The benefits of mindfulness are undeniable. While it can feel a little “new-agey” to some, mindfulness practices have been around for ages. The act of coming into a “state of awareness,” as the American Psychological Association puts it, is something people have been promoting and pursuing for centuries. (Just consider the ancient practices of yoga and tai chi.)
Mindfulness is considered both a “mode of processing information and a character trait” where we become more in tune with our mental state and how it affects everything else in our lives, including our physical state, our relationships, and our personal and professional lives. It’s become even more popular over the last decade or so, a sign of our society’s deeper desire to become more emotionally intelligent and be able to relate to others with more personal awareness and kindness.
3 ways to incorporate mindfulness into your life
Several activities can create more mindfulness and heighten your awareness of how you process things mentally and emotionally. But not everyone has the bandwidth to sit in meditation circles for hours every day. So I wanted to share three of my favorite mindfulness practices that you can easily incorporate to your regular daily routine.
1. Breathe with intention. Meditation can be overwhelming or intimidating to many people, especially if you’re not a fan of sitting still for long. The beautiful thing about meditation is that it can take many forms, and it doesn’t need to last for painfully extended periods of time. Simply sitting still for a few moments and taking a few deep, intentional breaths can qualify as a type of meditation.
Try this: Once or twice throughout your day, pause what you’re doing and sit in a comfortable position to take 5 to 10 deep breaths. Count to five on your inhales, hold your breath for a moment at the top, and count to five again on the exhale. Try to mix up when you do this -- it’s a great way to start and end your day, as well as instantly calm you down if you’re tense or triggered about something stressful.
2. Recognize and observe your emotions. Sometimes, life gets so crazy that we just power through the next responsibility without stopping to check in with ourselves. Instead of pushing through the stress, exhaustion, disappointment, joy, or excitement, try to register the emotions you feel throughout the day and embrace them.
Try this: Every hour or two, pause whatever you’re doing and ask yourself, “How do I feel right now? What’s my mental state like? Am I rushing through my day just to get more done or truly enjoying it all moment to moment?” If you’re feeling some negative emotions, that’s okay! Don’t try to change them or push them away. This is all about checking in, seeing how you feel, and continuing on from a place of more awareness. It might even be helpful to set a few alarms on your phone to remember to pause and reflect throughout the day, and keep a journal with you to jot down your current mental state each time.
3. Listen attentively to others. While mindfulness is largely about you and your mental awareness, practicing active listening with others is a surprisingly helpful way to tune into the present moment. We often only half-listen in conversations, especially when we have a million places to go and even more things to do.
Try this: When you’re having conversations throughout the day, focus your attention fully on what the other person is saying. Notice how your brain will be tempted to think about the time, or that thing you can’t forget, or what you want to say back to them. Calmly let these ideas carry on and return your attention to fully listening. It might take some practice, but by being more present in conversation, we can start being more present overall and more self-aware.
The unequivocal benefits of practicing mindfulness
Mindfulness has been shown to provide several mental, emotional, and even physical benefits to those who practice it regularly. You don’t need to go to a retreat every weekend or become a yoga teacher to fully embrace it, either. All you need to do it commit to a few minutes of active listening, breathing, or paying attention to your emotions a day! Here are some of the greatest benefits you’ll experience when practicing mindfulness.
Isn’t that incredible? It’s no wonder people are trying to be more mindful in their day-to-day lives. For more ideas on how to incorporate mindfulness into your own life and deal with stress, overwhelming emotions, and big changes in a positive way, I’d love to be a resource for you. Reach out to me on my site for a free counseling consultation and more details on the life-changing power of practicing mindfulness.