Welcome to another Mindful Monday post! So far in this series, we’ve talked about how minimalism can help us find meaning and how applying minimal practices to our daily social lives can drastically improve our happiness. (If you aren’t caught up with them, go do that now!) As you can probably already tell, I love minimalism! Its practices have brought so much value to my life, and minimalism has even helped me identify what it is that I value. But I must admit it’s not the only thing that helped me find value and balance (gasp!).
While practicing minimalism techniques is certainly a great start, there’s other practices we can implement that help us live meaningful and mindful lives. Today we're going to dive into them, especially for those of you who just aren’t tickled by tackling the clutter yet. And we'll start with another favorite M-word: mindfulness. After all, it is Mindful Monday!
Mindfulness is another topic that can be intimidating to approach, but what if I told you that you already have all the tools you need to start today? That you can practice at literally any time, while you’re doing any activity? What if I told you that you’ve already practiced mindfulness in some way? In fact, if you played along the last two weeks of Mindful Monday, then I know you’ve already practiced mindfulness! That’s right, I secretly tricked you into completing mindful practices under the veil of minimalism! How exciting! But for real, mentally assessing and breaking down your day piece by piece is a key tenant of mindfulness; if you were able to assess your activities and feelings, then you’re well on your way to having a Mindful Monday.
Not so intimidating when we think of it like that!
So here’s the quick and dirty on getting down in M-town and how you can start incorporating it (on purpose):
Go to Nepal
Sure, you can go to Nepal. You can climb a mountain, hang out with goats all day, try new foods and experience a new culture. But none of that is too mindful unless you’re intentional with each of those experiences. While you can argue that buying a ticket and getting on a plane are all fairly intentional, mindfulness is mostly found in the small moments. Having intention behind every little thing you do means experiencing every little thing you do. It means taking in the views, smells, tastes, sounds, and feelings and really being there for it. We’ll call this being present.
Now the truth is, being present is an action, which means it requires some level of effort. Most of us aren’t present naturally. Especially in today’s world where there are distractions every two feet (and in the palm of your hand), you have to actually try to be present – and it can be a tough task.
Start with practicing being present and really experiencing life. Feel that cool breeze on your face, your feet on the dirt as you run. Maybe even try eating a meal without an electronic device and really taste your food. Start to notice details that you hadn’t before. Start to notice people. Start to notice how all these things make you feel.
So no, you don’t have to go to Nepal, although that sounds like a blast! You can dive into the details and practice being mindful wherever you are, as long as you’re present.
Get used to asking questions
If you’re having trouble slowing the mind and being present, you can ask yourself questions that help bring you into the moment. Ask yourself how you feel about whatever it is your doing. Is the breeze on your face a cool relief from the sun? What state of mind are you in? What are you feeling at this moment?
This is easy to do if you’re lying on the beach listening to the ocean waves. You’re likely feeling relaxed, serene, at peace. But it gets a little more complicated when we introduce the daily stresses of life like: that tense phone call you had with your sister-in-law, an upcoming performance review at work, an overdue credit card bill, being late to spin class, etc. etc. Being present is tough enough; add in any one of these situations and it seems impossible. But truth is, that makes it all the more important.
In fact, I’m willing to bet that the busier you are, the more mindfulness you need in your life.
Work these questions into your weekly routine. Then your daily routine. Then hourly. No matter how pressed you are for time, you always have a moment available to check in with yourself. Plus, you’ll likely even feel better after assessing the challenge/stress/sister-in-law. Get used to asking questions about how you feel and use them to bring you into the moment.
Watch the positivity flow in
Taking two minutes of breathing time to feel yourself BE can totally shift your mindset. Whether you’re at the beach smelling the salty air or at work and feeling your ass in your overpriced ergonomic chair, you’re THERE. I’ll say that again, you are there. Feel your butt in that chair, smell that cheap coffee float through the air. Stop your auto-pilot out-of-body-experience and come back inside. Take control of what you’re doing; remind yourself you have full control over what happens next. I like to call this “waking up” or turning the auto-pilot off.
There’s so much to say for this feeling, but you’ll only truly get it once you experience it. So do it right now! Stop reading this and take a look around, see/smell/feel where you are. It’s okay if it isn’t where you want to be; let go of your expectations for a moment and just be.
Do this as often as you can remember until it becomes a habit. Whether it takes 10 times or 1,000 times, you will start to feel a difference. It’ll creep up on you one day: the realization that you’re suddenly calm in the midst of the busiest day of your week. Or that you’re not honking your horn like crazy at the person that just cut you off on the highway. And you’ll realize this because you’ll be fully in the moment.
Mindfulness can be tricky because it isn’t always instant gratification. In fact, it might even seem like it gets in the way of your “busy schedule.” But remember that regular practice is the only way to ensure long-term benefit – and that it’s SO worth it. We all have stress in our lives, and mindfulness certainly doesn’t help us escape it, but it does help us manage it. It helps us find peace in the midst of the chaos and reminds us that this moment, as good or bad as it is, is fleeting.
So no matter where you go this week, know that you're there. You’re always where you are and it’s time to stop neglecting feeling what it feels like to be there.
Have a great week!
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