The next step in our happiness plan is to be mindful. As a reminder, our other steps are:
Have you ever gotten into the shower, washed your hair and then forgotten whether you washed it or not? Or, have you been talking with someone and instead of listening, you were thinking about what to say next? You, my friend, are on auto-pilot. You are not being mindful. This is not simply a symptom of modern life. More than 500 years ago, Leonardo da Vinci said that the average person,
“…looks without seeing, listens without hearing, touches without feeling, eats without tasting, moves without physical awareness, inhales without awareness of odor or fragrance, and talks without thinking.”
What is mindfulness? To be mindful, you must first be aware of what you are doing, to be always present with your current experience, but awareness is just the start.
Psychology Today tells us that,
Mindfulness is a state of active, open attention on the present. When you’re mindful, you observe your thoughts and feelings from a distance, without judging them good or bad. Instead of letting your life pass you by, mindfulness means living in the moment and awakening to experience.
Why should we be mindful? The list is extensive. According to Jay Dixit in an article from Psychology Today,
Mindfulness reduces stress, boosts immune functioning, reduces chronic pain, lowers blood pressure, and helps patients cope with cancer. By alleviating stress, spending a few minutes a day actively focusing on living in the moment reduces the risk of heart disease…Mindful people are happier, more exuberant, more empathetic, and more secure. They have higher self-esteem and are more accepting of their own weaknesses. Anchoring awareness in the here and now reduces the kinds of impulsivity and reactivity that underlie depression, binge eating, and attention problems.
Modern society intrudes on our ability to be mindful. At work, we think about being on a beach for a two-week vacation. On the beach, we’re worried about our burgeoning in-box and growing mound of work. Instead of controlling our thoughts, they control us.
We believe that we are the sum total of our thoughts, but we are not. This becomes clear when you embrace mindfulness. But how do we do it?
As in trying to achieve happiness, you don’t just go from auto-pilot to mindfulness is one fell swoop. There are a number of small, daily changes which help you to begin being more mindful.
Stretch. As soon as you get out of bed each morning, try the child’s pose. This yoga pose not only gives you a good stretch, it also makes you focus on your breathing, which coincidentally is a form of meditation. Get one of these great books on yoga. As your body becomes more flexible, so does your mind.
Hydrate. I drink about 12 ounces of lemon water each morning when I get up. Think about it – you haven’t had water for around eight hours and this affects your brain, as well as your body. Dehydrated brains don’t function optimally. You can become moody, which is counterproductive for staying mindful.
Meditate. A lot of people resist the practice. Some say they can’t sit still. Others believe – wrongly – that it is a religious practice to which they don’t prescribe. There are non-religious forms of meditation, and even Christian-oriented meditation. Or, it could be that they just don’t think the time necessary is worth the benefit. Get one of the books on this list and start meditating. You will quickly see the benefits.
Savor. Don’t just wolf down your food. Chew your food slowly. Pay attention to the color, the texture and the taste of your food. This is one I’m working on.
Write. Before you start work, write down three things for which you are grateful. Then, write down your top three priorities for completing that day. With a clear list of priorities, you are less likely to get stressed out because you won’t react to every little interruption.
Breathe. Feel yourself getting stressed? Take a deep breath to the count of four. Hold it to the count of four. Release it to the count of four. Don’t breathe to the count of four. Repeat a total of four times.
Notice. Whether you are on a walk, sitting at your desk, talking with a friend, even drinking a glass of wine, notice everything around you as if you are seeing or experiencing it for the first time.
Get The Full Happiness Plan & More…
My new book, Get Glad: Your Practical Guide To A Happier Life, puts this whole plan together and walks you through the steps to help get you to a happier place. Pick up your copy: