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7 Mindfulness Habits That Lead To 365 Days of Happiness

7 Mindfulness Habits That Lead To 365 Days of Happiness

Would you like to become smarter, healthier, be in better shape, feel more relaxed, and have more energy than you thought possible? Of course you would!  If you adopt these 7 mindful habits into your everyday life, your next 365 days will be your best ever!

1. Become Mindful in Your Everyday Life

To be mindful simply means to pay attention on purpose. Much of our lives are spent on auto-pilot, where our mind just wanders from thought to thought. A good example of this is when we are driving. Have you ever been driving down the freeway, a few minutes go by, you come back to your conscious thought and you can’t remember what has happened in those last few minutes. Yes, you were driving, but you can’t remember what you passed, what you saw, or what was going on around you.

You were in auto-pilot mode, or daydreaming. Auto-pilot is the opposite of mindfulness. When being mindful, you’re aware of your surroundings, in the present and observe without judgement. You can start to practice being mindful right now as you read this article. Don’t just read this article, pay attention, be attentive, and understand what it is saying.

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Do me a favor, take 15 seconds right now and look around. Observe what is around you. Really look at things…the computer, tablet, or phone you are reading this on. Acknowledge the size of the room or space you are in, what you are sitting on, and anything that is around you. That is an example of being mindful, just being in the present without your mind wandering off to what happened yesterday or what is coming up tomorrow. Start to do this a few times a day. Stop what you are doing and look around to notice where and what is going on. So, why practice mindfulness? Not only does it increase both your physical and mental health, it is scientifically proven to increase the gray matter in your brain, in other words…make you smarter!

2. You Are What You Eat 

We put food in our body when we feel hungry, bored, stressed, depressed and for a number of other reasons. Food is essentially our energy source. Food gives us the fuel to keep going throughout the day. Being mindful of what you put in your body will affect your energy level, your cognitive skills, as well as your mood. Just like a high performance car demands high performance gas, if you want your body to perform at a high level you need to put high level food in your body. The old adage “you get out what you put in” says it best.  This also goes for your mind as the brain burns 20% of the calories you take in. So, start paying attention to what goes in your body and how it makes you feel.

3. I Want to Pump You Up!

We all know we need to exercise. For most, we go in and out of stages of a regular exercise routines, to not remembering where the gym is. When we’re not exercising regularly we find just about any excuse not to…I’m tired, I don’t have time, I think I pulled my back, just to name a few.  Whatever your excuse, throw it out the window. Become mindful about exercising regularly, because there is no excuse not to do something that decreases your stress, improves learning capabilities, improves self-esteem, gives you a natural high, makes you feel and look younger, and allows you to live a more vibrant life. Now, go put the gym in your GPS and get moving!

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4. Get Your Beauty Sleep

Sleep is one of the most underrated activities that we partake in each and every day. How can you be mindful when you’re sleeping? Look at your sleep schedule or patterns. When do you go to sleep? When do you wake up? How well do you sleep?  Do you wake up several times during the night? Do you set an alarm? How many hours a night do you sleep? Are you tired during the day? Do you take naps? Once you understand your sleeping patterns you can then learn to adjust them so that you get on an optimal sleep schedule.

When you sleep, your body and your brain rejuvenates itself.  If you don’t get enough sleep, you don’t give your body or your mind enough time to fully recover. The average person needs 7.5 to 9 hours of sleep per night. The average American gets 6.8 hours of sleep per night which puts them in a “sleep debt.” Being in a constant sleep debt is basically living a sleep deprived life. If you actually do get the 7.5 hours per night, you will have more energy, think clearer, handle your emotions more intelligently, and just be more productive in general. Basically, you would be a better you!

5. Take “Me Time”

“Me Time” is any activity that you love to do. It can be almost anything that you really get into. For example, some people find exercising to be a great “me time” as they become enveloped in the activity without thinking about the outside clutter of the world. Reading a book, taking a bath, watching a movie, sitting in a room or house by yourself in silence, going to dinner with friends are some other examples of “me time.”

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Most people have trouble getting “me time” in this busy world. For those who do have trouble finding time, I suggest scheduling it.  Taking “me time” reduces stress and allows you to really understand and appreciate who you are. I suggest scheduling a couple small “me times” per day, even if it is 5 minutes in a room by yourself relaxing. If golfing is one of your “me times”, make sure to get out once a week. If exercising is your time, do it several times a week. You get the picture…make sure to get your “me time!”

6. Listen Up!

Mindful listening is one of the coolest things you can adopt into your life. You will be amazed at some of the things you learn from not only what you hear people say, but also about who is saying them. An example of normal listening is when you are talking with someone, they’re speaking, and you are thinking about what you are going to say next. Mindful listening is where you listen without that chatter in your head. When you listen intently by paying attention on purpose to what is being said, it is a great learning experience, as well as a mindful exercise. Another great advantage of mindful listening is the relationship that you will build with the other person. They will respect the fact that you are listening which ultimately increases your relationship and trust with that person. Try it with the next person you speak with…it will amaze you!

