The word mindfulness is thrown around a lot these days. I’m sure you’ve seen it staring back at you from bookshelves and it’s almost always seen in the same sentence as meditation. So what exactly does mindfulness mean?
Mindfulness defined is: a quality or state of being conscious or aware of something.
So why is everyone telling us that we should start practicing this?
Here is my answer to that.
These days there are so many things constantly trying to grab our attention. Everywhere we turn there are screens distracting us. Real time is spent living virtual lives on social media. We follow the day to day updates of celebrities and those who live lives of luxury. We are plagued by this sense of “not enough”. This constant comparison has us doubting ourselves and our own capabilities.
Due to this new digital era, mindfulness has become an essential practice that we need to take on to ground ourselves and help us focus on making our lives a little bit better. With it we can maximize our potential and make our dreams reality.
To practice mindfulness we need to centre our attention to the things that we might not realize we are neglecting. This can mean becoming more aware of those around us and it can also mean going inward and concentrating on ourselves.
Recently I got this book called “Heart Talk” by Cleo Wade. It’s a lovely book mostly comprised of poetry and inspirational notes and letters. I highly recommend it.
Something instantly jumped out from one of the pages that I was reading and in a second I was inspired to change the way I think. Cleo Wade said something that made me stand still: “complaints have no magic”. I instantly became aware of how much time I spend complaining.
Complaining is something that we all do. We gossip about others, over analyze our interactions, obsess over our problems and put ourselves down. These are all forms of negativity and all negative thoughts that stew in our brain stifle our capacity for greatness.
This got me thinking about what I could start doing differently. And it inspired me to write a list of four ways that mindfulness can help us to start living our best lives.
If you draw inaccurate conclusions about who you are and what you’re capable of doing, you’ll limit your potential. - Amy Morin for Forbes
1. Let’s use the power of our mind for good.
The mind is such a powerful tool and you can make magic with it. In fact, you already are. You just don’t realize it.
Have you ever thought of someone and then looked down and saw that they had already texted you? Maybe it wasn’t that immediate. Perhaps you thought of someone you haven’t heard from in a long time and then a week later you bump into them on the street.
Have you ever announced that you are clumsy or forgetful and then you end up losing your keys or forgetting your credit card somewhere?
What a coincidence right? Actually, not quite.
Your thoughts create your reality. Your mind is more powerful than you know. - Neale Donald Walsch
We create our lives based on what we think and focus on. If you are having a bad day and you choose to focus on what made you upset hours ago, chances are, your day isn’t going to get much better.
Think about it this way: Thoughts are your super power. Now, do you want to use that power for good and make your life amazing? Of course you do! That’s exactly how you have to start thinking of your thoughts, as if they are your super power.
The practice of being more mindful of your thoughts can help you notice which ones are serving you and which ones aren’t. Like for example replaying an awkward convo and obsessing over what you said is not helping you at all.
And if you find yourself in a rut of bad thoughts and you want to snap out of it fast go look at your self care list that you made using my blog Self Love and Self Care - Your Most Important Tools and find something on there that you can do right now. It could be as simple as turning on your favourite song or turning off your phone. Maybe you need to get moving or take five minutes to meditate.
Once you turn your mood around, there won’t be any room for those negative thoughts to creep up and kill your vibe.
But it’s not just thoughts, it’s also our words.
2. Let’s go on a complaint cleanse.
Okay, let’s face it, to completely omit complaints is not something that can happen overnight. You may not realize how often you complain about things. The weather for example is something that we all complain about. It’s everyone’s small talk opener. If it’s anything less than a partly sunny day that hits 26 degrees Celsius (78 degrees Fahrenheit) we will most likely complain about it. “Oh it’s too rainy, too cold, too hot, too sunny, too humid, too cloudy” etc.
We may also complain about the people in our life. It may be second nature to find things that annoy you with someone and point it out to someone else that you know in a way of bonding with them. “She’s talks way too much”, “He’s so awkward”, “Don’t you hate how she always does that”. The list goes on.
Take some time to really sift through your daily conversations. Do you find that you are often gossiping or judging people with your friends? If the number of negative interactions you have with others outweigh the positive then you need to start having new conversations! You might even have to start talking to different people. And while you can’t control control the way people around you speak, you have complete power over your own words.
