And this is where the beauty of mindfulness comes into its own, allowing us to stop the roller coaster and start moving forward again with greater self-awareness and self-understanding.
The following 21 mindful habits are simple tips to help you and begin your journey to a better understanding of your purpose and place in the world, and a greater compassion for your shortcomings and those of others. But remember to take your time, for the more patient the practice the greater the reward.
1. Develop one habit at a time
The first habit is to start your journey slowly. Choose one positive habit and keep at it until it becomes so natural that not a day goes past without it naturally arising.
2. Practise gratitude
It is important to take daily notice of the blessings we receive; it reminds us to find joy in the smallest of things. As we practice gratitude, we become increasingly aware that there’s always something to be thankful for, even in the bleakest situation.
3. Feel your feet and palms
Clench your hands into tight fists and release. Clench. Release. Clench. Release. Do the same thing with your toes. And if that’s too much dexterity, just wiggle your toes. This is one of the physical anchors of self-awareness capable of bringing you into the present moment.
4. Notice the environment
You don’t have to react or manipulate your feelings and surroundings to stay rooted in the present moment; just take notice of what’s going on, and move on.
A great way to re-centre in the present is to take a walk in the park, by the sea or any nature-blessed area. Allow your mind to let go and just notice all the wonderful smells, sounds, objects and movement going on. Observe how everything is just as it should be, and remains so no matter how much you evaluate its presence and purpose.
5. Set a cyclic alarm
Set an alarm to ring every few hours to remind you to stop what you’re doing and objectively observe how you are thinking and feeling for a minute or two. This is a simple way to bring your awareness back to centre and prevent being swept along on autopilot.
6. Breathe deeply
Yoga teachings say that the longer the breath the longer you live. Inhale and slowly count to three, then exhale and do the same again. Employ your entire torso: your nostrils, throat, collarbones, ribcage and diaphragm. Feel the rush of fresh, oxygenated blood fill you with renewed life.
Mindfulness is a practice that needs prioritising. It needs to get as close as possible to the top of your mental awareness, assuming the role of gatekeeper for your daily tasks.
8. Turn down the noise
Turn off your gadgets for a couple of hours: your TV, your smartphone, your tablet. Once you get used to being without these things for while, you’ll find that you don’t miss the noise, and it certainly won’t miss you.
9. Listen, don’t just hear
A conversation costs not only your time and attention but someone else’s too. It’s a precious privilege to be able to listen intently and interact in this way with others. Being mindful of that privilege means offering your undivided attention for the duration of the conversation and being as mentally present as possible.
10. Watch what you eat
Literally look at, sniff and taste your food properly, and don’t do anything else while you eat. Dietary regimes teach us to watch what we eat, but mindful eating makes things much simpler than counting calories. The mindfulness approach triggers a natural ability to identify which foods the body thrives on and those that are just convenient, quick fixes. While eating, consider where your food came from, how it grew and its journey from the land to your plate.
Workers in the creative fields swear by this. There’s something wholly mindful about washing away the cobwebs, so to speak, and emerging fresh and ready to flourish. There’s also a fair few mindful activities going on while you shower, too.
12. Delete time-wasting mobile & computer apps
If you haven’t used an app for more than a month, chances are you don’t need it. And if you don’t need it, it’s wasting resource and space. Ever wondered how much time you waste searching through the pile for an app that you actually do need?
Reading is a form of meditation, and a wonderful way to bring the mind home. Reading triggers some of the same effects as meditation: a slowing of thoughts and calming of the mind, reduced heart rate and a heightened ability to focus.
14. Break your day into parts
Why? Because if you are mindful about how you spend a day, you’ll naturally progress to being mindful about how you’re spending your life.
15. Meditate or Queue Up
And if you can’t meditate because you’re short on time, choose the longest queue in the store. Having to wait is one of the best ways to accept your place in the moment.
Whether a few minutes or half an hour, naps are an awesome way to just “be” for a while.
17. Smile to strangers
There’s a Sufistic saying that one should be kind to strangers, lest they may be angels in disguise. Say no more.
18. Listen to your intuition
People who practice mindfulness can, after some time, better connect and learn to trust their intuition. Mindfulness helps hone one’s inner guide, that voice we often ignore because it contradicts logic, but is the very pathway to inner peace. Start listening and trusting your intuition. The results will speak for themselves.
19. Choose your words
Begin taking note of how you speak with others. Often preconceptions and misguided beliefs lead us to come across in a way that doesn’t truly reflect our inner person.
Moreover, our personal frustration, insecurities, fears and anger shape the whip of our tongue. Do you speak kindly to others, or have you fallen into an autopilot pattern of speaking in a harsh tone? Do you come across as critical or judgmental?
20. Speak kindly to yourself
We can only be as kind to others as we are to ourselves. Take a few moments to notice how you speak to yourself. What is the inner commentator saying? Is he or she cheering you on as you surmount life’s challenges, or does he or she criticise you unfairly? Be patient with yourself, praise yourself in your efforts and forgive yourself in your shortcomings. You are but a human.
Crying creates a connection between our feelings, thoughts and physical reactions. Not only is it an act of bravery whereby we expose our weaknesses, it is a wonderful release of emotion—both negative and positive—that rejuvenates the soul and helps us come into the present moment.
Photo credit: iStock.com/erikreis