7.  Don’t Forget to Breathe!

Breathing is one of the easiest and fastest ways to reduce your anxiety, stress and put you in a better mood. The great thing about breathing is you can do it anywhere, anytime, and you can do it in as little as 60 seconds! One minute of a breathing exercise can take you from stressed out, too “I can handle this.”

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An easy but effective exercise is box breathing. This is where you concentrate on your breathing for at least 60 seconds. You breathe in with a count of 4, you then hold for a count of 4, breathe out for a count of 4, and hold for a count of 4. You then repeat this for about a minute, or as long as you wish. During the exercise you pay attention to your breath and body as the air fills your lungs on the inhale and slowly releases as you exhale. This exercise will not only relax you, but helps you become more focused and mindful in general.

If you adopt these seven mindful habits, I guarantee you will have the best year of your life! It starts out with a single step. Don’t try and jump in thinking you will become the mindful master right away. Goals and habit development are like staircases. You don’t come to a staircase, take one step and you’re at the top. Just like goals you set for yourself, you need to take baby steps in each of these mindful habits and eventually you will reach the top. Mindfully adopt these 7 habits into your daily routines and you will be amazed at where you are 365 days from now.

Featured photo credit: lzf via shutterstock.com

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Last Updated on January 15, 2019

How to Talk to Strangers Without Feeling Awkward

How to Talk to Strangers Without Feeling Awkward

Many of us feel awkward talking to strangers. I’m a very outgoing person, even though I sometimes feel uncomfortable walking up to someone and asking a question or starting a conversation. I consider myself pretty high up on the extrovert meter. So what is it that makes us pause and become worried or anxious about talking to people we don’t know?

In this article, we will discuss why we feel this way as well as some tips on how to talk to strangers without feeling awkward.

Step right up, don’t be shy!

Why We Feel Awkward Talking to Strangers

The next time you feel uncomfortable talking to a stranger, tell yourself that’s completely normal. There are numerous reasons why it’s actually natural to feel awkward talking to strangers:

Our Stress Levels Rise Around Strangers

Numerous studies have show that our levels of cortisol go up when we are around strangers.[1] Cortisol is the hormone inside of us which produces stress responses.[2]
So there you go, right off the bat you can see part of your standard response to strangers is due to a chemical reaction!

A very interesting by product of increased cortisol is that it makes us less empathetic. More than likely this can be traced to our evolution. The increase in the cortisol and the corresponding decrease in empathy makes us want to stay away from strangers. We are biologically wired to feel concern around strangers.

Evolution Taught Us to Be Wary

Evolution has also taught us to be wary of strangers in general. Humans as a whole have spent a large chunk of their history banded together in small protective groups. We did this in order to help protect each other and maximize resources.

When you think about it in this context, outsiders to our small groups or strangers are considered potential threats. Fear of strangers is common across almost all human cultures.

Culturally Conditioned

We can also thank our society for helping us feel uncomfortable and sometimes afraid of strangers. The term “stranger danger” is something most of us can relate to either growing up or raising kids. Or both.

I remember hearing this from my parents, mostly about not getting in someone’s car I didn’t know. And as the father of 2 teenage girls, you can be sure I’ve talked to them about this very concept more times that they want to hear.

The thought that strangers can be dangerous is built into us as it is. Toss in the amplification of the media on strangers doing things such as kidnapping kids and it takes it to an even higher level.

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Now that we’ve reviewed some of the reasons why we are nervous, let’s look at why you should talk to strangers more.

Benefits of Getting over the Awkwardness

Let’s take a quick look at some of the advantages of how to talk to strangers without feeling awkward. These are some high level benefits of talking to strangers.

1. Broadens Your Network

After you talk to someone, you didn’t know previously they become someone you know at least a little bit. This alone helps broaden your network of people you know. This is helpful in many ways whether it is work related or socially related.

2. Improves Your Communication Skills

I am a huge proponent of the value of solid communication skills and have written about it often. The more you talk to people, especially people you don’t know, the better your communication skills become.

Interacting with a wider variety of people will bring the added benefit of improving your communication skills.

3. Continually Learning

So many of us don’t actively seek to learn new things. This is one of the primary keys to staying engaged in life and our own personal self fulfillment.

Almost every time I speak to someone I didn’t know previously, I’ve learned something new. When we speak to strangers, it pushes us out of our comfort zones and we tend to learn new things.

4. Increases Self Confidence

Every time we learn to do something we were previously anxious about, we feel better about ourselves.

Forcing ourselves to talk to strangers will lead to increased self confidence. As we get more and more comfortable doing something that previously made us feel awkward, our self confidence will go up and up.

So, how to talk to strangers to reap these benefits?

How to Talk to Strangers

Here are some tips to on how to talk to strangers without feeling awkward.

