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Last Updated on October 30, 2018

How to Survive a Midlife Crisis in Men (the Definitive Guide)

How to Survive a Midlife Crisis in Men (the Definitive Guide)

If you believe that you’re having a midlife crisis – even if you aren’t middle-aged – I can assure you that you’re not alone. I can also assure you that it’s never too late to start creating the kind of life that you want.

So many of us slog through each day, only to look around and realize that we’ve been letting life pass us by.

Don’t let life pass you by. Use this as a guide and with any luck, you’ll begin to see the midlife crisis in men for what it really is: an opportunity.

My Journey into Self-Realization

A few years ago, I took a look around and decided to make a change, a big change. And it made me uncomfortable, in that uh-oh-what-was-I-thinking kind of way.

But I knew that if I didn’t make a change, I was going to be miserable for the rest of my life.

After college I moved to Chicago to pursue comedy, using a carefully and brilliantly devised strategy. By day, I’d find my inspiration in hip and trendy coffee bistros and on El trains, gazing out at the quickly passing cityscape. By night, I’d play at open mics, only to catch the ear of George Wendt, sign a development deal and be thrust headlong into comedic superstardom.

As it turned out, telling jokes to drunkards on a Monday night didn’t quite foot the bill for my 400 square-foot palace without air-conditioning. And as far as I could tell, George Wendt didn’t leave the house much.

So much to my chagrin, I took a job in advertising. After two years in Chicago, during which I was gripped by depression and angst, I moved back to Omaha – my hometown – to “figure things out.” But instead of figuring things out, I took yet another job in advertising, and then another. And for nearly a decade, I bounced around from role to role, only to sit lamentably in a cubicle and do work that could have been done by a half-trained Capuchin monkey.

Before I knew it, I turned 30. I began to examine my life and panic swept in.

What have I been doing for the last 10 years? There has to be more to life than this. I’ve gotta get out of here. I need to make a change. Like, now.

Midlife or otherwise, I do believe I was having a crisis.

The first thing I did was locate my balls which took longer than I care to divulge. Then, I decided to make a change.

I packed up my stuff and moved to New Orleans – a city that brings me endless joy and excitement. I immersed myself in self-help and philosophy, sought out teachers and mentors, became a certified transformational coach and started my own business. And now, I help others navigate their own crises.

What Exactly Is a Midlife Crisis?

A midlife crisis is generally defined as a transition of identity and self-confidence that occurs in middle-aged individuals (typically 45 to 64 years old). This psychological “crisis” is fueled by events that bring to light a person’s age, inevitable mortality and perhaps a lack of notable accomplishments in the adult life.

Not surprisingly, this can lead to feelings of depression, anxiety and the desire to make significant life changes.

Incidentally, the term “midlife crisis” was coined by Canadian psychoanalyst and social scientist, Elliott Jaques, in 1965. (Funny enough, Jaques also coined the term “corporate culture.”) But recent studies have shown that most middle-aged people don’t actually experience a midlife crisis. In fact, some have questioned if the midlife crisis even exists.

For many of us, both men and women, the midlife crisis is all too real.

Signs of a Midlife Crisis

Released in 1999, American Beauty, is perhaps the greatest film ever made about the midlife crisis. As you may remember, the film won the Academy Award for Best Picture, Best Director (Sam Mendes), and Best Actor (Kevin Spacey). And, you can thank screenwriter Alan Ball for the effectively flawless script.

In the film, Lester Burnham, played by Kevin Spacey (I’m sorry for bringing him up), loathes his job as an advertising executive, can barely stand his materialistic wife, and has no idea how to communicate with his angry, misanthropic, teenage daughter. From the outside, the Burnhams seem to have the perfect, white-picket-fence existence. But behind closed doors, Lester has become disenchanted with…well…damn near everything.

The film’s critically praised opening montage gives us a look into Lester Burnham’s dull and monotonous daily life, as Lester unenthusiastically narrates each scene.

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“I have lost something,” he says. “I’m not exactly sure what it is but I know I didn’t always feel this … sedated.”