Its as simple as what my father and I’m sure many of your parents used to say when we were all kids, “If you don’t have anything nice to say then don’t say anything at all”.
Language creates our reality. Words have power. Speak always to create joy. -Deepak Chopra
3. Let’s start a gratitude practice
We all want abundance in our lives. The natural human condition is to want more. This is not necessarily greed. Most of us are just trying to obtain a higher quality of life for ourselves.
What we may not realize is that without being grateful for what we already have, we can never allow for anything new to come our way.
Sometimes we may act as though we are starving but really we have so much. A place to live, a car to drive, our health, friends and family who love us, food and water to nourish us and the time to do the things we enjoy.
When you recognize your own abundance you will start to open the door for more to come into your life. Have you ever heard the saying “What we appreciate, appreciates”? If you focus your super power on being grateful for all that you have you will become a magnet for more.
Just as a small practice, walk around your home and look at all the THINGS you have. This isn’t supposed to make you feel like a hoarder (haha). This exercise is to help you realize how much you already have so that you can start to become grateful for it. Sometimes by doing this you may realize that you may have too much, so if you do feel called to go through and minimize the amount of your possessions then please, be my guest.
The next step of this exercise is to go around your home and speak your thanks aloud. You can thank your bed for giving you restful sleeps and preparing you for the day ahead and your walls for holding your privacy. Also be sure to thank all the immaterial things in your life like your health for keeping you strong and your job for keeping you successful, for example. Thank your family and friends, even though they may not always be around and know that their support for you is unwavering.
See, you have so much.
Verbally acknowledging and thanking these things in your life makes them real and helps you not to take them for granted.
Another exercise that makes for a great practice is finding three things that you are grateful for every day. You can choose to do this right when you wake up each morning and you could recite the list to your partner (or pet) while you are still in bed. Or you could choose to end your day with it instead.
I tried this exercise for 30 days. I noticed that even on really rough days where it felt like nothing had gone right I could still find a few things that I could be grateful for. This realization made my day no longer feel so terrible and it lifted my spirits in such a way that I could look at the day with a new found sense of satisfaction.
Be thankful for what you have; you’ll end up having more. If you concentrate on what you don’t have, you will never, ever have enough. -Oprah Winfrey
4. Let’s all be a little more generous.
Gratitude and generosity go hand in hand. Without being grateful for what you have you can’t begin to give to someone else.
Practicing generosity causes you to reflect on the things that you are grateful for. You have to decide if you are able to give those things away. Whether you are giving your time, abilities or material items you are forced into the present to review what you have and what you can spare. True generosity comes from a positive place and removes judgment which allows you to be thoughtful and kind.
Being generous doesn’t mean that you have to give away all you have or lose yourself in your quest to help everyone around you. We all know that you can’t pour from an empty cup. It is still up to you to decide what you can spare. It is important to have strong boundaries with yourself before you start going out of your way to help others. Without these boundaries you can be taken advantage of.
It takes honest self reflection to set these limits. When you think of all the things you have you can start playing with the idea of letting some go to help someone in need. Maybe you have a bit of extra time on your hands and instead of binge watching the newest thing on Netflix you decide to give your grandmother a call. Perhaps, because of your latest gratitude practice, you are doing some spring cleaning, you might decide to donate your used clothes to a women’s shelter.
Generous people always have more to give because they reach a point where they feel less attachment to what they have and are happy to share with others in need.
Giving without attachment to ego or outcome connects us with the whole of humanity and awakens us to our true nature. -Tracy Ochester
That is why I believe that practicing generosity is integral to our growth. When you are grateful for what you have and have no problem giving some of it away you put yourself in alignment for good things to come back to you.
The truth is we all have something to give even if we feel like we are the ones in need. There are many things that we have to give that don’t cost a thing. For example, our time, our word, a hug, understanding, support, company, etc.
One of the biggest things that we all have to give in this life is our story. Every one of us has gone through something that changed us forever and chances are there is someone else that has experienced the exact same thing. When you share these stories with others it can bring people together and build communities of love and trust. I believe the world needs more of that.
Giving what you have is an act of fearlessness, it takes courage and strength. What do you have to give?
Some of these tips may seem daunting at first, so I encourage you to go at your own pace. Practice one at a time until you start seeing some changes before you move on to the next. There are even a few things on this list that I want to improve on.
Working on yourself is a job that never ends but it is the most rewarding work you can do.