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7 Ways to Be Mindful Every Day

7 Ways to Be Mindful Every Day
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According to the Oxford Dictionary, the definition of mindfulness is “the quality or state of being conscious or aware of something.” [1] In the health and wellness industry in particular, we see this term being used interchangeably with improving mental health, reducing risks of diseases, and even revitalizing our creativity. I like to think of this term as a “power word,” and we don’t have to go far in our social literature to see it.

But what really is mindfulness? And how to be mindful? You’ll find out more about mindfulness in this article.

What Is Mindfulness?

According to the well-known meditation app, Headspace, mindfulness can be thought of as present moment awareness in whatever we’re doing. It’s a practice of being aware of our thoughts and feelings as they come up, without judgement, criticism, or attachment.[2]

In fact, much research has been done on this topic, which sparked the creation of a questionnaire to test where people land in their mindfulness journey. If you’re interested in seeing where you land on the mindfulness scale, take the Mindful Attention Awareness Score (MAAS) here.

Now that we know what mindfulness is, let’s put it in practical terms to help us visualize it in everyday life. Take, for example, your commute to work. For many of us, traffic is an emotionally-laden experience (you can be honest, it’s OK). We may get angry when someone cuts us off, and then proceed to assume that this person is mean and generally rude. The reality is: we don’t know if that person is running late, just like us, or if they’re having a family emergency.

Our emotions and fired-up ego create narratives in our mind that then dictate our response. This not only leads to stress in that moment and for the rest of the day; it also creates habit patterns in our neurological wiring that encourage us to keep this behavior going, long-term.

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Instead of approaching our work commute from this attitude, we can incorporate mindfulness by: becoming aware of our seat, how our hands feel on the steering wheel, the temperature in the car, our breathing, the visuals around us, and the noises outside and inside of the car. These are just some examples, but the idea is to be present to the experience of driving.

When we notice emotions come up when someone cuts us off or when we’re sitting in a long traffic queue, we can approach these emotions with awareness, instead of acting on them impulsively.

The beautiful thing about practicing mindfulness is that we can do it any time, anywhere. Here is a list of some practical, easy ways to stay mindful during your day.

1. Meditation

Probably one of the best ways to practice mindfulness is through meditation. This practice is centered on being present and noticing what thoughts and feelings come up.

There are many ways in which to meditate, all with personal preference and goal in mind. Starting a beginner’s meditation practice is a powerful way to introduce yourself to the many tools that this lifestyle will open up for you.

Likewise, there are a number of resources from which to learn, such as the Headspace or Insight Timer apps on your phone. These apps feature teacher-guided recordings for you to enjoy whenever, wherever.

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2. Walks in Nature

Nature is everyone’s first teacher. Being outside and giving ourselves a break from work, family, and to-do lists is a beautiful and simple way to reset our entire system. Whether it’s a stroll in your favorite park or going for a long-day hike, being outside lends many ways in which to practice mindfulness.

In fact, there is an entire movement dedicated to this, called Forest Bathing. The idea is to open yourself up to the present moment and action of walking outside: feeling the earth beneath your feet, how firmly or softly you step on the ground, the smells and noises around you, and what thoughts, feelings, or memories this brings up for you.

Nature walks can be incredibly therapeutic. Staying in that present moment and letting go of the day gives room for creativity, clarity, and deep inner connection.

3. Journaling

There is nothing more present than sitting down with your thoughts and giving them an expressive outlet. Writing is another therapeutic tool at your disposal, in which you can find a rich mindfulness practice.

Journaling may look like keeping a diary, or it may be choosing to write down thoughts or experiences that feel particularly heavy or confusing. This practice very often leads to clarity and uncovering a new perspective on a situation you may have not considered.

Whether you write about something serious that happened or pen a letter to a dear friend or loved one, the practice will bring you back to present awareness. See if you can really settle into this space. It is rich.

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Learn about the 5 Powerful Ways Journal Writing Changes Your Life.

