5 Ways to be Mindful in Your Daily Life

Mindfulness skills have become one of the first go-to strategies to treat anxiety and stress in healthcare over the past several years. As a counselor, I am thrilled to get away from the traditional knee-jerk “medicate” strategy. While there is a time and place for medication to be used effectively, I’m delighted to offer skills that are proven to reduce emotional unrest with frequent and regular use. Frankly, I find it magical to watch the transformation unfold in people’s lives. Not to mention, my own.

I first discovered the use of mindfulness about nine years ago when navigating the stress of graduate school while parenting a toddler that was opposed to sleep of any kind. Sustained sanity was not likely without some major shift in my lifestyle. Enter mindfulness-based stress reduction.

Mindfulness is defined by Jon Kabat-Zinn as, “The awareness that emerges through paying attention on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally to the unfolding of experience moment by moment.” In other words, notice what’s going on around you as an observer, from a place of peace.

Most people are caught up in their thoughts or worries and completely overlook what is going on around them in this moment. How often have you rushed through your day with a task-oriented mindset, completely overlooking a beautiful sunrise? Or rushed your kids to bed without savoring a hug and enjoying the smell of their freshly bathed head? Those are mindful moments that passed you by.

By implementing a few mindfulness techniques in your day, colors get brighter, your mind slows down, and gratitude fills your glass to overflowing. How does that sound?

Here are five ways to be mindful in your daily life without paying a fortune to lodge with mindful monks in Tibet:

1. Breathe:

This is one of the most fundamental gifts we are given in this life. Due to our busied planner-driven lives, our breathing can become shallow and hurried. This reduces much needed oxygenation that allows our bodies to rest and repair from the hustle and bustle of career and family life. Over time, this lifestyle can wear our bodies down and lead to illness of all varieties.

Taking the time to pay attention to our breath for a few short minutes, can reboot our system and create an awareness or connection to our body that is often lacking. To the count of four, breathe in through your nose like you’re smelling a flower. Pause. Exhale to the count of four through your mouth, as if you’re blowing out your birthday candles. Repeat this several times, and you will notice a change in your body. Some people tell me their fingers get tingly. The magic of oxygenation!

2. Eat:

How often do you eat on the run, or grab something to fend off your hunger without thinking – just to get it done? I’ve often thought that eating really takes a lot of productivity out of my day. That’s not the mindset to have. Our bodies are these amazing machines that work hard to carry us for a lifetime. How can we expect them to stay in tip-top shape, when we live off of protein bars and prepackaged semi-fake foods? We can’t.

Mindful eating is the awareness of what you are eating, but also eating it slowly, and with an awareness of your sensory experience. My favorite “mindful eating” treat is a honeycrisp apple, right out of the fridge. When biting into it, there is a burst of juice that mists my face. Inside my mouth, my tastebuds shift into overdrive with the sweet meat of the fruit. And the texture? An utter delight. It’s an experience for me, not just a rushed snack. If you practice mindful eating, you can’t overeat or binge on a pint of ice cream. Mindfulness allows you to savor every moment with gratitude.

3. Gratitude:

I believe in gratitude. In fact, I think every single person in this world would be happier, and live more harmoniously, if they could learn to pause and appreciate the beauty in their life.

What does that even mean?

Many of us go through our days focusing on the negative. Say you wake up in the morning and stub your toe, you are out of coffee creamer, get stuck in traffic so you’re late to work, your boss is riding your tail for 8 hours, and finally you come home to cat puke on your carpet (maybe that last one is just me). That’s some pretty rotten luck. If you’re focused entirely on those negative events, everything seems pretty bleak.

But guess what? You have food in your fridge, you have a job to support your family, and your kids are perfectly healthy. Yahoo! It’s all about perspective. Focusing on gratitude can pull you out of any slump. I suggest pausing to find at least one thing a day to be grateful for. Write it down! That way, if you’re having a particularly stinky day, you have a notebook full of evidence that life isn’t that bad after all.

4. Say thank you:

This may seem like a little thing. Someone opens the door for you walking into a building. Of course you smile and say thank you! You sneeze, and a stranger offers you an obligatory “bless you.” Thank you is an automatic response. I’m talking about the waitress that offered impeccable service while juggling eight other tables, the customer service rep that helped you after navigating robot prompts for 20 minutes, when you thought your head would explode if you waited another millisecond. Your spouse when they make you dinner after your long day, or stranger that helped you pick up your groceries when the bag broke.

Many of these experiences are taken for granted. We may internally appreciate them, but that doesn’t mean others can read our mind! My mom calls this the “gift of a verbal bouquet.” When you say “thank you,” you give the gift of affirmation that someone may be desperately needing. Not to mention, it will give you a warm fuzzy too!

 5. Treasure hunt:

This is one of my very favorite therapeutic tools. Mindfulness brings with it an awareness of your senses, your surroundings, and the ability to savor the beauty around you. With this mindset, the world becomes exponentially more beautiful. When going throughout your day, try to look at it as a treasure hunt. What is waiting for you on this path- to make you smile? It may be the baby that plays peek-a-boo with you when you’re out to dinner, it could be a heart-shaped rock on your hike, reminding you that you are loved in this world. It could be any number of unexpected surprises. The trick is being on the lookout, and being open to the possibility that there is a constant stream of beauty, just waiting for you to notice.

 

The idea of mindfulness can be daunting, when reading all the many ways to become a “Zen Master Flash.” I’m a believer in taking small bites of mindfulness everyday. These are seeds of possibility that, over time, can transform someone from an anxious and depressed individual just trying to survive each day, to a peaceful observer thriving in a world full of treasures. Enjoy the journey.

2017-09-12T15:59:10-07:00

About the Author:

I am a licensed clinical social worker, single mama, foodie, and coffee enthusiast. I feel spiritually fed in the Boise foothills and crave time to create things that are beautiful. I have dedicated my professional life to combating depression through the daily use of gratitude and mindfulness in my practice and on my blog: audreyspeaceofmind.com. Additional Mindful Moments can be found: audreyspeaceofmind.com/mindful-moments.

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