“Do every act of your life as though it were the very last act of your life.” – Marcus Aurelius, Meditations
You cannot change the past and you cannot decide your future. These are the two principles I always apply when I have to remind myself to practice mindfulness. The present is what matters, what I am experiencing NOW. It can be a taste, smell, sight, feeling, physical sensation, or emotion. Once I start doing that without criticizing myself or being judgmental, then I am practicing mindfulness. I always tell myself that I will never have this moment again so I must enjoy it to the full.
“The present moment is filled with joy and happiness. If you are attentive, you will see it.”- Thich Nhat Hanh, Peace Is Every Step: The Path of Mindfulness in Everyday Life
Here are 13 daily habits to help you practice mindfulness.
1. Start when you wake up
Start early. As soon as you are wake up, begin reflecting on the pleasure of waking, stretching your limbs and thinking about all the great things you are going to achieve today. Forget about checking email and turning on the TV news till later in the day. Who wants to ruin such an awesome start?Advertising
2. Enjoy the physical sensations
As you start your morning routine, savor the moments in the shower as the water cascades down and enjoy the drying sensation the towel gives you. Delight in the warmth of the familiar material on your skin as you get dressed. Admire yourself in the mirror.
3. Keep mindfulness in check
If you savor every moment of the day, nothing will get done and you will certainly not arrive in time for work! Apart from these practical considerations, the brain does better on short bursts of mindfulness, rather than longer sessions. This is the advice given by Marsha Lucas in her excellent book, Rewire Your Brain For Love
4. Go for a walk
“Solvitur ambulando – it is solved by walking.” – Latin proverb.
Once you get into contact with nature, you will be better able to experience the wonder of nature, reflect on the beauty of it and calm your mind. Even a five minute walk, preferably in a garden or park, can do the trick.
5. Get in the flow
Some people may experience difficulty in getting into the zone because of distracting thoughts, worries and regrets. How can you quieten your thoughts? The best way is to do your favorite creative activity such as writing, drawing, cooking or playing the piano. Once you get in the flow, your thoughts are calmer and you feel more relaxed.Advertising
6. Breathe deeply
A great habit to get into is to concentrate on your breathing. Get in touch with it. As your lungs fill, remind yourself of what is happening and then when you breathe out, focus on that too. All the mental chatter just stops and this is a great mindfulness technique we should practice often during the day.
7. Focus and stop multi tasking
Did you know that multi tasking takes up 50% more of your time? Switching between tasks and never finishing them interrupts the flow, and you spend ages getting back on track again. The other downside is that errors and distractions are likely to occur. A much better idea is to focus on a single task and switch off distractions such as iPhones and emails.
8. Switch off and connect
Have you noticed how nobody looks you in the eyes anymore? That is because they are all attached to their devices – connected to the world but not to people around them. Another mindfulness technique to adopt is to switch off devices and really talk to a person, smile at them, look into their eyes as you do so. Now that is really connecting. Children, couples, and colleagues feel more accepted and closer to each other.
“I realized several years ago that I had stopped looking in my children’s eyes. And it was shocking to me.”- Pat Christen, Hope Lab CEO and parent.
9. Accept the negative feelings too
Accept the moment you are in – that is the key element in mindfulness. This also includes those negative thoughts, feelings and moods we are experiencing. Recognizing negative emotions without resisting them or trying to control them is crucial. They do not define you nor your existence.Advertising
10. Enjoy food
Mindfulness is now regarded as a possible aid in helping to reduce obesity and overeating. The secret is to be aware of all the sensations as we eat. Think about how food is the gift of the universe brought to us by an incredible network of people and natural forces working together. We can enjoy the food and pay closer attention to the smells, textures, tastes and colors of what we are eating. Try imagining that this is the first time you have tasted it! This slows the whole process, we eat less and our digestion will thank us.
Researchers at Vanderbilt University are studying how mindfulness while eating may help to reduce obesity in children and adults.
11. Try raisin meditation
Here, you use all your senses to look at a raisin and start meditating on it. Watch the video below to get a better idea of how to actually do this. This also helps to make meditation more accessible to everyone.
12. Listen to music mindfully
Music transcends all borders and is a powerful means of connecting the human race. Listening can stir powerful emotions in us and can be a healing, positive force. Before listening, relax in a comfortable position and do some breathing exercises. Relish the sounds and rhythms, get inside the track and imagine yourself dancing or waltzing to the sound waves.Advertising
“Why waste money on psychotherapy when you can listen to the [Bach’s] B Minor Mass?” — Michael Torke, composer
13. Practice loving kindness
There is now some research that shows that simply directing well-wishes and kind thoughts towards ourselves and other people can be incredibly beneficial. Read the article here to see 18 scientific reasons why this is so valuable in providing relief from suffering and cultivating compassion.