4. Playing with Your Pet

This is one way of being mindful and absolutely loving it! Cuddles with our pets are some of the most precious moments, and they are deeply rooted in present-moment awareness. Not only does it bring you out of mental overdrive, but it has also been found to alleviate depression, curb anxiety, and lower high blood pressure! [3] Here’s Why Keeping Pets Gives You Positive Energy.

Next time you have a few minutes, throw that ball with your dog or whip out the feather toys with your cat. Not only will they appreciate it, but you can notice the ways in which you sink into the present moment. Enjoy it!

5. Cooking a Meal

You can follow a recipe and become tuned into the ingredients, how long to cook, plating the food, and everything in-between. This practice creates a magical connection between you and the food that will nourish you.

But if you have a favorite dish that you love preparing and don’t need to follow a recipe, take this approach to learn something new. We often make familiar meals on a whim, and in a way that is automated.

See if you can take a different, mindful approach here and cook your meal slowly and deliberately. Can you smell each fruit or vegetable before you cut it? Can you tune into the noises of food sizzling as it’s being cooked, or even the noise of the utensils or knife on the chopping board? What emotions or thoughts come up as you prepare this meal? Let it be an experience for all the senses.

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6. Eating Mindfully

Just as the prior point above explains, mindfulness in the kitchen can be an experience for all the senses. Once you’re done cooking your meal (or if someone is cooking for you), another way to practice mindfulness is to be aware of how you eat.

So often, we chew our food quickly, or are distracted by external stimuli, like a TV or our phone. Try practicing being aware of your meal time: smelling the food, noticing the colors and textures, chewing slowly and fully to activate all the flavors, and pausing between each bite. This will not only help you savor the experience, but it will also help you decide when you’re actually full. It is a well-known dieting technique shown to have positive benefits.[4] Start to eat mindfully.

7. Active Co-Listening

This is a practice that is powerful in our personal and professional relationships and friendships. How many times can you recollect listening to a friend’s story and at the same time, planning on what you’re going to say in return?

All of us, at some point or another, have zoned out or pulled into our own mental chatter with someone in conversation. A co-listening practice is wonderful in helping us stay present to another person. It also teaches us to how to hold space for someone who is sharing, so that we become more empathetic.

Next time you’re having a conversation, tune into what the person is saying: follow their narrative, invest in their courage to want to share something, and notice their words and body language. These are small gestures that speak volumes!

All of us want to be heard and acknowledged. Your mindful practice of co-listening puts out into the Universe that you deserve the same in return; and you do!

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Final Thoughts

A mindfulness practice is a simple commitment to staying present to whatever you’re doing. Whether you’re in traffic, at work, with loved ones, or alone, you can practice slowing down and becoming aware of what’s going on around you and within you. This will greatly benefit your mental, physical, and emotional health, as well as the relationships you nurture in your life and community.

More About Practicing Mindfulness

Featured photo credit: Larm Rmah via unsplash.com

Reference

More by this author

Aleksandra Slijepcevic

Accredited and Certified Vinyasa Yoga Teacher writing for Health & Fitness

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Last Updated on July 20, 2021

How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking (A Step-by-Step Guide)

How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking (A Step-by-Step Guide)
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You’re standing behind the curtain, just about to make your way on stage to face the many faces half-shrouded in darkness in front of you. As you move towards the spotlight, your body starts to feel heavier with each step. A familiar thump echoes throughout your body – your heartbeat has gone off the charts.

Don’t worry, you’re not the only one with glossophobia(also known as speech anxiety or the fear of speaking to large crowds). Sometimes, the anxiety happens long before you even stand on stage.

Your body’s defence mechanism responds by causing a part of your brain to release adrenaline into your blood – the same chemical that gets released as if you were being chased by a lion.

Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you overcome your fear of public speaking:

1. Prepare yourself mentally and physically

According to experts, we’re built to display anxiety and to recognize it in others. If your body and mind are anxious, your audience will notice. Hence, it’s important to prepare yourself before the big show so that you arrive on stage confident, collected and ready.

