Most of us are used to living a fast-paced life with numerous responsibilities, an endless to-do list, and what feels like little to no time for tending to ourselves. Our constant search for catching up with the world often causes us to overlook our capacity to embrace moments of stillness and self-awareness, both of which are essential to living mindfully.
Why should we practice mindful living? Because it’s good for our mental health! Several studies have found a positive association between mindfulness and mental health. One study in particular suggests that the effects of practicing mindfulness “ranged from increased subjective wellbeing, reduced psychological symptoms and emotional reactivity, to improved regulation of behavior.”
Living life mindfully may sound like a distant and idealized concept at first, but it’s easier than you might think. In fact, we’ve got 5 tips you can start practicing today.
Our 5 Tips for Staying Present in a Fast-Paced World
1. Wake up without your phone
How often do you wake up and immediately grab your phone to check your text messages, email, and social media pages? You might not notice, but bombarding your mind with so much information first thing in the morning can quickly alter your mood and sense of inner-peace.
Instead, try waking up at least 15 minutes before you usually do with the intention to greet the day consciously. So… how does that work exactly? By doing things that keep you open to the present moment — taking deep breaths, smelling an invigorating essential oil or candle, repeating affirmations or mantras, stretching your body in a way that feels good, or simply drinking a full glass of water.
2. Breathe like you mean it
It may be safe to say that we all take our natural ability to breathe for granted. It’s something we do naturally and unconsciously. But have you ever noticed that when you breathe deeply you almost instantly feel a sense of well-being? An article by The American Institute of Stress explains that “deep breathing increases the supply of oxygen to your brain and stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system, which promotes a state of calmness. Breathing techniques help you feel connected to your body — it brings your awareness away from the worries in your head and quiets your mind.”
Remind yourself to take deep breaths throughout your day, even if it means writing yourself a sticky note!
3. Enjoy your meals.
There are times when we simply cannot avoid eating our lunch while completing a work project or taking bites here and there in between meetings. However, setting aside at least 15 minutes to fully enjoy our lunch, or any other meal for that matter, should be a basic act of self-care. In his book, How to Eat, Thich Nhat Hanh advises us that “when we eat our meal, we should show up for that meal 100 percent. Eating mindfully is a practice.”
Showing up for our meal means savoring our food… and trying our best not to “reply all” between bites.
4. Keep a gratitude journal.
Our fast-paced world and unlimited access to everyone else’s achievements via social media can often make us feel like we’re lacking in our own lives. It’s too easy to focus on the things, people, and experiences that are absent in our lives, rather than acknowledge and appreciate what’s already present.
Keeping a gratitude journal or simply spending a few minutes every day to marvel at all that you’re grateful for can be a powerful and grounding practice. As Melody Beattie once said, “Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today and creates a vision for tomorrow.”
Sounds like a quote we should all have printed and framed on our walls!
5. Start a bedtime ritual.
Do you ever find yourself unable to fall asleep because you’re still worked up from a difficult day or your mind is racing with a million thoughts? Try dedicating 1 hour before bed to mindfully unwind from the day. Bonus challenge: Try turning off all your devices — TV, computer, phone, etc.
For the first part of this hour, try unwinding with a few of the following: light a candle that has a relaxing scent (like lavender), play some relaxing music or nature sounds, release any muscular tension by stretching your body, make a cup of herbal tea, and read a few pages of your current favorite book.
For the last part of this unwinding hour, try to sit comfortably in bed with the sole purpose of finding stillness. If you find your mind thinking about things you need to do the next day, write them down on a notepad or post-it and set it aside.
Do a body scan, which simply means to bring awareness to each part of your body one by one. Use this time to breathe deeply and to surrender to the present moment by letting go of any thought, idea or feeling that does not serve your well-being.
If you can find the space and time to do even one of these practices daily, it may just boost your overall mood and mental clarity. And those are just two benefits of living a mindful life!