Mindfulness – being present, being „here and now”. It is a way of putting our lives on a more focused and less dispersed track. On the trail that is less winding, less stressful and more relaxed. It allows us to calm down, to effectively focus on important things in a particular moment. However, more importantly, first it lets us see what these things are. Mindful life gives us the benefit of improving our relationships with people – we notice more, we understand better, we listen more carefully – we can be closer to each other.
Sounds idyllic, right?
Many people think that mindfulness is not for them, because they would have to spend too much time practicing for its effects to actually be visible. Moreover, they think that meditation is not their thing anyway. The truth is, anyone can begin to be more present right from the moment they read this text. How is it possible? For example, we can read this text from start to finish trying not to let our mind wander anywhere else – not jumping to other websites, not looking at photos on Instagram, reading messages from friends on Facebook, or without talking with someone at the same time. Simply put, we just need to focus on doing one thing at a time – reading. Is that all? Yes, that’s all for a good start, that’s enough. If we manage to finish reading this text in one long read and being focused only on this activity, we can say that it was a few minutes of mindfulness. Congratulations!
But maybe, it is not that easy at all to focus only on one single activity? Maybe it is a great effort? Nowadays we are greatly stimulated from multiple directions – we constantly receive hundreds of information, images, sounds, noises, smells… It’s almost never quiet around us. Taking into account our living environment, it’s getting harder and harder to calm down, focus on one thing and keep doing it for some time. We get distracted by our mobiles notifying us about latest news or chat messages, by our laptops saying that there’s a new email waiting for our reply. Don’t get me wrong here as I do not encourage you to block yourself from the world, only to rethink how do we live in our modern times. Maybe it is worth to organize it in a bit different way so we can have less stress, more focus and generally feel happier?
A few tiny changes implemented in our everyday life can give great long term effects and maybe it can encourage us to even go further. Here’s what you can start doing:
1 minute mindfulness practice
Set the clock for 1 minute. That’s enough. Let us focus only on our breathing, on nothing else. We can practice with our eyes open or closed. Let us focus on thoughts coming into the head and let them fly away, we don’t focus on any of them. Let us focus only on inhaling and exhaling. At first, it can be hard not to think about the thoughts that appear in the head – when we realize that we’ve drifted away, let’s just go back to our breath. Do not say feel pressure here or tell yourself that it is not for us because we cannot spend even a minute in concentration. Let’s just keep it simple – with every minute you try each day, it will get better. We all know it – practice makes perfect. Such one-minute exercises also affect positively our well-being when we are strongly aroused or stressed.
Mindful listening – the act of love
It may happen that when we talk with someone we are present more in the body than in the spirit. Instead of focusing on the conversation and on what someone is saying to us, we are preoccupied with the conversation in our own mind. We evaluate what we hear, we mentally agree or disagree, or we plan what we’re going to say after the person is finished. On the next occasion, when we talk to someone, let’s try to focus totally on the other person – not only what words do we hear, but let’s try to understand what lays behind them. People appreciate people who can really listen. Furthermore, people respond in the same way if they feel listened carefully and with engagement.
Transform your responsibilities
Let’s transform our duties into rituals of mindfulness. A very large amount of our time is consumed by all kinds of household chores and we often treat them as tedious and boring. Instead of thinking of them as obligations, let’s mind the journey of completing the tasks. The next time we do something considered by us as our duty that must be done, let’s focus on each step of this activity. Let’s try not to wander in our mind about various other things that we could do instead and let’s try not to look forward to finishing the task. For example, while cooking dinner, instead of thinking about getting over with it as soon as possible, we can focus on the smell of fresh vegetables, their texture outside and inside. We can taste the tiny pieces of ingredients and notice their taste and aroma. We can smell the food while it’s cooking and enjoy it before even eating it as a completed dish! In this way, we can experience the pleasure of doing the task that is some kind of duty for us and we can actually start enjoying it.
