘silence’ of your surroundings?
- What internal disposition do you need to have in order to be mindful of what is going on around you?
- What does it take to be fully present?
You will notice that as you become more mindful of what you see and hear, and as you say the words to yourself as you observe them, that your life will literally get clearer and brighter.
Activity #3 – “Your Built-in Metronome”
One of the best ways to slow your mind and be more mindful at the moment is to focus on one thing for a period of time. Your mind NEVER stops, but you can slow it down tremendously, which has powerful therapeutic effects on the body. The good news is that you have a built-in mechanism to make it easy. It is your breath. Your breath is a powerful soother because it is natural, rhythmic, and effortless, much like a metronome used by musicians to help keep a steady tempo.
To practice more mindfulness, try this exercise:
Focus on your breathing for one minute. Start by breathing in and out slowly, inhaling to the count of 3, and exhaling to the count of 3. Continuously do this, training your mind to focus only on your breath, and the count of 3.
Notice the physical sensations in your body as your breath enters your body and fills you with life.
Watch your lungs and stomach fill with life-sustaining air, and then decrease as it naturally releases, preparing for the next breath.
Your mind will try to wander. Remember it is used to having quick, random, constant thoughts. Notice these thoughts, let them be for what they are, and return to focusing on your breath. With more practice over time, your mind will become more trained and quiet.
As you get more comfortable with this exercise, you can extend the time. And before you know it, you will be reaping the rewards of more mindfulness, contentment, and overall wellbeing.
There are many ways to use mindfulness to quiet your mind, relax in stressful situations, get better sleep, control how much you eat, and experience overall joy and contentment. Try these three exercises to strengthen your mindfulness muscle and see where it takes you next…