As we move through our days, we are mindful of our surroundings, of other people in our surroundings, of the tasks that lay before us, and much more that is external to ourselves. And when we do have time for our own thoughts, they tend to be focused on personal obligations, family members, and what lies ahead at the end of the workday. If we ask ourselves how much time we spend going within, reflecting on our thoughts and feelings, we have to answer very little, if at all. This has to stop.
We need to recognize when we are stressed, anxious, worried, even scared, and often we don’t. When we don’t, we don’t take steps to reduce these negatives, and they take their toll — mentally and physically. Here are seven simple things you can do to develop more self-mindfulness.
1. Start a Gratitude and Self-love Journal
One part of mindfulness that we neglect is to spend time reflecting on is those positive moments and circumstances in our lives. It is so easy to get into a habitual mindset of all that we must worry about and all that is wrong — nothing could be more destructive.
There are a couple of things you can do about this. First, put a sign someplace prominent with the word “Gratitude” on it. Place it where you will see it every day, like the refrigerator. Make it big and colorful enough that you will notice it.
The second thing you can do is keep a positivity journal. Every night, take a few minutes and write just one or two things that made you happy that day, one or two things that you were grateful for, one or two things that you did that made someone else happy. When you are especially low or cannot think of anything, start reading the other pages.
2. Squeeze in a Short Meditation and Some Breathing Exercises During the Day
Meditating is not that difficult to learn. According to QuietKit, it can be something as simple as closing your eyes, getting your body quiet, and focusing on your breathing. One of the pieces of advice given to job candidates before they go in for an interview is to take several deep breaths. This is so calming.
During periods of great stress or anxiety or anger, stop. Close your eyes, take those deep breaths, and with each exhale, picture that negative feeling leaving your body. This will prevent you from acting impulsively and will “connect” you with your better self — someone who does not get upset, nervous, worried, or lash out at others. Negativity also impacts your health, especially your immune system. Don’t do this to yourself.
3. Increase Your Awareness
Ask yourself at several points throughout your day how you are feeling. Why is that feeling in the pit of your stomach? What is really bothering you? What is the reason for your lack of ease? When you can identify the real causes of your uneasiness, you can tackle them and counter them with thoughts of peace, with one of those quick meditations, with a happy memory, or by doing something randomly nice for someone else. Getting rid of negativity is something that we must push ourselves to do every day.
4. Master the Art of People Watching
This is fun and a wonderful diversion. And it develops some pretty important traits — observational skills, empathy, and great insight. When we observe others, we become much more accepting and non-judgmental, and when we can lose our need to judge others, we gain more peace.
5. Stop Rushing
This is very difficult for what we identify as Type “A” personalities — the people who are driven, the workaholics, the people who must speed through every day to get just a bit more accomplished. Of course, there are times when we must hurry. There are appointment times to keep, there are kids to get somewhere on time, and there are others counting on us to get something done. But to develop this as a habit means that we do not stop, breathe, go within, and get ourselves “grounded” with important priorities — peace, awareness of what is positive in our lives, and loving and doing for others.
Learning to slow down takes practice, and, yes, there are apps for that. A recent study conducted by the National Institute of Mental Health identified what these researchers believe are the best mindfulness apps that will help people slow down and listen to themselves. The apps that received the highest scores based upon specific factors all included the following:
- Attention to breathing and breathing exercises
- Body scans
- Seated meditations (especially helpful at work)
- Meditations through walking
- Sending thoughts of love to the self and to others
- Letting go of negative thoughts and feelings
- Visualizations of the self as geographical features (e.g. mountains, lakes)
Other features included timers and reminders, which some find helpful. One free guided meditations for beginners that includes many of these features is QuietKit. If you are a beginner, this is an excellent place to start.
6. Become a Better Listener and Communicator
One of the great things that mindfulness accomplishes is that we become aware of the feelings of others as well as our own. When we do this, we are more willing to listen. Practicing the art of listening also means asking the questions that encourage others to express themselves in honest ways. It means developing trustful relationships with others and valuing them, though their views, principles, and values may be very different. When we do this, we open our hearts and minds. And our mindfulness of others improves cooperation, collaboration, and acceptance of one another.
7. Practice any Type of Mindfulness You Wish
The apps, the books, and the recommendations of others may or may not work for you. In the end, we are all different people and our mindfulness journey will be different as well.
You might be the person who wants to see progress in terms of “levels.” Then you will want to try Mindfulness Daily. If you need to be more mindful of identifying your emotions, then you will want Smiling Mind.
The point is this: Your journey will take some time, but it is more than worth it. Your ability to increase your mindfulness, to spend more time on the positives in your life, and your ability to connect with those same things in others will make you a happier, healthier person.