The famous poem “Leisure” written by W. H. Davis quotes “What is this life if, full of care, we have no time to stand and stare.” The lines are indeed true for the modern-day life that we live. We are so worked up and busy that we literally have little or no time to do anything else. Every day is a new challenge and each one of us is fighting a battle of our own.
We may be pursuing any profession, any field, in today’s competitive world we have to run the rat race no matter how much we try to escape it. In fact, even if one is jobless there are thousands of difficulties and societal pressures which one has to face. So, looking at the scenario today there is no escape from this pressure cooker of life.
Amidst all these daily hurdles that we are going through we forget that life is happening, time is passing and this time will never come back. We try painting the bigger picture without realizing that it is the smaller strokes, the tinier details that are going to make this picture aesthetic.
Chasing the future and mourning the past we have somewhere stopped living in the present. The living in living beings is vanishing and it is high time that we realize this. We are not robots we have feelings and when these feelings are suppressed in the chaotic life that we live, then crops up mental health issues like anxiety, depression and others which have become common lately.
Stop, take a pause from your busy schedule and read ahead to understand how to start “living” your life fully with what we call Mindful Living.
What is mindful living and how can you practice it? Let us understand.
What is Mindful Living?
Mindful living is nothing but living your life with mindfulness. Now, what is mindfulness? Simply put mindfulness refers to living in the present. It is a practice that cultivates present moment awareness. (1)
Buddhist traditions first explored this concept in broad philosophical terms which may not be familiar to modern readers. This is because the concept of mindfulness and mindful living is in contrast with much of our common daily experience. That is, for many of us our default mode of attention every day is in fact non-attention. It is natural that many of the times our minds keep wandering from one place to another.
We have hundreds and thousands of thoughts that keep waving in and out of our minds and this is common, but living mindlessly through our daily activities or running on autopilot, is wrong. Sometimes even when we do focus on internal experiences in the present moment, this attention is often filled with self-critical, or otherwise worrisome thoughts and emotions which we then attempt to suppress. Although these mindless states are predominant in our lives, they have been demonstrated to be maladaptive. (2)
Mindfulness is a process which when practised leads to a mental state that is characterized by nonjudgmental awareness of the present moment experience. It includes keeping one’s sensations, thoughts, bodily states, consciousness, and the environment in the present moment and encourages openness, curiosity, and acceptance. It is thus both a skill and a practice; the practice of mindfulness begets the skill of staying mindful. The stronger your ability to adopt a mindful state throughout the perpetual ups and downs of life, the less suffering one will experience.
Mindfulness can be a daily habit that leads to mindful living which is a lifelong process. It is most commonly practiced and cultivated through meditation, although being mindful does not necessarily require a meditation practice.
There are different conceptualizations of mindful living and various approaches have been adopted for the same but two components that remain constant are 1. Attentiveness to the present moment you are experiencing and 2. Acceptance towards that moment without being judgmental about it. (3)
10 Ways to practice Mindfulness in your Daily Life
Mindfulness and mindful living may sound simple to talk about and to understand but in reality, this may not be the case. You may find it a little complicated to practice mindful living. The following things will help you better incorporate this practice into your daily life.
As said earlier you don’t necessarily need to practice meditation to live mindfully but it can become one of the components of mindful living. To practice mindful meditation, you don’t need to shut your eyes and sit motionlessly. Instead, first find or rather make some time for yourself, sit comfortably, become aware of the different parts of your body, keep your eyes in a comfortable position. Slowly breathe in and out and feel your breath.
Notice when and where your mind is wandering and if it is be gentle towards it and let it wander without any judgement. Come back to the present after a few moments and notice your thoughts and emotions.
You can stroll around your house, your garden or go to a park. Simple but mindful walking will not only hold your attention but also allow you to reflect on your day ahead or the events that have happened in your life. To walk mindfully understand why you are doing so. Start by standing upright. Keep your back straight but not stiff. It is even better if you walk barefoot to get the feeling of being grounded. Avoid swinging your hands as it may cause distractions. Hold your hands together in front of you with your gaze lower. Lift one-foot place it down then lift the other. Keep walking at a steady pace.
Journaling can be a very therapeutic experience if you are someone who likes writing or who is fond of stationery. Nowadays there are many different kinds of journals that have come into the market that you can use. There are gratitude journals, bullet journals, planners etc. If not, you can even make your own journal and customize it according to your requirements.
The basic concept behind it is that you should be able to express your thoughts in it. For some of us, it is easy to write our feelings than talk about it, for them journaling can be a wholesome activity to understand themselves and their reactions and thoughts better.
