When we think of mindfulness, we think of this quote: “If you are depressed, you’re living in the past. If you’re anxious, you’re living in the future. If you’re at peace, you are living in the present.” Mindfulness is all about anchoring yourself in the present, having awareness of what you are sensing and feeling in the moment, and not worrying about what is behind you or what is in front of you. Learning how to practice mindfulness can be challenging in a world where we are constantly distracted by past and upcoming events, but it can be achieved with our helpful tips below.
If you prefer video, Coach Elise recorded our tips as well!
The Benefits of Mindfulness
I wouldn’t say it’s common sense to know that practicing mindfulness is beneficial for us. It’s natural for most of us to think about the past and the future just about every day, so why would we want to go against our instincts and try to focus our mind directly on the present?
First of all, practicing mindfulness decreases stress and anxiety. If our mind isn’t flooded with the past and the future while we are currently in the past, it has less distractions and opportunities to become fearful. Obviously it’s easier to focus on one thing rather than on twenty – and that’s exactly what mindfulness does for us. It simplifies our thinking processes and our focus onto one thing – what’s happening in front of us. The rest of it can stay tucked away where it belongs!
Practicing mindfulness can also help regulate our emotions and increase the quality of our sleep. Anxiety is typically the culprit for disrupted sleep, for sudden outbursts, and for highs and lows. Being anxious is synonymous with being emotionally exhausted, so practicing mindfulness helps our moods become more even keeled and allows us to sleep without anxious dreams or thoughts.
Please note that practicing mindfulness every second of every day is not the desired goal. Not even close. If we never thought about the past, we could never learn, heal, process, or grieve. If we never thought about the future, we would never be prepared, live with intention, or achieve our goals. The point of mindfulness is to add another layer of consciousness to the equation. It’s meant to help us disconnect, unwind, and take a break. Otherwise we’ll drive ourselves crazy.
Now that we’ve established how practicing mindfulness can help you improve, it’s time to dive into our tips as to how you can get started!
Note that *all* of these steps require that you leave your phone behind. If you are mindlessly scrolling or engaged in screen time, all of these activities become pointless. It’s best to engage in these mindfulness activities by yourself without distraction.
Go on a Walk
Walking not only clears your mind thanks to endorphins and increased cardio activity, but it also gives you a chance to ground yourself in your environment. Pay attention to your surroundings! What do you smell, see, taste, hear, and feel? Can you pay attention to the nature around you? When your mind wanders to something else, where does it go? Take note of where your mind is pulled, and when it goes stray, guide your mind back towards your feet taking one step in front of the other. Focus on the weather, how your skin feels, the air pumping into your lungs, and what you’re seeing along the way. The more grounded you become on your walks, the more flushed your brain will be of frivolous thinking that isn’t serving you. Walking outdoors is a great way to begin practicing mindfulness!
There’s something magical about watching your work literally grow in front of your eyes. Not only does gardening increase the feeling of control and confidence, but it also is a great opportunity to practice mindfulness. Gardening forces you to lean on your five senses to produce exactly what you’d like. You have to feel the dirt to see if it requires water. You have to prune the plants so they can continue to grow. You get to smell your plants (basil! mint!) and become grounded in your surroundings. There’s something completely zen about being in a garden. If you live in an urban area, you can build a small garden out of wood and fill it with soil. Spending a few minutes per day in the garden can help focus your five senses to something other than the hustle bustle of the world.
Listening to Music
Listening to music can be a great way to stay in the present moment. Put headphones on, lay outside, and try let the day melt away from you. Be sure to listen to relaxing music – not music that reminds you of certain powerful events in your life or music that encourages you to think about the future. Stay in the moment. Stay grounded. Music without words can be great at encouraging yourself to relax and allow your mind to be calm.
Meditating is the most popular form of practicing mindfulness. During meditation, the only goal is to focus on your breath. That’s it. There are more advanced forms of meditation that encourage you to set intentions, envision achievement, or process a feeling – but most meditations are meant to keep you anchored in the “now” by concentrating on breathing in and out. Calm is one of our favorite meditation apps. They offer guided meditations, which includes a person giving you audio instructions on how to meditate. Typically they’ll ask you to close your eyes, breathe in and out, and then focus on your body throughout the next ten or fifteen minutes. Try not to fall asleep – this zen like state is great for your mind, and staying awake while remaining calm can help teach your brain to do this during particularly triggering or stressful events. Practicing meditating a few times per week can make a big difference! Try incorporating it into your morning routine to bring some consistency.
Do A Sound Bath
Sound baths are the rage now for mindfulness! If you aren’t familiar with a sound bath, here is an example. Essentially a sound bath is meant to be a reflective, meditative experience where you are bathed in sound waves from calming instruments. Not only are they pleasing to the ear, but many have a lovely visual component as well. If you attend a sound bath in person, typically you’ll either be laying down or sitting down and will be asked to close your eyes. From there, you can take in the sounds and try to focus on your breath and the way the sound makes you feel. If you’d prefer not to close your eyes, you can watch the sound unfold in front of you and focus on the sensations that brings. Either way, the goal is to anchor yourself in the moment and experience the calming sensation sound baths bring. They are a fantastic way to practice mindfulness.
Now that you have a few tips to practice mindfulness, we encourage you to try them out this week! Pick one per day and see which one is most effective at helping you stay present in the moment.
And, if you need help or an accountability partner, that’s what we are here for. We are an online team of professional life coaches that help people of all ages become more confident, healthy, accomplished, supported, and balanced. We would love to work with you to help diminish anxious thoughts, learn how to master mindfulness, and feel better about yourself in every aspect of your life. Sign up today and let’s get started!