When was the last time you were fully aware of what you were doing, at the time that you were doing it? If you’re like most people, it’s probably been a while. Most of us have been programmed to multitask and take on so many things at once that instead of enjoying the moment, we’re already thinking about what comes next.
If you know me well, you know that the past few months were more than challenging for me. Days of happiness and laughter followed by days of sadness and tears have been become the norm. This time has forced me to take a close look at myself to determine the root cause of what lead me down this road. While I’ve made incredible realizations about who I am, I’ve also discovered ways to become more in tune with my body and my mind, and make each day better than the last. I’ve also learned to practice mindfulness. Mindfulness is a form of meditation in which you live in the present (instead of the future or past), focusing on your thoughts, emotions and sensations that you are experiencing in that moment, without judging them. Since I tend to think a lot about the past and worry about the future, it has been quite the challenge for me. Luckily, I’ve learned a few tips along the way to improve my practice with each passing day.
1. Live in the present. Take a moment right now to stop whatever you’re doing. Close your eyes and listen to the sounds around you. Focus on your breath, but don’t try to control it. What are you feeling? What emotions are running through your mind? What thoughts are drifting by? Concentrate on everything as it comes and goes, and you are being mindful. Take 5 minutes every day to practice this short meditation (I like doing this in the morning) and I promise you’ll automatically feel more connected to yourself.
2. Separate your self from your thoughts. Understand that you are not your feelings and you are not your thoughts. When you say that you are sad or happy, do you really mean that you are that emotion? Of course not! Feelings come and feelings fade, and knowing that they will only be around temporarily helps to you to realize that you have the power to change them.
3. Focus. Bring your complete and undivided attention to one thing. Whatever the task is, do it slowly and deliberately, and bring purpose to your action. Become aware of your thoughts and your breath. Whenever you feel your mind begin to wander, bring it back to the present moment. I’m not going to lie, at first it can be so difficult so tasks that don’t take too long, like brushing your teeth or washing dishes. With time, you’ll be able to focus for longer periods of time and really reap the incredible benefits of mindfulness.
4. Have self-compassion. We can be so hard on ourselves, but try to silence that critical voice. Each experience can be learned from and each experience is an opportunity to succeed or fail. things didn’t go exactly how you planned? Laugh it off. Not only will this relieve any pressure you may be used to putting on yourself, it will also help you deal with your emotions in a healthier way.
5. Nourish your body and mind. Too often, we are so distracted that we eat foods that we don’t need or want. We eat them quickly and forget to notice how wonderful an experience eating can be. Being more mindful means listening to your body and what it needs to feel its best. The next time you sit down for a meal, take your time. Before even taking a bite, focus on the dish – the colours and the aromas. Then take the first bite and feel the sensation and textures in your mouth. Chew and discover the next level of flavours open up. Focus solely on the food you are eating. The act of eating can be such a pleasurable experience on so many levels, you just have to take the time to discover it. Sure it will take longer to finish your meal, but it also means you’ll never leave the table feeling stuffed.
Mindfulness is truly a gift. It has helped me to stop worrying about what hasn’t happened yet and focus on the moment. Whether it’s the sensation of my feet hitting the ground during my morning runs, the wind in my hair during a Sunday stroll or the loving feeling that comes over me when lying on the couch next to my beau, it’s been a means of (re)discovering the beauty of life and appreciating the little things that make each day so wonderful.