Most modern movies and television shows have left us believing that the first sign of a midlife crisis is a newly purchased sports car in the driveway. But as American Beauty shows us, the signs of a midlife crisis are usually much less obvious to ordinary passersby.

Common signs of a midlife crisis can include:

  • Mood swings: Those experiencing a midlife crisis can seem highly temperamental, becoming angry or irritable without justification.
  • Depression and anxiety: A midlife crisis can undoubtedly cause one to feel sad, blue, restless, down in the dumps or just plain miserable.
  • Sleeplessness or oversleeping: Depression, anxiety and a constantly spinning mind can greatly affect one’s sleeping habits.
  • An obsession with appearances: Those going through a midlife crisis often feel the need to remain attractive to others.
  • Increased consumption of drugs or alcohol: Middle-aged adults may turn to drugs or alcohol to mask their feelings.
  • Feeling stuck in a rut: Those going through a midlife crisis often feel life they’re stuck – in a bad job, a bad marriage, a bad situation – with no way out.
  • Thoughts of death or dying: A midlife crisis can cause people to think obsessively about their own mortality.

Other signs of a midlife crisis include: impulsive decision-making, having an affair, replacing old friends with younger friends, assigning blame to others and extreme boredom.

Take a look at this chart to see how many of these signs are you experiencing:[1]

    Why a Midlife Crisis Happens

    It bears repeating that recent studies seem to reject the idea that most adults go through a midlife crisis. Researchers believe that personality type and a history of psychological issues predispose some people to the traditional midlife crisis.

    One study points out that there is a stark difference between a midlife crisis and midlife stressors, and many midlife stressors are mislabeled as a crisis. Of course, common day-to-day stressors can pile up, causing middle-aged adults to believe they are having a crisis.

    Additionally, many middle-aged adults experience life events that can lead to prolonged depression or psychological distress. However, these events – like the death of a loved one or a professional setback – can just as easily happen earlier in life.

    Take me, for example. Just before my 30th birthday, my father – who was the picture of health – died suddenly and unexpectedly while exercising at the gym. Not to mention that I detested my low-paying 9 to 5 job, published a book that didn’t sell, started a company that failed, ruined a number of friendships and had far less sex than I’d like to admit.

    Was I having a crisis? Possibly. Was I experiencing depression due to an overload of stressors? Most definitely.

    Still, do any amount of research on the midlife crisis and you’ll find that psychologists often attribute the phenomenon to aging itself, the aging or death of one’s parents, the maturation of one’s children, spousal relationships (or lack thereof) and career (or lack thereof).

    How to Deal with a Midlife Crisis

    If you believe you’re having a midlife crisis, if you feel stuck in a rut, if you’re experiencing depression and anxiety, I’d like to assure you once again that you’re not alone.

    I once considered myself a lost cause, predestined to live out my days feeling miserable and unfulfilled. Then, I decided to change. I became dedicated to learning how to live with at least some measure of joy. And after a great deal of experimentation, I came up with a regimen that worked for me – and still works – as long as I stick to it.

    I can’t guarantee that it’ll work for you. But I do know that it won’t hurt. And should you choose to give it a try, you’ll need to do the following:

    1. Decide

    Someone once said that “the first step toward getting somewhere is to decide that you’re not going to stay where you are.” And, I couldn’t agree more. This is truly where the work begins.

    I began to experience a shift only after I made the decision – no, the unbreakable promise to myself – that I was going to change my life. And no matter how much you’re suffering, you can make yourself the same promise.

    2. Stop the search for happiness

    There’s a funny thing with us humans. We spend our lives trying desperately to find happiness and yet, we don’t even know what it is.

    We can’t explain, describe, or define it; we just know that we want it because it’ll make everything peachy. Time and time again, though, studies have shown that our never-ending quest for happiness is quite often the very thing that screws us up.

