I like to think we all are here trying to live in the “now”. We want to embrace all these little happy moments, to make sure the days don’t move too fast beneath our feet. We often find the weeks and years flying by, wishing that we could just go back and take everything in again. We want to be present, but we don’t really know how.
It’s called mindfulness.
There's no doubt that mindfulness seems to be the new "buzzword" when it comes to living a healthier, happier life. All proper terminologies aside, mindfulness is just the practice of being completely aware of your surroundings and of yourself, and accepting it all without any judgement. It can also lower stress levels, increase focus and cognitive flexibility, among other numerous benefits.
When you first hear the word “mindfulness”, you might think it involves meditating for hours every day. Which, after a couple days, would very likely get shoved under the rug as soon as a bit of regular chaos ensues. But after weeks of research on the topic, I’ve got good news. You don’t need to sit still for hours. You don’t even need candles or a completely empty mind. You just need a few minutes a day and a little conscious effort. And pretty soon, you’ll be on your way to a more authentic, wholesome life.
So here’s my little list of five daily mindfulness tips ‘n tricks to get you started.
1. Wake up earlier.
This sounds hard but promise me, it's worth it. Setting your alarm just twenty or thirty minutes earlier than normal gives you a great head start to a more mindful day. It slows the usual rushing around to an easier tempo that allows you to embrace the peaceful moments. Take a couple extra minutes in the shower. Feel the water, the steam. Make your coffee with love, and sip it slowly. Hold it in your mouth a little longer and try to really taste it, feeling the warmth travel through your chest. In these short moments, try not to think about your daily errands or what you have to do at work. Just be.
2. Practice mindfulness at the most inconvenient moments.
Does hitting every red light on the way home make you want to just scream? What about waiting in line at the grocery store or doctor’s office? You’re not alone! Stress and anxiety levels can skyrocket when your busy life is put on hold. These moments where you are literally forced to stand still--cherish them. Use a red light as your mental note to practice mindfulness. When you're sitting in the car, conduct a full body scan. Starting at the top of your head, slowly bring your consciousness down to your toes--noticing the sensations within each part of your body. Take a couple deep breaths and before you know it, you’ll be on your way again.
3. Meditate -- plain and simple!
Two minutes, twenty, an hour--doesn't matter, just do it! Most psychologists recommend between fifteen and twenty mins a day at least but chances are, they weren’t talking to college students, young parents, or working professionals in general. But you can get the same benefits by doing a few shorter meditations throughout the day. Sometimes it helps to schedule them in, and set a timer, so you don’t forget (or skip) them. Plus, there’s no wrong way to meditate, that’s what makes it fun. Find a comfy spot, straighten your back, and find your breath. The rest will come naturally.
4. When stuck, remember your five senses.
Sight, touch, taste, hearing and smell. This is one of the easiest ways to get started if you’re short for time or if you aren’t sure how to just “be aware” of your surroundings. Try opening your window, closing your eyes and listening to every sound that you can. You’ll hear the hum of cars driving past, the wind in the trees, the birds, the sounds of people talking. When eating dinner, try to taste the different ingredients in the meal. When you walk outside, look up and see the sky and the birds. This can be done countless times during the day. You’d be surprised how many tiny, beautiful things you might have missed. Pretty soon, noticing these small joys will be second nature.
5. Remember: there’s no wrong way.
Mindfulness is only the practice of being aware of you and your surroundings; meaning, you can’t do it wrong! You can be standing up, lying down, in a silent room, or in the middle of bumper-to-bumper traffic. If you find yourself struggling to keep focus, it’s okay. Don’t expect to be able to eliminate every thought, just use your breath to bring yourself back. Don’t be embarrassed if you need guidance from a meditation YouTube video to get you started. Developing the ability to meditate and be mindful can take weeks or even months. Just like anything, the more you practice, the better you’ll be. Take your time and find joy in your growing ability to be present in your own life.
Article & Photography by Dev Mearns