Let’s move from the kitchen to the dining area now. How often do you eat a sandwich really feeling its taste and all ingredients? How often do you drink your coffee being aware of its unique smell or even temperature? How often do you eat or drink without doing something else at the same time? My experience says, not too often. We eat in a hurry, we drink coffee while replying to e-mails… Eating with a mindful mind helps us to feel the real feeling of pleasure associated with it. Many of us have lost touch with such little pleasures of life and the only thing we would really enjoy is a holiday in the Maldives or Seychelles. But life consists mostly of small pleasures and it is worth to learn how to enjoy them fully. However, if little pleasure doesn’t sound convincing enough – implementing mindful eating approach impacts directly our health by better control over what we eat and how much. During your next meal – focus, put aside your phone, sit on the terrace/balcony or anywhere else that you like, smell your food and give yourself a couple of minutes for tasting each bite of it.
Just slow down
Our culture, it is all about being in a rush. We have access to almost everything like never before, but are we happier? The latest research data says that unfortunately we are not. We are moody, anxious and depressed, from an early age of our lives. Let’s slow down – living on the run and not allowing ourselves to be at peace shortens our life. When we slow down physically, we slow down mentally – this is how our body’s feedback system works. Then we also get more pleasure from life and interestingly it feels like longer! So, when meeting friends or family for dinner – we can put aside our phones, turn off the TV and enjoy conversations and the company of our loved ones. When we have some free time, let’s walk barefoot on the beach or on the grass feeling what is happening under our feet. In the park let’s watch the sky, the trees, plants around us – just noticing their colors, shapes, textures, smells. Being present, here and now with everything that’s happening in this moment – this is mindfulness!
One thing at time
In almost all job interviews, we hear the slogan „multi-tasking” as very important skill to have. We try to save time in this way in almost everything we do – at work, at home, even in our spare time! Interestingly, research indicates that this is a myth. Doing many things at once reduces the efficiency and quality of what we do. It makes us unable to focus and our attention is distracted every moment – how can we do something well under such conditions? We are not more organized, but busier – physically and mentally. It’s much better to focus on single given task at time – we will avoid distractions, inaccuracies, and making mistakes. We will do them faster and in the end, we will not feel exhausted, but satisfied. Even when we do simple things, but with full attention, we get more pleasure and satisfaction from it. Let’s just remember: Life is not a checklist and wee are here to enjoy it.
Time for doing nothing
Nothing? What’s that?! This question is absolutely right to be in our head because we usually don’t remember when was the last time we did nothing. And I mean: absolutely pure nothing. In fact, we are doing something all the time. Moreover, we want to look like we’re very busy. And when we finally have some free time, we automatically fill it to the brim, so as not to feel uncomfortable or guilty that this free time is wasted. On the other hand, we constantly complain that we don’t have time for ourselves. And yet – each of us can find 5 minutes a day for doing nothing. And it will not be laziness at all, but regeneration and gaining energy. A moment in the sun on a bench or with our just laying on the couch with our thoughts – at first it may be a bit uncomfortable, but after a few times, it will feel more and more pleasant to do nothing. Moreover, we will have a much better mood and we will be able to focus better on other things.
Mindful walks (or jogging)
I always tell my friends that when I go jogging, after a few kilometers I reach a state in which I don’t think about anything anymore. Just about moving further and the surrounding. Jogging has a therapeutic effect on me; it cleanses me of negative emotions and stress after a whole day of work, of so many thoughts circulating in my mind. The same effect can give a walk – the body oxygenates, and the mind slowly clears from everything that has accumulated in it throughout the day. It can even be a very short walk from work to the car (it’s worth to park farther from your workplace to force yourself to take more steps a day and give yourself a few minutes to clean up after a full day’s work) or everyday walk around your neighborhood. During such a walk, let’s focus on breathing, on the heartbeat, on the steps we take, on the smell of the air, or the appearance of trees or buildings we pass by. The goal is simply to be only there with the body and the mind.
There are various ways of introducing mindfulness into daily life without having to leave your home for meditation or yoga classes or spending a lot of time on it. Each small change has a positive impact and consequences, and the more we manage to implement and practice them regularly, the closer we feel that our life is complete and we can fully enjoy it. It doesn’t happen every day that we win the lottery or that we go for a dream tropical vacation to be able to feel an intense flow of positive emotions. Day after day, we can enjoy delicious coffee in the sun, conversations with other people or watching our plants growing. What mindfulness gives us is the increase in happiness level step by step, which stays with us for much longer.