noun: mindfulness 1. the quality or state of being conscious or aware of something. 2. 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.
Sometimes I excel at being fully in the present, connected to myself and my surroundings. Other times, most times to be perfectly honest, I’m horrendous at being mindful. Essentially, I run on autopilot. If you’re anything like me, your days often blend into a series of repetitive tasks you’ve done thousands of times. Have breakfast, workout, work, run errands, chill, sleep, repeat. All the while focusing more on accomplishing those tasks rather than being present and maybe even enjoying them. But can you blame us? It’s as easy as ever to get lost in a device, or worse/ more easily yet, anxious thoughts…
Whenever I DO manage find that sweet spot of productivity and mindfulness, it’s like living life wrapped in a warm fuzzy sweater. Problems are less stressful, easier to solve. Moments become more powerful. Relationships more meaningful, impactful… So why don’t I (/the entire world) live in this blissful state 24/7?
Because making lasting positive behavioural change is hard as balls. Duh.
And while being more mindful is at the top of many of our achievement wish lists, it’s consistently one of the harder ones to complete. Mindfulness is a character trait that takes more practice and determination than skill. As with most things, consistency is key to success. Which trust me, I know is one of those terribly annoying “easier said than done” cliches. Nevertheless, my fabulous yoga teachers preach consistency to me on the regular, and when I can deliver, the results speak for themselves. So I must, in turn young padawan, preach consistency to you…
But back to what you do when you’re a regular person without creepily super human determination and want to be more mindful? As a human with a relatively “normal” amount of willpower, I find that the consistency of being more mindful is much harder than actually being mindful. Which is why the following are my personal tips for getting MOVING on your mindfulness projects:
Remembering to be more mindful in 2017
Being more mindful #1. Set an alarm to practice right when you wake up.
Practising mindfulness first thing in the morning helps set your nervous system’s tone for the rest of the day. Which in turn increases the likelihood of other mindful moments. Using a recurrent alarm has so far been the most effective way to remember to start my day from a clear, connected perspective. If you find yourself dozing off, as I sometimes do, set the alarm for practise after having your morning coffee or tea. However, don’t turn on the TV, check your phone or email, etc. until after you’ve had your sit. You’ll be less likely to forget!
Being more mindful #2. Schedule a small space (or two) for meditation in your day.
Again, use technology to help you with your betterment goals! There’s nothing better to help you remember to be more mindful than an alarm. Create more space for your practise by scheduling in 15 minutes once or twice a day in your planner. The best way to cultivate mindfulness in everyday life is to formally train in meditation.
Being more mindful #3: Practice mindfulness while you wait.
Waiting is a big source of frustration for most of us– whether you’re waiting in line at Starbucks or stuck in killer traffic. But while not getting what you want immediately might seem like a nuisance (we all have a little brat in us), waiting is actually an opportunity for mindfulness. When you’re waiting, bring your attention to your breath. The more often you do this, the more it becomes a natural habit. Imagine being able to bring awareness to the daily activities you usually do on autopilot… You’d be an unstoppable zen machine!
Being more mindful #4: Check your progress often.
Using tools like Daily Questions can certainly help you stay on the right path of being more mindful, but only if you can track your progress consistently. Nonetheless, don’t worry about tracking your mindfulness development for two days and then dropping off the face of the map. It’s these types of small “failures” that help us be slightly more prepared the next time around…
The hardest part of being more mindful in 2017 is remembering it’s a priority. Keep your mindfulness practise short. Your brain will respond better to bursts of mindfulness. So being mindful several times a day is more helpful than a lengthy session or even a weekend retreat. While 20 minutes is ideal, starting off with a few minutes at a time is infinitely better than nothing. Just breathe young padawan. Just breathe.