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1. Say Hello

Putting “say hello” first may seem a bit obvious but let’s take a deeper look. Much of the social awkwardness when speaking to strangers is simply breaking the ice. The first words that will engage someone.

Most people will respond when someone says hello or hi to them. And those that don’t, you probably don’t want to talk to anyway.

Practice being the person that opens the door to a conversation. Say hello.

2. Ask About Them

Something that I have noticed over the years is that people love to talk about themselves. Even fairly private people tend to open up when asked about events in their lives.

You can ask leading questions that get people to talk about themselves and recent events. Things like recent movies watched or the summer vacation are great to get someone talking.

As a father, I also know that people love to talk about their kids. Asking about kids is a fairly easy topic to bring up and in general, most people will expound upon all the great things their kids do or are involved with.

3. Just Do It

One of the biggest reasons we don’t do things we want to or know we should is because we overthink it. Quit thinking about it so much and just do it.

When you give yourself the time to analyze every little angle about a situation, you also give plenty of time to talk yourself out of it. You’ll wind up thinking what if this happens or what if that happens.

Try to force yourself to jump right in without thinking about it too much. Whenever I have done this, I always feel great about it afterwards, no matter how it turned out.

4. Don’t Take It Personal

One of the greatest lessons in life I ever learned was don’t take anything personally. We all go through life with our own sets of experiences and see things through our own lens. The way people react to different situations has almost nothing to do with us. It has to do with previous experiences and the way people feel about things other than us.

When someone’s reaction isn’t what you’d hoped or expected, chances are it has nothing to do with you. Remember that and keep it in context.

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5. Get a Chuckle If Possible

I used the word chuckle purposely because it makes me laugh. In my opinion, it’s one of those funny words. We all like to laugh because it makes us feel good. And when someone makes us laugh, we typically remember those people in a positive light.

One of the best ways to make a conversation easy and free flowing is to get some laughter going. It doesn’t mean you have to be the master joke teller or anything. See if you can work in a way to make the person you are talking to get a smile or some laughter in. In fact, laughing at yourself maybe a nice try.

6. Detach

A great feeling is when you don’t mind which way something turns out, that you will be fine no matter what happens. Kind of like when I watch my two favorite football teams play against each other. I don’t really care who wins, I just want a fun game.

Treat talking to strangers the same way. You don’t really care how the conversation goes because you are detaching from the outcome. Make it a fun time with yourself and if the conversation goes well, awesome! If not then no big deal, move on.

7. Share Your Stories

Well, all like to feel connected to other people. And many times we wind up hanging out with people that we have things in common with. No surprise here.

To help with how to talk to strangers without feeling awkward, tell stories that have commonalities with the person you are talking to. Kids are an easy one. I have a daughter who was a competitive cheerleader and now plays club volleyball. I have instant connection and stories with strangers I speak with who have kids that play sports. It’s easy to relate to.

So when you are speaking to a stranger and you have a story or mutual connection point, bring it up.

8. Give a Compliment

Almost everyone likes hearing a compliment, whether they admit to it or not. As a general rule, we don’t give out enough compliments. It’s amazing how one small remark someone tosses your way about how good you look can literally make your entire day.

When you are speaking with someone you don’t know, see if you can work a compliment in. Nothing creepy here. Not a good idea to tell someone you just met that they are the prettiest or handsomest person you ever met. However, if you can share how you like their tattoo or shoes or something like that, it will help put the conversation into an easy going, smiling place.

9. Relax Your Body Language

If you go into a situation all worried and nervous, it shows on your body. Your shoulders are tensed up, there’s a look of consternation on your face, things like that.

When you engage a stranger in conversation, make it a point to relax your body language. Take a deep breath before you engage the person, let your body relax, and put a smile on your face. This will help relax you and it has the added benefit of putting the other person more at ease.

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If they see that you are relaxed, it helps them relax. Plus having open, engaging body language is very conducive to inviting someone to open up into a conversation with you.

10. Practice, Practice, Practice

Like everything else in life, talking to strangers gets easier with practice. The more you do it, the easier it becomes.

Make it a point to talk to several strangers each week and it will definitely help you relax as you do it more and more.

After a while, it will become something you don’t even think about, you just do it. And that takes all of the awkwardness out of being in these type situations.

The Bottom Line

As we have seen, it is perfectly natural to feel awkward talking to strangers. We are biologically built that way and we have our own society constantly warning us how dangerous it is. It’s no wonder we feel awkward talking to strangers!

There are numerous benefits to learning to be more comfortable talking to strangers. See if you can employ some of the techniques mentioned to learn how to talk to strangers without feeling awkward.

Once you start practicing speaking with strangers more often and utilizing some of the tips, you will become more comfortable doing so. This in turn will lead to a learned new skill and increased self confidence.

Remember, everyone you know was a stranger at one time. Now get out there and make some new friends.

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Featured photo credit: Priscilla Du Preez via unsplash.com

Reference

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