There’s a new trending practice across Insta-feeds, Pinterest boards, and coffee shop chatter: how to be mindful. Practicing mindfulness is about focusing yourself on the present and being intentional throughout your day. So, if you find yourself distracted while you read this, or if your mind feels too cluttered, learning to practice mindfulness can help you feel lighter and refocus your day.
Mindfulness has several definitions:
- The mental state achieved by focusing on awareness of the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting feelings, thoughts, or bodily sensations.
- The self-regulation of attention with an attitude of curiosity, openness, and acceptance.
- The ability to be fully present, aware of where you are and what you’re doing, while not getting overwhelmed by what’s happening around you.
Mindfulness is a personal practice, so it’s fine to craft your own definition.
There are three foundational principles of mindfulness:
- Attentional redirection
The goal of mindfulness is to set an intention with a purpose. Your intention can flow into a relationship, an objective at work, better mental health, or improving your self-esteem. Your intention for the day can even be as simple as taking time to breathe.
This step is your starting point to become a more mindful person. It’s all about experiencing life and recognizing if you are or are not present in the moment. Awareness isn’t about staying on track 24/7 or daydreaming your day away. By taking time to realize if you are present in the moment, you’re gently nudging your brain back to focus on the here and now. Awareness is as simple as acknowledging you feel “this way,” or are thinking about “that.” It’s the first step to recognizing your present reality.
Acceptance is perhaps the most freeing aspect of mindfulness. If you ever feel frustrated with yourself, practising mindfulness can help. It’s normal to get distracted, daydream, or get caught up in emotion. Yes, it’s even okay to do so (gasp!). Accepting your thoughts, emotions, and physical sensations will allow you to notice their value or effect to then move on. Dwelling on things you cannot change can send you down a spiral of agitation, discontent, and leave you at a standstill.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed, panicked, or anxiety-ridden, intentionally redirect your attention. Don’t beat yourself up for feeling what you do. Adjust your focus to the sound of a coworker’s keyboard, the stitching on the steering wheel, the weight of your body on the bed, the expanse of your breath.
Several techniques and resources are available to easily cultivate mindfulness as a daily practice.
1. Getting in the Right Headspace™
This app is a treasure trove of thought-provoking and calming messages to help you practice mindfulness throughout the day. Most of the 15–30-minute sessions are led by a mindfulness expert. Each gets you calm, present in the moment, and leaves you with tips you can recall any time you need them.
Both meditation sessions and mindfulness sessions cover an array of focuses, sleep sessions, sleep sounds, and more. The Headspace app is free to download at the App Store or Google Play and has a plethora of free sessions. There’s also a paid plan option for any serious mindfulness gurus.
2. Meditation Class Is in Session
Let’s try a few moments of meditation. Find someone to read this to you in a calm voice, pausing a few minutes after each step.
Gently let your eyes close.
Settle in and feel your feet on the floor, your spine stacked, your hands in your lap.
Take a moment to focus on your breath.
Feel the weight of your diaphragm change as you take a deep in-breath…and now a long out-breath.
If your mind has drifted off, acknowledge that thought. Accept it, without judging it.
Gently bring your attention back to the body, acknowledging any sensations, tension, or pain.
Let those sensations exist. Give them room in your body to be.
Turning your attention back to the breath, feel the weight of your diaphragm change as you take a deep in-breath…and now a long out-breath.
When you’re ready, open your eyes.
Do you feel refreshed, lighter, more mindful?
3. The Game of Life
Living is complex, chaotic, exciting, enthralling, and a swirling mass of all those things together. Pick an area of your life you’d like to improve, be more attentive to, or gain more from. Practising mindfulness around a main area of your life can reap amazing benefits.
Let’s see which of these best fit your situation:
• Mindful Eating
Nutrition is a large part of your daily routine. It can be either fuel or frustration, depending on your eating habits and relationship with food. Intuitive eating mixes nutrition with mindful practices to help strengthen your body and your mind. There’s even a Mindful Eating Guide on Health Line’s website that’s a fantastic starting point to stay present in and out of the kitchen.
• Mindful Parenting
Piles of laundry and toys + raging teenage hormones + homework on the new math system x crying terrible twos + navigating a first-time crush = one majorly exhausted parent. Mindful parenting techniques can turn the crazy times with your kids into manageable moments of love and growth. Taking time to slow down and be present not only makes things easier for you, it does the same for your child. A brave paediatrician tells her story for practising mindful parenting—it starts with ending perfectionism.
• Mindfulness at Work
The grind. The nine-to-five. Payin’ dem bills. A big majority of our life is spent at work, behind the desk, punching the time clock. It’s easy to just go through the motions, without being present and intentional about the work we’re doing or the interactions we have. There are realistic ways to be more mindful in the workplace, though. Make it a priority to take breaks to clear your mind and refocus on your next task. Remember to actively listen to conversations you have by making solid eye contact. You could even try email meditation. Check out this great article for more mindful workplace tips.
• Mindful Students
Teachers recognize the flood of information that comes at students is a lot to process. Even the quick switch from subject to subject can leave children on autopilot. That’s why some teachers are starting their lesson plans with a daily mindful moment for themselves and their students.
Now you better understand what being mindful means, take the next five minutes to be in the moment, accept yourself, and direct your attention with intention. Remember, your mind is becoming a non-judgmental zone—soft lighting, river sounds, and all. Take a deep in-breath…and exhale.