How to be more mindful

You know what mindfulness is, you know a little bit about how to be mindful, but you are still wondering well, what do I DO?

Start first by using your senses:

  • what are you seeing right now?
  • what are you smelling or tasting right now?
  • what do you hear right now?
  • what does your body feel physically right now?

Connecting even to those four simple questions “right now” is mindfulness.

A few more tips to help you practice being mindful in the best way possible.

  1. Notice thoughts non-judgmentally
  2. Act one-mindfully
  3. Participate effectively

NON-JUDGMENTALLY – when you see thoughts come into your mind, only look at the facts; not the “good” or “bad,” but the “what.” You can separate your feelings from these thoughts with practice, though it does take practice.

ONE-MINDFULLY – instead of claiming that you’re the best multi-tasker there is, stop. Do things one at a time. When you are writing; write. When you are talking to your spouse; talk. When you are eating, just eat. Pay attention to what you’re doing right when you’re doing it. This is mindfulness in a nutshell. When other thoughts come to mind (trying to sleep and you’re thinking about work), observe these thoughts without judgements and then let them go. Remain mindful and one-minded.

EFFECTIVELY participate – focus on doing what works for you. Mindfulness practices are different for each person, so do what works for you. Meet the needs of the situation that you are currently in — no need to think about past situations and how you acted, or how future actions might be changed if you do something different. Do what is necessary to achieve the goals you’ve set. If something isn’t working; STOP DOING IT.

A great way to begin more mindful is to allow someone else to guide you through the process. The use of podcasts (UCLA has a lot of Free Guided Meditations), iPhone apps (like Happify or Headspace), and YouTube can get you started quickly and inexpensively!

What is mindfulness?

One of the major tenets of my treatment is called mindfulness; but what is mindfulness? There are many different definitions of this word, but I rest on “being intentionally aware of your thoughts about yourself, others, and the world around you.

The combination of words I use to define mindfulness is especially important.

  • intentionally awaremindfulness is purposefully and deliberately paying attention
  • thoughts – mindfulness about thoughts includes knowing that they’re just thoughts, and they aren’t facts; being aware of the things you’re thinking can change your entire mindset
  • yourself / others / world around you – mindfulness isn’t only about being aware of your thoughts about yourself, but also how you think about others in your life, and how you think about the world around you

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Mindfulness is not a new healing technique; it’s been used since 1500 BCE in Hinduism (with yoga in mind), it’s been used with Daoism since the sixth century BCE (the qì gong practice), and an integral part of Buddhism since at least 535 BCE (using breath focus). (“Brief History of Mindfulness,” 2011).

Mindfulness is a personal experience and no one practices it in the same exact way. The goal, however, often remains similar between practitioners: slow down your thoughts, reduce judgement on those thoughts. When a person practices mindfulness, he or she often notices that the “inner critic” is quieter, more kind, and less judgemental. Slowing the thought process is imperative for those living with depression and anxiety: molehill thoughts easily snowball into Mount Everest without mindfulness.

Screen Shot 2016-01-12 at 1.13.36 PM.pngI utilize a couple of great resources for my own mindfulness practice; the Happify app, and a little green notebook from my doctors with 60+ pages of tips, techniques, explanations, suggestions, and ideas to help me raise awareness of my thoughts. I recommend the Happify app if you’re interested in any sort of mood-elevating techniques. My little green notebook might not be in your possession, but my blog is now; you can count on posts from me including these mindfulness tips, tricks, and encouragement.

Swing by tomorrow; now that you know what mindfulness is, I can teach you how to be more mindful in your everyday life.