    Trying to find happiness is a futile effort, likely to exacerbate the “crisis” you’re having. Stop the search for happiness and start taking action steps toward creating the life that you want. When you do, you won’t need to find happiness. Eventually, happiness will find you.

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    3. Meditate

    What I used to dismiss as new age nonsense has positively changed my life in more ways than I thought possible. Meditation has been proven to reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression, improve focus and concentration, increase self-awareness and promote better physical health.

    And, for me, it’s the only activity that effectively tames my “monkey mind,” or what neuroscientists have recently named the default mode network (DMN).

    Your DMN is most active when you aren’t focused on anything in particular, and your mind is wandering from thought to thought. At best, these thoughts can be inspired and entertaining. But when you’re in the throes of a personal crisis, these thoughts can be morbid and destructive.

    Meditation has a quieting effect and significantly decreases activity in the DMN. And when the mind does start to wander, those who regularly meditate are much better at snapping out of it.

    Try this 5-minute Guide to Meditation: Anywhere, Anytime and experience its benefits.

    4. Develop an abundance mindset

    Of all the strategies I use to mitigate my depression and anxiety, abundance thinking was the most difficult for me to adopt. It’s also been the most beneficial. It required me to change some of my core beliefs.

    For years, I operated from a scarcity mindset, I was angry that all the world’s goodies seemed to go to everyone else. I wondered why those around me were getting recognized, getting rich, getting a nice partner and I wasn’t. Maybe, I thought, there’s just not enough to go around. Of course, this kind of thinking isn’t just debilitating; it’s downright inaccurate.

    The world, in fact, is a place of abundance, with limitless opportunities. Remind yourself of this every day, regardless of your age. Open yourself up to all that the world has to offer. As Dr. Wayne Dyer wrote in his book, Real Magic,

    “Try to imagine a state of unlimited possibilities as being possible for you.”

    5. Practice gratitude

    Before you go to bed at night, think of five things for which you are grateful. Better yet, write them down. These can be common, everyday occurrences like seeing a beautiful sunset or learning something new or hearing your favorite song on the radio.

    As Dr. Robert Emmons, a professor at UC Davis and the world’s leading scientific expert on gratitude once wrote,

    “Gratitude is, first and foremost, a way of seeing that alters our gaze.”

    Need a little inspiration on how to practice gratitude? Here’re 40 Simple Ways To Practice Gratitude

    6. Pursue your passions

    I can’t help but feel a tinge of regret when I think of the years during which I never pursued my passions. Certainly, if you’re having a midlife crisis, it might seem hard to feel passionate about anything. But you can reinvigorate your spirit with a remarkably simple activity.

    Think about what you love doing or what you loved doing when you were a kid. Think about how you might spend your time if you had the financial abundance to do anything. Think about those you admire, those whose careers you wish you had. Think about what makes the hours fly by like seconds.

    Whatever your passions are, pursue them wholeheartedly. As Hunter S. Thompson once said,

    “Anything that gets your blood racing is probably worth doing.”

    If you’re not sure what your passion is, that’s okay. Here’s a guide for you:

    How to Get Motivated and Be Happy Every Day When You Wake Up

    Research also shows that simply trying new things can increase dopamine levels in the brain, contributing to sustained levels of contentment. So get out of the house and try new things. Eventually, you’ll find one that lights you up inside.

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    7. Exercise

    One of my least favorite places to go is the gym. And one of my least favorite things to do is well… going to the gym. Of course, exercise is by far the most widely recommended way to stave off negative feelings and gain perspective. But you don’t need to go to the gym to get exercise.

    You can do yoga, play badminton or jump on a trampoline. You can go swimming or dancing or hiking or biking. You can hula hoop with your kids or practice Kung Fu. You can clean your garage or pull weeds in your garden. Or you can simply take a brisk walk around the neighborhood. Just do something physical and you only need to do it for 20 minutes.

    Oh, and make sure you eat healthy too. Eating fried, processed and sugary garbage does nobody good.

