5 Ways That You Can Lead A Mindful Life
“If you want to conquer the anxiety of life, live in the moment, live in the breath.” -Amit Ray
It sounds pretty easy, right? People always used to tell me to live in the moment and relax, but quite honestly it’s easier said than done. The fact that every moment is fleeting, having to concentrate on every single one always seemed like a waste of time to me. Why should I focus on the present when the present moment passes by in an instant? I would have rather thought about what to make for dinner, how to plan out my schedule when to get drunk as hell and not remember anything the next day.
Yes, you read that correctly. I used to be an alcoholic and a pretty heavy one at that. I was impulsive, reacting at a moment’s notice (usually in an obnoxious way), always talking over people, and assuming the worst of every situation. To sum up, I wasn’t a fun person to be around. That somewhat fueled my descent into alcoholism.
After a long and obstacle-ridden rehab session that resembled a rollercoaster of emotions, I’ve been sober for 6 years. I’m talking about a seemingly endless amount of therapy, counseling, and group meetings. On top of that, the icing on the cake came in the form of the number of tears I cried trying to get my life back on track.
The meaning of on track may vary for everyone. For example, my life started getting on the right track right after I stopped drinking. However, what I learned through my recovery is understanding the art of mindfulness. If you’re unfamiliar with the term, it can be described as “the psychological process of bringing one’s attention to the internal and external experiences occurring in the present moment, which can be developed through the practice of meditation and other training.”
In other words, I left behind my anxious self and started embracing the moment I was living in. The angry and impulsive person I used to be when I drank turned into a calm, collected person. Only after I started putting the methods into practice did I realize how much it had been lacking in my life.
Having said that, it’s not necessary to hit rock bottom like I did before realizing that mindfulness could be of major benefit in your life. You don’t need to have the extra equipment or anything of the sort. However, one necessity is time. Before you start shaking your head and saying you’re too busy, I’m only talking about a few minutes per day. Take away from the usual activities that aren’t productive and set aside a few moments to learn the practice.
Every day there are more and more people taking on the task of learning mindfulness. In fact, so many have taken it up that there is research to suggest that mindfulness can actually alter the physical structure of your brain, by engaging parts of the brain not used when we are running around on some kind of autopilot (what most people think of as “everyday life”). In our day and age, we are constantly bombarded with advertisements and sales and technology that sometimes we forget to take a step back and breathe, getting away from the chaos of it all.
This article is aimed directly at those wishing to start their journey towards living a mindful life, providing you with 5 simple steps to do so.
1. Know Your Goals
Many mindfulness practitioners recommend writing out your goals so that you have them clearly set on a piece of paper. Whether it’s to relax, to reduce impulsive decision making, to introspect or to be more aware of yourself and of others, it’s important to have those goals straight in your mind. In my case, I wrote them down on a piece of paper and hung it up on my fridge, that way I read it every morning when I woke up to make breakfast.
2. Understand The Present
In mindfulness, we don’t control our mind to act or think in a certain way. Quite frankly it is a very difficult task to achieve complete calmness to the point where absolutely nothing bothers you in your day to day endeavors. Instead of trying to be calm all the time, first, you should start by accepting the present moment as it is. Take a breath and embrace the moment you are living. You must pay attention to the right now, without passing judgment on yourself.
3. Set Some Time Aside
As mentioned above, at the core of mindfulness practice is the time taken to actually try it. There are many interruptions every day. Either your smartphone buzzes nonstop, your email is full of unread messages, or you’re getting phone calls from work while the TV is blaring some news story about a collision on the highway that’s going to slow everyone down. For me, the time I set aside was actually the 5 or so minutes I spent smoking a cigarette in the mornings right after waking up. That time was spent practicing meditation techniques. By doing that, I was making time in my schedule while also getting rid of a nasty habit. The essence of mindfulness is learning to change your conditioned responses to what is around you and what you feel inside. You need the time and the space to do this successfully.
4. Stop Judging Yourself
It can be really frustrating to always revert to a past memory when you made a mistake or said something stupid. I’ve had dozens of those, and whenever they pop into my head I always grit my teeth and shake my head in disappointment. We have this tendency to make extremely harsh judgments on ourselves because of our past activities. It’s simply human nature. Mindfulness, however, is noticing those judgments, considering them, and then simply letting them go. This is the difficult part, and it comes with practice.
5. Practice Kindness
Like I said, we’re only human. Don’t be rude or obnoxious towards others even though you may feel an overwhelming urge to tell them off. Learn to suppress that feeling. Don’t judge yourself for letting your mind wander off when you’re meditating or when you’re thinking about the present moment. It’s natural, so just continue breathing and return to the moment. Once you start recognizing that your mind has wandered off, it means you are improving and working towards your goal.
Those are your 5 simple steps to begin living a mindful life. When I was first learning the practice and joined a few mindfulness groups, I would get frustrated with the fact that other people seemed to have it down pat while I struggled so hard to focus. Don’t make the mistake of seeing the result and thinking that it came without lots of hard work. Practicing these steps will set you on your journey.