Have you ever gone through an entire day and then wondered, “What did I even do today?” Or perhaps you drove home but once you got there you can’t really recall actually driving.
You were living life on auto-pilot. While you were performing one task your mind was off tending to its own agenda. Perhaps you were replaying a conversation with your boss in your head, or you were thinking about what you need to do tomorrow.
We are so used to multi-tasking these days to respond to our phone every time it dings, or to stop writing that email to answer the phone. It’s become a normal part of our life to jump from one thing to the next.
The problem with that is we end up going through life at warp speed and distracted from what’s right in front of us.
What does it mean to be mindful?
In a nutshell being mindful means being present to yourself, your surroundings and other people. You are paying attention to what’s going on within and around you. You might be asking, “pay attention to what?” And the answer is: everything.
A mindful person is always aware of the inter-connectedness of life. They are focused on savoring the moment and truly finding pleasure in the most mundane circumstances. And a mindful person notices how the words they use affect those around them.
In other words, mindful people are in touch with themselves and the world around them. If you ask them, “why did you do that?” they will probably have a reason every time – because they always think about it.
A mindful person will never come home from work and unconsciously stuff 5,000 calories in their mouths. If they do, at least they are aware they are doing it and why.
I like to say that people who are not mindful are sort of walking around in their life with “blinders” on. They become oblivious to themselves and others.
However, mindfulness exists on a continuum. It’s not like a persons is either completely mindless or mindful. We all exist somewhere on that continuum. And we all need to pay attention so we can eventually move as close to the mindful end as we can.
What you can do to get started with mindfulness
Write down the areas of your life where you need to pay attention more
If you’re not at least a little mindful, this first step might be difficult for you. If you’re not self-aware, how can you know what you need to improve upon? Some of it may be obvious, such as your eating habits or lack-of-exercise routine. But for other things, you might need to stretch to figure it out.
For example, maybe you need to be more mindful of how you speak or how your actions affect other people. So in order for you to be aware of where you stand now (and what you need to improve upon), ask the people in your life to help you. Ask them to tell you what they think you need to be more mindful of. It might not be easy to hear what they have to say, but it’s a necessary first step.
Get a journal
Once you know what you need to improve upon, it’s important to write it down. It’s easy to just know what you need to do, but it’s another thing to take action. For example, we all know how to eat healthy and that we should exercise. But do we all do it? No. And that’s the difference between knowing and doing.
Having your mindful goals written in a journal will make them “official.” Think of it as a sort of contract between you and yourself. And then make sure you hold yourself accountable as well.
Review your journal as much as possible
It’s not good enough to just write down your goals and then forget about them. Otherwise it’s like every other person’s New Year’s Resolution to lose weight. A few weeks into the year, they slack off and don’t ever reach their goal.
Carry your journal around with you. That way, you will get into the habit of looking at it. Also, you can use it to write down your thoughts as you go through your day. This will provide you with some good data as time goes on so you can look back and see your progress.
Get a mindful buddy
It’s never easy to change. But to change your actions all by yourself is even more difficult! So grab a friend or family member who is also oriented toward self-improvement too. It’s just like having a workout partner. You’re always more motivated to go to the gym when you know someone is going to be waiting there for you to hold you accountable. Check in with your buddy every day to review your progress.
Watch yourself as if you’re another person
Let’s face it – we never really can see ourselves. We just can’t leap out of our bodies and look at ourselves the way other people do. So pretend like you’re an observer of your own behavior. What would you think about yourself if you were someone else? Would you be friends with yourself? What actions do you have that would actually bug you if you were another person?
One big problem that many people have is that they don’t know how their actions affect other people. Stemming from tip #5, see how your actions affect the people around you. Or, if you find that you simply can’t do that, ask people what they think. Have them tell you which of your behaviors are making their lives difficult. For example, if you tend to be late all the time, ask them how that makes them feel. Then find different strategies you can use to stay on time.
Mediation is beneficial to you in so many ways. It calms your mind and body, helps with stress, and gets you clear on your goals. You don’t even have to meditate very long. Just a few minutes a day will help. Do it first thing in the morning or before you to go bed. Slowing down your brain waves on a regular basis will help you get more in touch with yourself.
Being mindful is a skill. Yes, some people may be better at it than others, but that doesn’t mean everyone can’t learn to do it. The most important thing is that you get started with mindfulness today. It takes some effort, but when you change your habits, you’ll find that being mindful can literally change your life!