It seems like the term mindfulness is thrown around a lot as a lifestyle approach we should all adopt, but WTF does it actually mean and is there a way to be mindful without being spiritual? Last week I explored those questions and more at a women’s group meeting devoted to the topic. I left the meeting feeling full of information about what mindfulness really is, and inspired with ideas for easy ways to practice it regularly. Here are the take-aways that you may find useful as well…

WHAT IS MINDFULNESS

Actively and carefully observing your thoughts and feelings without judging them as good or bad. Mindfulness means living in the present moment, without intense preoccupation of what’s to come or how we ought to react.  You can find longer descriptions of it here and here.

WHY IT MATTERS

  • Helps you manage stress and anxiety.
  • Allows you to feel more in command with your behavior / reactions to everyday life circumstances.
  • Studies suggest it helps lower blood pressure and rewire key parts of the brain.

EXAMPLES OF MINDFULNESS / PRACTICES FOR YOU TO TRY 

  • Focus on one thing at a time – Try not to multitask but rather to focus on the task you are doing and pay attention to all the details. It may reveal something new to you or make the activity more enjoyable.
  • Active listening –  When in a meeting or conversation with someone, listen to them without planning what you are going to say in response.
  • Separate the feelings you experience from your identity as a person. The goal in mindfulness is to tap into your feels and be aware of what you are experiencing, but never to judge them as the right or wrong feeling.  How you approach and manage emotionally intense situations or periods will be better if you can remember to distinguish your temporal feelings from your entire being. You are much more than one singular emotion and will surely feel better if you can react with behaviors that reflect your chosen identity. Examples of ways to remind yourself of this include:
    • “I feel immense sorrow but I am not a sorrowful person”
    • “I feel anger, but I am not an angry person”.
    • “I feel hopelessness in this moment, but I also know that I have felt great optimism”.
  • Go for a 30 – 45 minute walk by yourself without distraction. Don’t listen to music or talk on the phone, just be in the present observing your thoughts and surroundings.
  • Be intentional with your cell phone use so that it does not distract you from being aware or engaging meaningfully with yourself and others. Some questions you can ask yourself to help set healthy boundaries and/or promote mindful use are: What is my goal? How will I know when I am done/have completed that goal?
    • Do I need to do this now?
    • Sleep with your phone in a different room (also, buy yourself an alarm clock).
    • Move all your apps to the 2nd screen of your phone so upon unlocking your device, all you see is the actual phone feature.
    • After work, when you get home to your family or partner, put your phone in a drawer and try not to check it except for once per hour, and then it’s just to see if there are urgent messages.
  • Use meditation app 2x week. Popular mindfulness and meditation apps are: Headspace, Trixie, MindFi, Aura
  • Journal for 3-5 minutes each day before leaving the house. Note the things you are excited about, concerned with, or generally spending a lot of energy on. The journaling is not a solution to any of those things but acknowledging the thoughts and ideas that are taking up a lot of your brain space will likely lead you to some resolution or coping strategies.
  • Utilize / enable the “breathe” reminders on your Apple Watch. 

MINDFULNESS RESOURCES

Comment other ideas and resources you love and use below!

Image by Andrea Posadas for HonestlyFIT