Are there times you find yourself in a place of fear, worry, or guilt?
I think we all do, which is part of being human, where we move to a more “unconscious” state.
Once you have realized this, it’s time to stop and become aware of the present moment. That is what mindful living is about; for the next month I am focusing on this theme.
Mindful living is about living in the moment without judging yourself or others. Sometimes we may tend to live on autopilot, and living mindfully can feel challenging.
For example: you are going to the movies with your spouse, but as you are driving you start thinking about the argument you had with him or her three weeks ago. Before you know it, you’re all fired up again. Instead of living in the current moment, you find yourself re-living the past. This makes it hard to move on, and can lead you to carrying around anger and other unpleasant emotions, which of course (in this example) will affect your relationship.
Mindful Living = Cultivating a Judgment-Free Zone
Instead of reacting emotionally to situations as you might when on autopilot, you can choose to focus on the current moment without letting your emotions take over.
You might see a distressing story on the news. You feel angry and sad. But instead of reaching for your phone to distract yourself, you stay in the moment. You acknowledge your emotions without judgment. This practice frees you to stay in the present moment.
Mindful Living Makes You More Appreciative
There are times that you may be doing tasks that you perceive as unpleasant, such as while you are cleaning your home or compiling boring data for a client; it can be tempting to let your mind wander at such times! But part of mindful living is staying in the moment, even if that moment is unpleasant or uncomfortable. Unpleasant moments can become more enjoyable when we have the right frame of mind!
Just because you are staying aware during what is usually an unpleasant moment, you don’t have to give into feelings of negativity. Instead, focus on giving thanks. For example, you might say and feel something like, “I’m grateful that I have enough clients to pay my bills” or “I’m blessed to have a home to clean.” Now, you’ve managed to stay in the moment without letting yourself focus on the negative.
Mindful Living Improves Your Mood
Few things can improve your mood quite like mindful living. Often, anxious thoughts are the result of worrying about the future while sad thoughts are related to regretting the past. Mindful living helps because it forces you to stop over-thinking. Sometimes, in order to shift into a more mindful state, it helps to pause the usual daily activities, and to sit and meditate or engage in other fully-focused practices such as Tai Chi Chuan, or perhaps walking in nature. Joining with others who provide support and help you see a bigger picture to life than the individual ups and downs, can also be very helpful.
Mindful living is one simple way to improve your life. Try to spend a week focused on mindful living and see how your thoughts and feelings change.
Here are some questions to journal to bring more awareness:
1. Describe a situation where you were running on autopilot rather than feeling present in the moment.
2. List three common activities you do while on autopilot. Why do you think you do these tasks on autopilot?
3. How often do you find yourself reaching for your phone to check for messages or calls during a typical day?