I’m sure by now you have heard of mindfulness. It definitely seems to be having its moment in the spotlight – not necessarily a bad thing, as it means there’s plenty of information available for you.
Personally, mindfulness is something I have been practising since I was diagnosed with my illness nearly 5 years ago. When you have a limited amount of energy to use you definitely have to think more about what you want to use that energy for. What you want to say yes and no to.
But this practice, or life mindset applies whether you have an illness or not.
What is Mindfulness
In essence mindfulness is getting rid of the clutter. It is being more aware of your thoughts, feelings, and actions.
You wake up everyday and choose the mindset of kindness and calm. It is you practising gratitude for the small everyday things. Every. Single. Day.
Intentionally choose not get caught up in the negative. Whether that’s your own thoughts, or other people’s behaviour and drama. That energy can only bring you down.
Mindfulness is You deciding what your days focus on.
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Buddhists believe that happiness is determined by our state of mind and inner peace rather than any external factors. By embracing and accepting all aspects of life even the negative, facing them head on, and focusing on the present moment instead of the past or the future, we are able to gain equanimity and a deep sense of wellbeing.
Feeling sadness or negative feelings is normal and part of the human experience. But it is how you deal with these feelings and what happens in your day to day life that determines your overall state of mind. Happiness in not the fleeting and soaring highs of joy, but learning to enjoy and find happiness in the every day moments.
I very much try to focus on the now, the present, and let go of things I cannot change or have no control over for that is a waste of energy. But I no way have this all figured out yet, I’m still learning too.
Simple steps to everyday mindfulness
If you want to start being more mindful with your time and what you give your energy to, here are some small steps to get you started.
They say it takes 30 days for something to become a habit. So practice these every day for a month and they will naturally become a part of your routine.
Part of mindfulness is being more aware of what you want your life to consist of, what your values are, and practising gratitude daily. I have found the for me the best way of doing this is to journal. Ask your self these two questions and see what you come up with. Then every morning and evening jot down three things that you are grateful for that day. They don’t have to be big things, in fact it’s better if they are not.
For me it can be something as small as seeing the red kites in the sky. Picking forget-me-not’s on the way home. Or sitting in the garden with a cup of tea and enjoying the sun on my face.
It is learning to appreciate all the little moments in your life and the people that you spend them with that outs you in the right mindset to deal with the stresses and less happy moments that crop up throughout your days.
If you don’t want to journal that’s ok too. Maybe just have your answers to these questions written down somewhere so that you see them every morning as a daily reminder. And you can list your daily gratitude’s in your head or to yourself in the mirror each day instead. As long as you are doing the work, that is the important bit.
Observe not react
I think one of the key habits to adopt if you want to be more mindful is to be one step removed from what is happening in your day.
What do I mean by this? Here’s an example: You are working in a customer facing job, or you have an interaction with a stranger who is rude, angry or just plain nasty.
Instead of reacting to the situation; immediately feeling upset, hurt, or angry in return. Take a second for your mind to process. Take a deep breath, and know that you don’t have to take on that persons negative energy and anger. Or let their words affect you personally.
Let the breath go, and carry on being polite from a space of kindness and love.
If you need to give yourself a mantra for situations like this maybe say to yourself “this person is not angry at me. It’s not personal.”
Because you don’t know what else has happened in their day leading up to that moment. Try not to negatively judge others on face value, or that one small interaction.
Send them feelings of love and send them on their way. There is no need to get caught up in their negative behavior or let it effect you and the rest of your day.
Take a breath
The beginnings of mindfulness are based in a meditation practice. Learning to control your breathing and focus on your body and what it’s telling you. But that breathing is what you take into your day-to-day life too.
(If you want to read a little more about meditation and other little things you can do to improve your day you can read about it in a previous post here).
What do I mean when I say take that breathing into day-to-day life? For any situation, take a deep breath in and as you breathe out feel all the tension or negative feelings leave your body. Give yourself the time to think and feel instead of just blindly reacting and saying or doing something you’ll later regret.
If you are feeling stressed, stop and take a breath. Take the time to make a clear plan. Take things a step at a time. Don’t rush it.
If you find yourself mindlessly eating or overthinking. Stop and take a breath. Ask yourself why. Find the answer, tell yourself this isn’t helping you, and make the change.
If you are over-worrying about something. Take a deep breath. Ask yourself exactly what it is you are worried about. Can you do anything to fix it?. If yes make a plan to do it. If no accept that you are worrying needlessly and let that worry go.
You cannot change the past and you cannot control your future. The only think you have the ability to control is how to spend your present moments, and the decisions you make now! If you waste your present worrying or going through life on autopilot, are you really living?
