Everyone says that it’s good to be “mindful,” but what does that really even mean? More importantly, how do you get that way?
The answer to the first question isn’t that complicated. Being mindful simply means having a sense of awareness, not only of your own thoughts and feelings, but also the thoughts and feelings of those around you, as well as a consciousness of your surroundings at any given moment.
As for the second question, becoming more mindful doesn’t happen overnight. It’s a process, one that anyone can start with just a few simple steps…
1. Put Down Your Phone
These days, the single biggest distraction for most people is their phone. As helpful as it is to have an entire universe of knowledge, entertainment, and human connection at your fingertips, it can also be overwhelming and addictive. If you really want to learn to live in the moment and appreciate the world around you, you’re going to have to log off of Facebook and YouTube, stop browsing the listings of Banff homes for sale, and put your notifications on silent. Better yet, turn the phone off completely, if only for a little while.
2. Ask More Questions
Regardless of what some people might say about it killing cats, curiosity is a virtue, especially when it comes to practicing mindfulness. A crucial element of awareness is understanding, and understanding requires interrogation. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, not just of others but of yourself as well. Try paying closer attention to the world around you, including things you’ve long taken for granted. Ask yourself why things are the way that they are? Why do you feel the way you do? Why do you believe the things you believe, and what makes other people believe different things?
3. Learn to Slow Down
Life is chaos. This can be both a good thing and a bad thing. On one hand, spontaneity and unpredictability can ward off monotony and keep existence exciting. On the other hand, it can be hard to get a grip on things, let alone fully appreciate your inner and outer states, when everything is constantly changing and you have to rush just to play catch-up. It’s exhausting. The thing is, the idea that you always have to play catch-up is a fallacy. It’s okay to take a break to catch your breath. In fact, it’s often necessary.
4. Reduce Multitasking
This goes hand-in-hand with the point above. Many of us try to do too many things at one time. While this works fine when you’re on a deadline, when you’re trying to become more mindful but find it difficult to turn the “multitasking” part of your brain off, enhanced productivity is ironically counterproductive. Even in our leisure time, too many people try to multitask, such as watching TV or browsing the Internet while eating their lunch. Instead of doing that, for instance, why not disconnect from technology and eat in silence? Savor the taste, the texture, the smell of your meal. Soon, you’ll be able to savor all life’s little moments the same way.
5. Embrace Boredom
Boredom gets a bad rap. We like to think of it as something to be avoided at all costs, but is it really? Believe it or not, there is value in boredom, in not constantly being stimulated by outside factors. Why? Because boredom actually encourages a deeper form of stimulation driven by internal factors. An unengaged mind will naturally engage with itself, in turn building up creativity, imagination, and, yes, mindfulness. Don’t be afraid to let your mind wander. You might be surprised by what it finds.
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