Spend some time thinking what you wish for yourself and what you want for others close to you. Try doing this for about 30 seconds before you fall asleep every night. This is much more effective than worrying whether your sleep aid is going to work or not!
Featured photo credit: Be mindful/David Davies via flickr.com
Last Updated on August 12, 2020
When Should You Trust Your Gut and How?
Learning how to trust your gut, otherwise known as your intuition, can keep you safe. Your gut can guide you and help you build your confidence and resilience. My own gut instinct has saved me on more than one occasion. It has also guided me into making sound career choices and other exciting, big decisions. I’m also aware of the times when I’ve gone against my instincts and really regretted it later, wondering why I didn’t tune in to that valuable internal voice that we all have within us.
In this article, we’re going to explore why and how you should listen to your gut, as well as some concrete tips on how to make sure you’re making the most out of your gut instincts.
How to Listen to Your Gut
The key when making any big decision is to always take a minute to listen well to yourself and your inner compass. If you hear your actual voice saying yes while inside you’re silently screaming no, my advice is to ask for some time to think, or simply take a breath and pause before the yes or no escapes your mouth.
Use that moment to breathe, check in with yourself, and give the answer that feels congruent with who you are and what you want, not the one that always involves following the herd. Trusting your gut means having the courage to not simply go with the majority. It can be about holding your own. Here’s how to hone that skill for yourself and reap the rewards.
1. Tune Into Your Body
Your body gives you clues when you’re faced with a big decision. There are many visible and obvious symptoms that we feel in uncomfortable situations. Our body’s reaction is often something that we might try to hide, for example, blushing, being lost for words, or shaking. There are things we might do to try and hide that physical reaction, whether it’s wearing makeup, having a glass of wine or coffee to perk us up a bit, or learning to control our nerves.
However, paying attention to your body when you experience these feelings of anxiety can teach you so much and help you to make sound choices. Some people will experience an actual “gut” feeling of stomach ache or indigestion in an uncomfortable situation.
Ask yourself what’s really going on here, and explore what is happening behind your body’s response to the situation. What can your reaction or instinct teach you? Understanding that can be a clue and can help you either learn something about yourself, the situation, or other people. The answers are often within us.
Sometimes we’ll get this “something’s not right here” feeling and cannot quite put our finger on it or explain it. That can still be incredibly useful and really guide us away from danger, even if we don’t know the reason.
In his book, Blink, Malcolm Gladwell also argues this, making the point that sometimes our subconscious is better at processing the answer we need, and that we don’t necessarily need to take time to collect hours and hours of information to come to a reliable conclusion.
2. Ensure Your Head Is Clear Before Making a Decision
Energy, sleep, and good nutrition are so vital to nourishing our minds, as well as our bodies. There are times when your instinct could lead you astray, and one of these is when you are hungry, “hangry” (angry because you’re hungry!), tired, or anxious. If this is the case–and it may sound obvious–do consider sleeping or eating on it before making an important choice.
There is, in fact, a connection between our gut and our brain, which is where terms like “butterflies in the stomach” and “gut-wrenching” originate from. Stress and emotions can cause physical feelings, and ignoring them might do more harm than good.
3. Don’t Be Afraid to Say What You Think and Feel
Listening to your gut and really paying attention to it might involve standing up and being counted, calling something out, or taking a stand. As someone who works for myself, I’ve become used to following the less-travelled road, and that’s given me the chance to strike out on my own in other ways, too.
As they tell you in the planes, “put your own oxygen mask on first,” and part of that self-reliance is knowing what you really want and like and what is safe and good for you, including what resonates with your personal and business values. Making good decisions with this in mind means making choices that do not go against your own beliefs, even when it may mean taking a stand. This is part of trusting yourself and trusting your instincts.
This does not always mean taking the “safe” option, although keeping ourselves safe is an important part of the process. This is how we learn and grow, by following our own inner compass. When you do take risks, go outside of your comfort zone, or choose the less popular option, spending some time researching the facts can stand us in good stead, too.
