Life can be very chaotic and stressful at times. Mindfulness practice can help you use these difficult times to your advantage. It is like exercise for the mind. The more you practice, the stronger you become. Mindfulness is not about “living a stress free life” But it is about learning new skills to manage the challenges of daily living. Below are a few simple ways to incorporate mindfulness practice into your life.
1) Live in the moment: This may not mean what you think it means. In relation to mindfulness, living in the moment is not “partying like there is no tomorrow”. Living in the moment is making a conscious effort to be focused on that exact moment. For example, if you know that you have a presentation to give at work the next day, pretending like there is no tomorrow will not help you. However, worrying too much about the presentation may not be helpful either. Think to yourself: “This moment I will review my notes”, or “This moment I will concentrate on my breathing”. Living in the moment is being present in your life and not obsessing about the past or worrying about the future.
2) Accept things as they are: It is incredibly easy to pick apart our own lives. Often we will spend much time thinking about how we should be, or what we should be doing. Mindfulness promotes an attitude of acceptance without judgment. Again, this may not mean what you think it means. This does not mean you should just accept everything and not strive for improvement. This type of acceptance is about letting go of how you believe things “should be” and accepting them the way that they are. For example, if you are unhappy with your current position it is possible that the first step in moving forward is accepting the situation as it is. There is a quote by Carl Jung that comes to mind: What we resist, persists” with this in mind, sometimes the best way to move forward is through genuine acceptance.
4) Try to not react immediately: This actually probably means exactly what you think it means. So often we react quickly to people or situations that are troubling. For example, if a significant other does something to upset us, our knee jerk reaction is to just fight back. Make a conscious effort to give yourself some time before you react. This is not to say you should just ignore the issue. But try to separate yourself from the situation and give yourself a little time before you react.
5) Learn to be more comfortable with being uncomfortable: This can be challenging to do, but can be incredibly liberating. We are trained to believe that it is not okay to be uncomfortable. When we are faced with discomfort, be it emotional or physical, our gut reaction is often to fight it or resist it. Try accepting discomfort, and try going even further, and be okay with it. For example, next time you get a headache, instead of thinking to yourself “oh no! not a headache, I have so much to do, I can’t deal with this now…” Think to yourself “okay. so I have a headache, my head hurts a bit, but I can do this.” This can be applied to emotional discomfort too. For example, if you are feeling down, don’t think to yourself “I am so depressed, how am I ever going to continue with this…” Think to yourself “Yes, I am feeling a bit depressed right now. I have had this before and I got through it, I will get through it again. It’s okay to feel depressed sometimes”. Learning to be comfortable with discomfort will build your resistance and before you know it, things will bother you less.
While these suggestions are simple, that does not mean they are easy. But the good thing about mindfulness, even doing it just a little bit will have a positive impact on your life. I challenge you to take on these mindfulness skills, with an attitude of self acceptance and without judgment.