    8. Set goals

    Just hearing the word “goals” used to depress me. I couldn’t help but think of corporate plodders, wielding dry-erase pens and scribbling inconsequential to-dos on an office whiteboard. But the fact is, setting goals has become vital to my well-being. And it’s done wonders for my depression.

    Make a list of everything you’d like to accomplish in the next year, in the next five years and in the next ten years. Talk to a coach or someone you love about your goals, and work out a plan to achieve them.

    Learn to use SMART goals to achieve what you want: How to Use SMART Goal to Become Highly Successful in Life

    9. Stay off social media

    I can’t think of anything worse for a fragile human psyche than social media. It’s no secret that using social media can lead to depression, anxiety, envy, feelings of hopelessness and worthlessness, and all kinds of other problems.

    It’s also a colossal waste of time. Imagine what you could accomplish in your own life during the hours you spend scrolling through the highlight reels from the lives of others.

    10. Laugh as much as humanly possible

    Whoever coined the phrase, laughter is the best medicine, was really onto something. Studies show that laughter releases endorphins, activates neurotransmitter serotonin, relieves physical tension and stress, boosts the immune system and protects the heart.

    If you’re having a midlife crisis, you might be wondering if you’ll ever experience laughter again. That’s why you need to seek it out.

    Instead of watching the morning news, which is nothing if not depressing, I watch the previous night’s episode of The Tonight Show or The Late Show. For every hour that I’m working, I take five minutes to watch reliably funny clips on YouTube.

    Before I go to bed, I watch ten minutes of stand-up comedy. I read funny books, see funny movies and spend as much time as I can with ridiculously funny people – including my next-door neighbor, Etta, who happens to be four years old.

    Make a conscious effort to integrate laughter into your daily routine. You’ll be tickled you did.

    11. Think of your life as a party

    The fact that you’re alive isn’t just cause for celebration, it’s a miracle – so improbable that if you try to comprehend it, your mind will almost certainly turn to mush.

    Dr. Ali Binazir, a wicked smart Harvard grad and the author of The Tao of Dating actually crunched the numbers, demonstrating that the probability of your dad meeting your mom was one in 20,000, the probability of your dad dating your mom was one in 2,000, and the probability of the right sperm meeting the right egg was one in 400 quadrillion.

    And that’s just the beginning.

    Your grandparents, great grandparents and everyone before them – going back millions of years to the first Homo sapiens – had to meet and have children. In the end, explains Binazir, the probability of you being born was one in 10, followed by 2,685,000 zeroes.

    Tragically, so many of us never truly appreciate what it means to be alive. We succumb to our fears, give up on our dreams and tolerate the intolerable. We get into bad jobs, bad relationships and bad situations, allowing others to treat us poorly. We do this for years, decades or a lifetime. Then, of course, we die.

    Think of your life as a party and remember: life is meant to be enjoyed, not endured.

    Besides, it’s never too late to live the life you desire! Here’s the proof:

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    How to Start Over and Reboot Your Life When It Seems Too Late

    Can a Midlife Crisis Be Prevented?

    I don’t think I need to explain that it’s impossible to prevent something that’s already happening. But if you see another life crisis in your near future, you can nip it in the bud by doing the things listed above. And, you can start doing them today.

    Additionally, you can stop making excuses that stand in the way of your progress.

    Not sure if you’re making excuses? They aren’t hard to recognize. Most of yours probably start with the words “I don’t.” I don’t have the time. I don’t have the money. I don’t know how. I don’t think it’ll work. I don’t think I’m ready. These are excuses. All of them.

    As humans, we consistently use excuses to talk ourselves out of changing our lives for the better. And we do so out of fear.

    Fear is what traps you inside your comfort zone and whenever you do something outside your comfort zone, you’re hurling yourself into the unknown. And once you’re there, you might come face to face with failure, rejection, stress and embarrassment. You might have to take on new responsibilities. You might slip and fall and break something of value and look like a total failure.

    Or you might do something remarkable. There’s really no way of knowing. That’s why it’s called the unknown. And yes, the unknown can be a scary place.