4. Do Your Research If Something Feels Off
As well as listening to our instincts, we can also back up the evidence for our chosen course of action before taking the leap. I had a gut feeling about the need for a learning and development network when I noticed my clients getting stuck with the same problems. I set up and now run such a network, but instead of simply going for it, without evidence, I followed up on my instinct with research.
Having confidence in your gut instinct through these kinds of tests can help to minimize your risks, as well as spur you on. It will encourage you to trust your gut again in the future and trust that you are an expert with foresight and experience. You are!
5. Challenge Your Assumptions
When you look at the assumptions your making, this could be the clue to mistakes you are making.
In order to check that our instincts are wise, we need to ask ourselves what blanks we might be filling in, either consciously or unconsciously. This is true not just when it comes to our own decision-making. It’s also true when we are listening to someone explain a problem or situation, and we’re about to jump in and give some advice. If we can learn to be aware of our own assumptions, we can become better listeners and better decision makers, too.
A useful tool to become more aware of your assumptions before making a final decision is simply to ask yourself, “What assumptions am I making about this situation or person?”
6. Educate Yourself on Unconscious Bias
Unconscious bias is something we all have, and it can trip us up big time!
There is a vital caveat to bear in mind when wondering about whether you can trust your gut and the feelings your body gives you, and that’s having an awareness of your unconscious bias. Understanding your own bias–which is hard to do because it literally does happen in our subconscious–can help you to make stronger, better, decisions instead of re-confirming your view of the world over and over again.
Bias exists, and it’s part of the human condition. All of us have it, and it colors our decisions and can impact on our performance without us realizing.
Unconscious bias happens at a subconscious level in our brains. Our subconscious brain processes information so much faster than our conscious brain. Quick decisions we make in our subconscious are based on both our societal conditioning and how our families raised us.
Our brains process hundreds of thousands of pieces of information daily. We unconsciously categorize and format that information into patterns that feel familiar to us. Aspects such as gender, disability, class, sexuality, body shape and size, ethnicity, and what someone does for a job can all quickly influence decisions we make about people and the relationships we choose to form. Our unconscious bias can be very subtle and go unnoticed..
We naturally tend to gravitate towards people similar to ourselves, favoring people who we see as belonging to the same “group” as us. Being able to make a quick decision about whether someone is part of your group and distinguish friend from foe was what helped early humans to survive. Conversely, we don’t automatically favor people who we don’t immediately relate to or easily connect with.
The downside of that human instinct to seek out similar people is the potential for prejudice, which seems to be hard-wired into human cognition, no matter how open-minded we believe ourselves to be. And these stereotypes we create can be wrong. If we only spend our time with and employ people similar to ourselves, it can create prejudices, as well as stifle fresh thinking and innovation.
We may feel more natural or comfortable working with other people who share our own background and/or opinions than collaborating with people who don’t look, talk, or think like us. However, diversity is not just morally right; having a mix of different people and perspectives that can be genuinely heard is also a valuable way to counter groupthink. Diversity stretches us to think more critically and creatively.
7. Trust Yourself
It is possible to learn how to truly trust yourself. Like any talent or skill, practicing trusting your gut is the best way to get really good at it. When people talk about having great intuition or being good decision-makers, it’s because they’ve worked at honing those skills, made mistakes, learned from them, and tried again.
Looking back at decisions you’ve made, what you did, what the outcome was, and what you’ve learned can help you become a stronger decision maker and develop solid self-trust and resilience. Making a mistake does not mean you are not great at decision-making; it’s a chance to grow and learn, and the only mistake is to ignore the lesson in that experience.
If you are in the habit of asking others for their input, then the trick here is to choose your inner circle wisely. Having a sounding board of people who have your best interests at heart is a valuable asset, and, combined with your own excellent instincts, can make you a champion decision maker.
The Bottom Line
The above tips are all actionable and easy to start immediately. It’s simply about switching your thinking around, slowing down, and taking great care of this amazing machine that is your body and mind!
Learning how to trust your gut is one of the most fundamental ways to make decisions that will help you lead the life you want and need. Tune into what your body is telling you and start making good decisions today.
More Tips on How to Trust Your Gut
- Should We Trust Our Gut Feeling When Making Decisions?
- How To Trust Your Intuition When You’re Making a Decision
Featured photo credit: Acy Varlan via unsplash.com
|||^||Science of People: Learn to Trust Your Gut Instincts: The Science Behind Thin-slicing|
|||^||Harvard Health Publishing: The gut-brain connection|
|||^||Psych Central: 3 Ways to Develop Self-Trust|