But just to be clear, Mindfulness does not mean removing yourself from feeling or blocking out your feelings. Rather giving yourself a beat to process and be logical in your response. To sit with your feelings and emotions and work through them. To listen to your body and what it is telling you, and to be intuitive and tuned in with your responses.
Fill up your cup first
When it comes to your mind and body you need to take care of yourself first. This is not selfish, it is necessarily. How can you give love and energy and kindness to others, if you do not first make sure you are the best version of ‘you’ that you can be?
Only say yes to what you have the time and energy for each day. Don’t take on extra tasks at work if you know you cannot do them, and do not commit to something or someone if your day is already full. Only say yes to doing things that bring you joy, and give you energy, not just because you feel obligated or pressured to. If they drain your will to live these are the things you need to cut out of your life.
If you aren’t feeling good about something. Don’t push yourself to do it.
And only invite people into your life that lift you up, fill you with energy, and make you feel good. If people drain your energy and you feel exhausted after spending time with them, those are the people you need to distance yourself from. Not to be mean or rude to other people, but for yourself. For your sanity and for your own happiness.
Listen to what your body’s telling you
Once you start to quieten the noise in your mind and be more focused and intentional you can also start to notice, tune into, and listen to what your body, heart, and gut instincts are telling you.
For example; when you need to rest or be on your own, when you need to eat or when certain foods aren’t agreeing with you. Or if you are feeling restless that you need to move your body and get some fresh air.
You can also learn to recognise what decisions you should be making based on your body and your guts responses to the situations you are in, and learn to trust your intuition when it comes to the people in your life, their actions and what they say, and if they ring true with you.
Often we don’t pay attention to our bodies responses in communicating with others and miss when it is telling us something. If you feel uncomfortable in a situation and are paying attention, mindfulness practices allow you to figure out why more quickly than if you were just going through the actions of your day on auto-pilot.
Listen to your body and your reactions and remove yourself from situations that don’t make you feel like the best version of yourself or align with your values and how you want to live your life. Start to set boundaries for what you will and will not accept in your life.
Being mindful of yourself is being mindful of what you use and buy, the things and possessions you have in your life compared to what you actually need. In the culture we live in today too high a value is put on material possessions and ‘things’.
This isn’t something you need to do all at once, as that would be overwhelming. But start with maybe two or three areas that you want to hone in on, and start to remove the clutter or the things you don’t really need or use. This could be your wardrobe and the clothes you buy, the make up and/or beauty and grooming products you use, even the groceries you get weekly.
Do you just buy more or something else because its the ‘next new thing’ when really you have enough already, or do you aimlessly wander the isles of the supermarket and end up buying more than you can eat instead of only getting what you need?
Mindfulness means looking at your habits. Realising where you are being wasteful – whether that be with time, energy, or things, and changing for the better. Only using the minimum you actually need, and being happier with what you have. Rather than feeling overwhelmed.
It is also being more aware of how our habits and materialism are effecting the planet and the environment we call home. So reducing what you need and being more eco-friendly, being mindful of where your products and things come from, and how and what you eat is good for the planet too.
It sounds like the simplest thing in the world, but is often the hardest. Be kinder to yourself and be kind to others. But when we come from a place of kindness we do more for others, are more forgiving and nicer to ourselves, and create a nicer atmosphere in general.
Did you know that scientifically kindness is the opposite reaction in our brains to stress? That by doing a good deed for someone else you actually feel less stressed!
But its not just kindness to others. Maybe more importantly learn to speak to yourself as you would a best friend. Do you often find you are being overly critical or mean to yourself. Thinking things you would never say to another person? Yep, Me too! But why.
Everyone makes mistakes, we are human after all, so instead of filling your head with negative words be kind to yourself. Its ok to not be right all the time, to need a day to rest, for everything to not be immaculate, or to not have all the answers.
By being kind instead of berating yourself constantly you actually give yourself the space to make decisions and see things clearly without all the negative thoughts and feelings clouding your vision. Learn from your mistakes, believe in yourself and see how much better being inside your own head can be when you stop the negative thoughts about yourself.
When negative thoughts come up sit with them and work out why you think that. Is it true, is it something someone has told you that you’ve hung onto? Because words are powerful things, and what you say you often end up believing. So boost yourself up instead of limiting what you have the potential to achieve!
By approaching your life from a place of gratitude and kindness, instead of stress and wanting you will find that you become happier. If everyone was more mindful, kind, and genuinely happier imagine how much of a nicer place the world could be.