“Your outside world is a reflection of your inside world. What goes on in the inside, shows on the outside.” – Bob Proctor

Exercising lightly before a presentation helps get your blood circulating and sends oxygen to the brain. Mental exercises, on the other hand, can help calm the mind and nerves. Here are some useful ways to calm your racing heart when you start to feel the butterflies in your stomach:

Warming up

If you’re nervous, chances are your body will feel the same way. Your body gets tense, your muscles feel tight or you’re breaking in cold sweat. The audience will notice you are nervous.

If you observe that this is exactly what is happening to you minutes before a speech, do a couple of stretches to loosen and relax your body. It’s better to warm up before every speech as it helps to increase the functional potential of the body as a whole. Not only that, it increases muscle efficiency, improves reaction time and your movements.

Here are some exercises to loosen up your body before show time:

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  1. Neck and shoulder rolls – This helps relieve upper body muscle tension and pressure as the rolls focus on rotating the head and shoulders, loosening the muscle. Stress and anxiety can make us rigid within this area which can make you feel agitated, especially when standing.
  2. Arm stretches – We often use this part of our muscles during a speech or presentation through our hand gestures and movements. Stretching these muscles can reduce arm fatigue, loosen you up and improve your body language range.
  3. Waist twists – Place your hands on your hips and rotate your waist in a circular motion. This exercise focuses on loosening the abdominal and lower back regions which is essential as it can cause discomfort and pain, further amplifying any anxieties you may experience.

Stay hydrated

Ever felt parched seconds before speaking? And then coming up on stage sounding raspy and scratchy in front of the audience? This happens because the adrenaline from stage fright causes your mouth to feel dried out.

To prevent all that, it’s essential we stay adequately hydrated before a speech. A sip of water will do the trick. However, do drink in moderation so that you won’t need to go to the bathroom constantly.

Try to avoid sugary beverages and caffeine, since it’s a diuretic – meaning you’ll feel thirstier. It will also amplify your anxiety which prevents you from speaking smoothly.

Meditate

Meditation is well-known as a powerful tool to calm the mind. ABC’s Dan Harris, co-anchor of Nightline and Good Morning America weekend and author of the book titled10% Happier , recommends that meditation can help individuals to feel significantly calmer, faster.

Meditation is like a workout for your mind. It gives you the strength and focus to filter out the negativity and distractions with words of encouragement, confidence and strength.

Mindfulness meditation, in particular, is a popular method to calm yourself before going up on the big stage. The practice involves sitting comfortably, focusing on your breathing and then bringing your mind’s attention to the present without drifting into concerns about the past or future – which likely includes floundering on stage.

Here’s a nice example of guided meditation before public speaking:

2. Focus on your goal

One thing people with a fear of public speaking have in common is focusing too much on themselves and the possibility of failure.

Do I look funny? What if I can’t remember what to say? Do I look stupid? Will people listen to me? Does anyone care about what I’m talking about?’

Instead of thinking this way, shift your attention to your one true purpose – contributing something of value to your audience.

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Decide on the progress you’d like your audience to make after your presentation. Notice their movements and expressions to adapt your speech to ensure that they are having a good time to leave the room as better people.

If your own focus isn’t beneficial and what it should be when you’re speaking, then shift it to what does. This is also key to establishing trust during your presentation as the audience can clearly see that you have their interests at heart.[1]

3. Convert negativity to positivity

There are two sides constantly battling inside of us – one is filled with strength and courage while the other is doubt and insecurities. Which one will you feed?

‘What if I mess up this speech? What if I’m not funny enough? What if I forget what to say?’

It’s no wonder why many of us are uncomfortable giving a presentation. All we do is bring ourselves down before we got a chance to prove ourselves. This is also known as a self-fulfilling prophecy – a belief that comes true because we are acting as if it already is. If you think you’re incompetent, then it will eventually become true.

Motivational coaches tout that positive mantras and affirmations tend to boost your confidents for the moments that matter most. Say to yourself: “I’ll ace this speech and I can do it!”