    But why are we so scared of the unknown? If we are to believe all of those horribly platitudinous quotes about comfort zones (Great things never came from comfort zones!), shouldn’t we be more inclined to explore new ground? For most of us, the answer is one big, pathetic NO.

    Fear of the unknown is an unavoidable part of the human condition. As human beings, we have an inherent, psychological need for certainty – for comfort – because it makes us feel like we’re in control. And yet, we also have the need for uncertainty – for variety – because it reminds us that we’re alive. But as Tony Robbins often points out,

    “Most people value certainty a lot more, and that’s why their lives are so boring.”

    To stop making excuses, acknowledge that you’re making them in the first place. Once you do, you’ll feel a lot better. You’ll only live your best life once you step out.

    But there’s still a hurdle to overcome. You still have to do something. You still have to take action. And taking action, as we know, can be scary. So think about the consequences of inaction.

    What’ll happen if you do nothing? It should come as no surprise that if you do nothing…nothing will happen. And you’ll stay right where you are: stuck in a rut while you yearn for something more.

    Midlife Crisis — Crisis or Opportunity?

    No matter what age you are, every day provides a new opportunity to do something new:

    Sam Walton founded Wal-Mart when he was 44.

    Ray Kroc bought the first McDonald’s just after his 50th birthday.

    Rodney Dangerfield was 46 when he got his big break on the Ed Sullivan Show.

    Harland Sanders was dead broke at 65. Then, he sold the first Kentucky Fried Chicken franchise.

    And Charles Darwin published On the Age of Species at age 50.

    We can’t stop the inevitable. I hate to break it to you but we’re all going to die. The question is: what are you going to do while you’re alive?

    Life is precious. If you believe you’re having a midlife crisis, take a minute to examine what’s really going on. I would argue that it’s not really a crisis at all. In fact, there’s a good chance it’s the perfect time to create the life you’ve always wanted. No excuses.

    Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

    Reference

    More by this author

    Tony Endelman

    Certified life coach, certified relationship coach, heartbreak recovery expert and internet entrepreneur

    How to Survive a Midlife Crisis in Men (the Definitive Guide)

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    Last Updated on May 20, 2019

    How to Live in the Moment and Stop Worrying About the Past or Future

    How to Live in the Moment and Stop Worrying About the Past or Future

    We sometimes hear people talk about the importance of living in the moment. We might hear about the different ways it will benefit us. It all sounds wonderful, but how exactly can we live in the moment when our mind is constantly racing?

    In this article, we’ll discuss some of the benefits of living in the moment you may not be aware of. Then we’ll look at some of the obstacles, and why we worry. Finally, and most importantly, I’ll show you how to live in the moment and stop worrying using some simple practices that you can easily incorporate into your busy schedule.

    The result: a happier and more fulfilling life.

    Why Live in the Moment?

    “The secret of health for both mind and body is not to mourn for the past, worry about the future, or anticipate troubles, but to live in the present moment wisely and earnestly.” – Buddha

    Living in the moment has innumerable benefits. Here are just a few that will enhance your life tremendously:

    Better Health

    By reducing stress and anxiety, you avoid many of the associated health consequences, such as high blood pressure, heart disease, and obesity. Studies have shown that being present can also improve psychological well-being.[1]

    Improve Your Relationships

    Have you ever been with someone who is physically present, but mentally he’s a million miles away?

    Being with unavailable people is a struggle, and makes relationships with them extremely difficult.

    How about being with someone who is fully present? We enjoy being with him because we can make a much deeper connection with him.

    By living in the moment, you can be that person other people enjoy being with, and you make relationships much easier.

    Greater Self-Control

    You have greater control over your mind, body, and emotions. Imagine how much better your life would be if it weren’t at the mercy of a racing mind, and unpredictable emotions. You would certainly be more at peace, and much happier.[2]

    Why Do We Worry?

    Before we answer this question, it’s important to distinguish between worry and concern.

    When we are concerned about something, we are more likely dealing with a real problem with realistic solutions. Then once we do whatever we can to address the problem, we’re willing to live with the outcome.