It is said that communication is a two-way process that involves a person who talks and the other who listens. Now as important as it is for the person who is doing the talking it is equally important for the other person to listen actively and mindfully. This involves paying complete attention to the speaker keeping aside your mobiles or any other devices which you may be engaged in. Be present open and accepting of what the person is saying.
Do not be judgmental about what is being said. Sometimes one just needs an ear to be heard hence do not give any advice unless asked. If you want to ask something, use friendly and open-ended questions.
Eat without your phones or television in front of you. Firstly, be grateful for the plate of food you have and for the person who has cooked it. Observe carefully what you are eating. Give a few seconds of thought to those who have cultivated the food in its raw form.
Pay attention to the taste and smell of the food. How the taste changes as the food enters the body and once you are no longer hungry understand the feeling of fullness and satisfaction that you got. Appreciate your body for the energy it is going to derive from this food. It may be difficult in the beginning so start with something simple like snakes and then proceed with meals.
Many of today suffer from insomnia, a condition where one may find it difficult to fall asleep. This can be due to various reasons the most common being everyday stress and tensions. Setting a night routine can help in getting back that sound sleep that we may have lost.
you can start your night routine by winding down. Start your night routine an hour before you want to actually fall asleep, with tasks like washing your face and brushing your teeth, then dim the lights and engage in relaxing activities like reading a book or listening to music.
Avoid looking at very bright screens. Ten minutes before falling asleep engage in mindful exercises like imagining the position of your head, the pressure of your body, the position of different parts of your body, your breath etc. if your mind wanders try getting it back on track. If you are not able to still fall asleep on the bed practice this on a comfortable chair. Do not fall asleep in the chair itself!
Unwinding from gadgets
Today our life is wrapped around technological devices. Be it our alarms in the morning to our favorite tv series we watch at night, our day begins and ends on these gadgets. Laptops, cell phones, tablets, iPad, televisions, earphones, play stations and whatnot. The virtual world has taken us away from the reality of life and hence it becomes imperative to balance the time we spend on these gadgets with the time that we spend being present at the moment may be talking to our partner, our family, or our friends.
Keep these gadgets aside for a while or longer to actually understand the needs of your loved ones. If you cannot do it dedicate time every day and do it consciously. It will not only help you connect with others better but your loved ones will appreciate and remember this time spent together.
Practising a Hobby
Everyone has some or the other hobby. It may be as simple as reading a book or painting or gymming and usually for the majority of us our hobbies do not translate to our professions. But let that not keep you from practicing them. Find time to indulge yourself in your favorite hobby at least once a week.
Your hobbies bring out the creative side of your personality and creativity and mindfulness go hand in hand. If you cannot practice mindfulness by meditation or by self-reflection, do it from your hobby, doodling, singing cooking, start indulging and you will see how your thoughts flow and get you clarity on situations which you may not have imagined before.
Not taking things very seriously
Thinking about a situation and solutions to it is fine but overthinking most of the time becomes toxic. Taking things too seriously leads to unnecessary worry and tension. It is said that if it doesn’t matter in 5 years there is no point thinking about it for more than 5 minutes.
Understand your priorities and try taking something with a pinch of salt. If you want to create a mindful personality stop getting wrapped up in the constant tug of war of your emotions. Remember to laugh remember to smile no matter what situation. Like our favorite movie has taught us “Haso, Jiyo, Muskurao, Kya Pata Kal Ho Naa Ho!”
Trying New Experiences
Being open to new experiences is another way of living mindfully. Comfort zones are safe places but you cannot grow in them. To grow you need to broaden your horizons and stretch your limits. Do things that you may have never done before. Travel to a place which you always wanted to visit, take that trek which you always dreamt of. Step into the unknown.
Spend some time among nature and appreciate its beauty. It can be going to a beach or just watching the sunset or the moon from your balcony. Trying new experiences may give you a fresh perspective on situations that you may not have thought about before.
So, try some of these mindful practices and hopefully, your life will improve for the better. We all have one life and one chance to make it worthwhile. It is entirely up to us how we want to spend our lives. Are you living your life mindfully or mindlessly? Let us know in the comments below
Author: Dr Pooja Nilgar (Content writer and editor)
- Ludwig, D.S. and Kabat-Zinn, J., 2008. Mindfulness in medicine. Jama, 300(11), pp.1350-1352.
- Hofmann, S.G. and Gómez, A.F., 2017. Mindfulness-based interventions for anxiety and depression. Psychiatric clinics, 40(4), pp.739-749.
- Lindsay, E.K. and Creswell, J.D., 2017. Mechanisms of mindfulness training: Monitor and Acceptance Theory (MAT). Clinical psychology review, 51, pp.48-59.