Take advantage of your adrenaline rush to encourage positive outcome rather than thinking of the negative ‘what ifs’.

Here’s a video of Psychologist Kelly McGonigal who encourages her audience to turn stress into something positive as well as provide methods on how to cope with it:

4. Understand your content

Knowing your content at your fingertips helps reduce your anxiety because there is one less thing to worry about. One way to get there is to practice numerous times before your actual speech.

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However, memorizing your script word-for-word is not encouraged. You can end up freezing should you forget something. You’ll also risk sounding unnatural and less approachable.

“No amount of reading or memorizing will make you successful in life. It is the understanding and the application of wise thought that counts.” – Bob Proctor

Many people unconsciously make the mistake of reading from their slides or memorizing their script word-for-word without understanding their content – a definite way to stress themselves out.

Understanding your speech flow and content makes it easier for you to convert ideas and concepts into your own words which you can then clearly explain to others in a conversational manner. Designing your slides to include text prompts is also an easy hack to ensure you get to quickly recall your flow when your mind goes blank.[2]

One way to understand is to memorize the over-arching concepts or ideas in your pitch. It helps you speak more naturally and let your personality shine through. It’s almost like taking your audience on a journey with a few key milestones.

5. Practice makes perfect

Like most people, many of us are not naturally attuned to public speaking. Rarely do individuals walk up to a large audience and present flawlessly without any research and preparation.

In fact, some of the top presenters make it look easy during showtime because they have spent countless hours behind-the-scenes in deep practice. Even great speakers like the late John F. Kennedy would spend months preparing his speech beforehand.

Public speaking, like any other skill, requires practice – whether it be practicing your speech countless of times in front of a mirror or making notes. As the saying goes, practice makes perfect!

6. Be authentic

There’s nothing wrong with feeling stressed before going up to speak in front of an audience.

Many people fear public speaking because they fear others will judge them for showing their true, vulnerable self. However, vulnerability can sometimes help you come across as more authentic and relatable as a speaker.

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Drop the pretence of trying to act or speak like someone else and you’ll find that it’s worth the risk. You become more genuine, flexible and spontaneous, which makes it easier to handle unpredictable situations – whether it’s getting tough questions from the crowd or experiencing an unexpected technical difficulty.

To find out your authentic style of speaking is easy. Just pick a topic or issue you are passionate about and discuss this like you normally would with a close family or friend. It is like having a conversation with someone in a personal one-to-one setting. A great way to do this on stage is to select a random audience member(with a hopefully calming face) and speak to a single person at a time during your speech. You’ll find that it’s easier trying to connect to one person at a time than a whole room.

With that said, being comfortable enough to be yourself in front of others may take a little time and some experience, depending how comfortable you are with being yourself in front of others. But once you embrace it, stage fright will not be as intimidating as you initially thought.

Presenters like Barack Obama are a prime example of a genuine and passionate speaker:

7. Post speech evaluation

Last but not the least, if you’ve done public speaking and have been scarred from a bad experience, try seeing it as a lesson learned to improve yourself as a speaker.

Don’t beat yourself up after a presentation

We are the hardest on ourselves and it’s good to be. But when you finish delivering your speech or presentation, give yourself some recognition and a pat on the back.

You managed to finish whatever you had to do and did not give up. You did not let your fears and insecurities get to you. Take a little more pride in your work and believe in yourself.

Improve your next speech

As mentioned before, practice does make perfect. If you want to improve your public speaking skills, try asking someone to film you during a speech or presentation. Afterwards, watch and observe what you can do to improve yourself next time.

Here are some questions you can ask yourself after every speech:

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  • How did I do?
  • Are there any areas for improvement?
  • Did I sound or look stressed?
  • Did I stumble on my words? Why?
  • Was I saying “um” too often?
  • How was the flow of the speech?

Write everything you observed down and keep practicing and improving. In time, you’ll be able to better manage your fears of public speaking and appear more confident when it counts.

If you want even more tips about public speaking or delivering a great presentation, check out these articles too:

Reference

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