    Worrying, on the other hand, involves unrealistic thinking. We may worry about a problem that doesn’t really exist, or dwell on all the bad things that can happen as a result. Then, we feel unable to deal with the outcome. Either way, we have difficulty dealing with uncertainty, which is a normal part of life.

    Certainly, some of our problems may not have desirable outcomes, such as a serious health issue. Some problems may be beyond our control, such as civil unrest or economic downturn. In such cases, it can be hard to avoid worrying, but not impossible.

    We sometimes worry when we don’t know how to deal with a problem. For example, have you ever received a letter from the IRS telling you that you owe more money than you thought, and don’t have the funds to pay it? This is enough to scare anyone who is not familiar with taxes.

    How to Live in the Moment

    Step 1: Overcome Worrying

    In order to overcome worrying, we need to do two things:

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    Learn How to Live in the Moment

    By living in the moment, you calm your mind, and are able to see more clearly.

    The reason some problems seem so daunting is that our mind is racing so fast that we cannot see things as they truly are. So we make up a bunch of possible scenarios in our mind, most of which are unlikely to come true.

    In addition to seeing more clearly, living in the moment will help us think more realistically. Unrealistic thinking is fueled by confusion and uncontrolled emotions. Calming your mind will reduce confusion and calm your emotions.

    Learn to Focus on Solutions Instead of Problems

    Some people tend to be more solution-oriented, and others more problem-oriented. Some of the factors that may determine this are gender, upbringing, and education.

    People with higher educations tend to be problem-solvers. That is what their years of education train them to do. In addition, their jobs probably reinforce this way of thinking.

    If you’re not problem-solving oriented, don’t worry. You can train yourself to worry less. We’ll discuss that soon.

    Step 2: Identify Obstacles to Living in the Moment

    In today’s busy world, it can be a challenge to live in the moment. The reasons revolve around how our mind works, and outside influences.

    Racing Mind

    Many busy people have a racing mind that never seems to slow down. Their mind gets so agitated from too much sensory stimulation.

    You see, anything that stimulates any of our five senses (sight, sound, taste, touch, and smell) will trigger a thought, and that thought leads to another, and then another, and so on.

    If you have a busy life, all your activities will overstimulate your mind, and make it seemingly impossible to slow it down. And an agitated mind wants to go to another place and time.

    Unpleasant Situations and Troublesome Past

    None of us want to be in unpleasant situations, or remember those of the past. They can bring up painful emotions, which we don’t want to feel.

    So how do most people cope with painful emotions?

    By doing whatever we can to avoid them, and we can avoid them by taking our mind to another place and time where things are more pleasant.

    In other words, we avoid living in the present moment.

    Some people resort to doing things that stimulate sensory pleasure, such as eating, alcohol or sex. Others will consume substances that dull their mind, and keep them from thinking about unpleasant or stressful situations.

    A Wandering Mind

    From the moment we are born (likely sooner) until the time we die, our body and mind are active performing some function. So it’s natural for our mind to have some level of activity, whether conscious or unconscious.

    Generally, a wandering mind is unproductive. As noted above, one thought starts an endless chain of thoughts. The reason is that one thought reminds us of something else, and this process can go on until we need our mind to perform a specific function, or until we get distracted with something else.

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    Now, there are times when a wandering mind can be productive, such as when creating works of art, or trying to find creative solutions to problems. In such cases, we need our mind to explore different possibilities.[3]

    Outside Influences

    Most of us are not fully aware of how our environment and social norms influence our thinking and behavior. People and institutions are constantly competing for our attention. The news media draw our attention to the past, and advertising usually to the future.[4]

    Many people around us who dwell on the past or future try to draw us to their way of thinking. Even the whole concept of the American dream is geared toward the future. It tells us that if we acquire things like a good career, family, and house, then we’ll be happy.

    Step 3: Practice Mindfulness

    So how can we live in the moment in a world that is constantly trying to draw our attention to the past and future?

    Before we get into concrete actions you can take, it’s important to understand what mindfulness is. You’ve probably heard the term before, but may not fully understand what it means.

    Understand Mindfulness

    The concept of mindfulness is actually quite simple. To be mindful IS to live in the moment.

    When you are mindful, your attention is focused on what is happening in the present moment. When you are mindful, you are fully in touch with reality because the present moment is where reality is taking place.

    You are aware of what is happening in your body, mind, emotions, and the world around you. This is different than thinking about these things. To develop greater understanding, you don’t have to think about them so much, but rather just observe them.

    This may be counter-intuitive to many people, especially intellectuals, because they’re so used to using logic to develop greater understanding. With mindfulness, we calm our mind and emotions so we can see clearer. Then much of our understanding will come from simply observation. When we develop mindfulness, we literally expand our awareness.

    To develop mindfulness, we need to train ourselves to observe things more objectively, that is, without our emotions or preconceived ideas influencing our views.

    You’d be surprised to find out just how much your emotions and past experiences influence your judgments. What many of us do, including intellectuals, is make a quick judgment about a person or situation, then add the reasoning afterwards. That is not logic, but rather rationalization.

    When you are mindful, you reserve judgment until you have more information. Notice how I said “more information,” and not “complete information.” It is impossible to have complete information about something because there are infinite numbers of factors affecting it. So the best thing to do is be as objective as possible, and always be open to new information.

    Viewing the world in this manner can be a challenge, and takes some practice to overcome years of habitual thinking. But it can make our lives infinitely more fulfilling, as we’ll be able to make much better decisions that will result in real happiness and inner peace.

    So if you’re ready to live a better life, read on for some simple mindfulness practices that you can incorporate into your busy life to help you live in the moment, that is, reality.

    You don’t have to do all of them, but rather choose the ones that appeal to you, and suit your lifestyle.

    Mindfulness Meditation

    Mindfulness meditation is the mainstay of developing mindfulness and living in the moment. To practice mindfulness meditation, all you really have to do is sit quietly and follow your breathing. When your mind wanders off, just bring it back to your breath.

    Notice how your lungs expand with each in-breath, and contract with each out-breath. Let your breathing become relaxed and natural.

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    You don’t have to do it perfectly. The idea is to give your mind a rest from the constant sensory stimulation of all your activities, and just allow it to settle down naturally. Start with about 5 to 10 minutes per day and work your way up to about 20 minutes or longer.

    This practice is highly effective, and can have both short-term and long-term benefits.

    If you want to learn more about mindfulness meditation, take a look at this article: How to Practice Mindful Meditation to Calm Your Thoughts

    Also, there are many good books on the market that explain the concepts and techniques in greater detail. Some examples are

    Mindful Breathing

    While this may sound the same as mindfulness meditation, all you’re really doing is taking short breaks occasionally (10 to 15 seconds) to observe your breathing. Stop whatever you’re doing, and take a few mindful breaths, then resume your activity. That’s it.

    You can do mindful breathing at any time of the day during your busy schedule. What it does is interrupt the acceleration of your mind. It is like taking your foot off the accelerator while driving. It’s a nice refreshing break you can take without anyone noticing.

    Here’re some breathing exercises you can try to learn: 5 Breathing Exercises for Anxiety (Simple and Calm Anxiety Quickly)

    Mindful Walking

    Walking is an activity that you perform several times throughout the day. We often think we’re being productive by texting, or calling someone while walking. But are we really?

    Instead of getting on your cell phone, or letting your mind wander off, why not use your walking for training yourself to live in the moment?

    Mindful walking is similar to mindful breathing. But instead of focusing on your breath, focus on your walking. Pay attention to each footstep. Also, notice the different motions of your arms, legs, and torso. When your mind wanders off, just bring your attention back to your walking.

    You can even make a meditation out of walking. That is, go walking for a few minutes outside. Start by slowing down your pace. If you slow down your body, your mind will follow.

    In addition to paying attention to your walking, notice the trees, sunshine, and critters. A mindful walk is enjoyable, and can really help your mind settle down.

    Mindful Eating

    Eating is an activity that most of us perform mindlessly. The reason is that it doesn’t require your attention to perform. So what many of us do is try to multitask while we eat. We may talk on the phone, text, watch TV, or even hold a meeting.

    The problem with not eating mindfully is that we don’t eat what our body and mind need to perform at an optimal level. We may eat unhealthy foods, or too much. This can lead to various health problems, especially as we get older.

    Mindful eating has many health benefits, such as reduced food cravings, better digestion, and even weight loss.[5]

    So how do you eat mindfully? Start by slowing down, and avoid the temptation to distract yourself with another activity. Here are 3 different aspects of eating where you can practice mindfulness:

    • Eating itself: Focus your attention on choosing a portion of food to insert into your mouth. Notice the smell, flavor, and texture as you chew it; then finally swallow it. As with following your breath during meditation, pay close attention to every aspect of eating.
    • Choice of foods: Although you’ve already chosen your food before you have begun eating, you can still take the opportunity to contemplate your choices. Think about the nutrients your body needs to sustain itself. Ask yourself, “Is this what my body and mind need to be healthy, and perform at an optimal level?” “Is it sufficient, or too much?” By asking yourself these questions, you will be more inclined to make better choices in the future.
    • Contemplating the sources: Most of us don’t think about all the work it takes to provide us with the food we eat. While you’re eating, consider all the work by the farmer, shipping company, and the grocery store. These are real people who worked hard to provide you with the food necessary for your survival.

    You can find more tips about mindful eating here: 7 Simple Steps to Mindful Eating

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    Mindful Activities

    Choose an activity that you perform regularly, such as washing dishes. Focus all your attention on this activity, and resist the temptation to let your mind wander, or get distracted. When it does, then just bring your attention back to washing dishes.

    Notice some of the specific movements, or sensations of washing dishes, such as how the soapy water feels on your hands, the circular motion of scrubbing the dish, or the rinsing. You’d be surprised at how such a mundane activity can truly expand your awareness.

    You can choose any activity you like, such as ironing, folding clothes, mowing the lawn, or showering. Over time, you will begin doing all these activities with greater mindfulness.

    Bonus Suggestion

    Here is one activity that is not generally considered a mindful activity. It is physical training. For those of you who already workout, it may be easy to see how physical training requires you to live in the moment.

    Here’s how it works:

    In order to perform an exercise to get the desired benefit, you need to use a proper technique. In order to use the proper technique, you need to pay close attention to how you are doing the exercise. In other words, you need to be fully present in the moment.

    Another aspect of training that helps you live in the moment is tuning into what is happening in your body. First, during exercising, you need to pay close attention to how your body feels. Are you exercising hard enough, or not enough?

    There are times to go easy, such as during warm-up exercises; and times to push yourself hard, such as when you’re warmed up and want to stimulate growth.

    Second, when you’re not in the gym training, you need to pay close attention to the signals your body is sending you. What nutrients and how much do you need to consume to support your training? How much rest do you need?

    By tuning in to your body, you force yourself to be in the moment. So, physical training done properly is just about as effective as meditation, or any mindful activity, for developing mindfulness. It’s also great for your health.

    Final Thoughts

    Practicing mindfulness is like regularly putting small amounts of change in a jar. They will all add up over time. And this will add up to greater peace and happiness.

    Remember, you don’t have to do the mindfulness practices perfectly to get the benefits. All you have to do is keep bringing your mind back to the present moment when it wanders off.

    Practicing mindfulness may be a bit challenging in the beginning; but I can assure you, it will get easier fairly quickly.

    The benefits of living in the moment are well within your reach, no matter how much your mind is racing. If you stick with these mindfulness practices, you too will learn how to live in the moment and stop worrying; and when you do, a whole new world will open up for you. This is what Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh calls the ultimate reality.

    Featured photo credit: Priscilla Du Preez via unsplash.com

    Reference

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