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Published on June 25, 2020

7 Ways to Be Mindful Every Day

7 Ways to Be Mindful Every Day

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!

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 January 24, 2021

How to Say No When You Know You Say Yes Too Often

How to Say No When You Know You Say Yes Too Often

Do you say yes so often that you no longer feel that your own needs are being met? Are you wondering how to say no to people?

For years, I was a serial people pleaser[1]. Known as someone who would step up, I would gladly make time, especially when it came to volunteering for certain causes. I proudly carried this role all through grade school, college, even through law school. For years, I thought saying “no” meant I would disappoint a good friend or someone I respected.

But somewhere along the way, I noticed I wasn’t quite living my life. Instead, I seem to have created a schedule that was a strange combination of meeting the expectations of others, what I thought I should be doing, and some of what I actually wanted to do. The result? I had a packed schedule that left me overwhelmed and unfulfilled.

It took a long while, but I learned the art of saying no. Saying no meant I no longer catered fully to everyone else’s needs and could make more room for what I really wanted to do. Instead of cramming too much in, I chose to pursue what really mattered. When that happened, I became a lot happier.

And guess what? I hardly disappointed anyone.

The Importance of Saying No

When you learn the art of saying no, you begin to look at the world differently. Rather than seeing all of the things you could or should be doing (and aren’t doing), you start to look at how to say yes to what’s important.

In other words, you aren’t just reacting to what life throws at you. You seek the opportunities that move you to where you want to be.

Successful people aren’t afraid to say no. Oprah Winfrey, considered one of the most successful women in the world, confessed that it was much later in life when she learned how to say no. Even after she had become internationally famous, she felt she had to say yes to virtually everything.

Being able to say no also helps you manage your time better.

Warren Buffett views “no” as essential to his success. He said:

“The difference between successful people and really successful people is that really successful people say no to almost everything.”

When I made “no” a part of my toolbox, I drove more of my own success, focusing on fewer things and doing them well.

How We Are Pressured to Say Yes

It’s no wonder a lot of us find it hard to say no.

From an early age, we are conditioned to say yes. We said yes probably hundreds of times in order to graduate from high school and then get into college. We said yes to find work, to get a promotion, to find love and then yes again to stay in a relationship. We said yes to find and keep friends.

We say yes because we feel good when we help someone, because it can seem like the right thing to do, because we think that is key to success, and because the request might come from someone who is hard to resist.

And that’s not all. The pressure to say yes doesn’t just come from others. We put a lot of pressure on ourselves.

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At work, we say yes because we compare ourselves to others who seem to be doing more than we are. Outside of work, we say yes because we are feeling bad that we aren’t doing enough to spend time with family or friends.

The message, no matter where we turn, is nearly always, “You really could be doing more.” The result? When people ask us for our time, we are heavily conditioned to say yes.

How Do You Say No Without Feeling Guilty?

Deciding to add the word “no” to your toolbox is no small thing. Perhaps you already say no, but not as much as you would like. Maybe you have an instinct that if you were to learn the art of no that you could finally create more time for things you care about.

But let’s be honest, using the word “no” doesn’t come easily for many people.

3 Rules of Thumbs for Saying No

1. You Need to Get Out of Your Comfort Zone

Let’s face it. It is hard to say no. Setting boundaries around your time, especially you haven’t done it much in the past, will feel awkward. Your comfort zone is “yes,” so it’s time to challenge that and step outside that.

If you need help getting out of your comfort zone, check out this article.

2. You Are the Air Traffic Controller of Your Time

When you want to learn how to say no, remember that you are the only one who understands the demands for your time. Think about it: who else knows about all of the demands in your life? No one.

Only you are at the center of all of these requests. You are the only one that understands what time you really have.

3. Saying No Means Saying Yes to Something That Matters

When we decide not to do something, it means we can say yes to something else that we may care more about. You have a unique opportunity to decide how you spend your precious time.

6 Ways to Start Saying No

Incorporating that little word “no” into your life can be transformational. Turning some things down will mean you can open doors to what really matters. Here are some essential tips to learn the art of no:

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1. Check in With Your Obligation Meter

One of the biggest challenges to saying no is a feeling of obligation. Do you feel you have a responsibility to say yes and worry that saying no will reflect poorly on you?

Ask yourself whether you truly have the duty to say yes. Check your assumptions or beliefs about whether you carry the responsibility to say yes. Turn it around and instead ask what duty you owe to yourself.

2. Resist the Fear of Missing out (FOMO)

Do you have a fear of missing out (FOMO)? FOMO can follow us around in so many ways. At work, we volunteer our time because we fear we won’t move ahead. In our personal lives, we agree to join the crowd because of FOMO, even while we ourselves aren’t enjoying the fun.

Check in with yourself. Are you saying yes because of FOMO or because you really want to say yes? More often than not, running after fear doesn’t make us feel better[2].

3. Check Your Assumptions About What It Means to Say No

Do you dread the reaction you will get if you say no? Often, we say yes because we worry about how others will respond or because of the consequences. We may be afraid to disappoint others or think we will lose their respect. We often forget how much we are disappointing ourselves along the way.

Keep in mind that saying no can be exactly what is needed to send the right message that you have limited time. In the tips below, you will see how to communicate your no in a gentle and loving way.

You might disappoint someone initially, but drawing a boundary can bring you the freedom you need so that you can give freely of yourself when you truly want to. And it will often help others have more respect for you and your boundaries, not less.

4. When the Request Comes in, Sit on It

Sometimes, when we are in the moment, we instinctively agree. The request might make sense at first. Or we typically have said yes to this request in the past.

Give yourself a little time to reflect on whether you really have the time or can do the task properly. You may decide the best option is to say no. There is no harm in giving yourself the time to decide.

5. Communicate Your “No” with Transparency and Kindness

When you are ready to tell someone no, communicate your decision clearly. The message can be open and honest[3] to ensure the recipient that your reasons have to do with your limited time.

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How do you say no? 9 Healthy Ways to Say “No”

    Resist the temptation not to respond or communicate all. But do not feel obligated to provide a lengthy account about why you are saying no.

    Clear communication with a short explanation is all that is needed. I have found it useful to tell people that I have many demands and need to be careful with how I allocate my time. I will sometimes say I really appreciate that they came to me and for them to check in again if the opportunity arises another time.

    6. Consider How to Use a Modified No

    If you are under pressure to say yes but want to say no, you may want to consider downgrading a “yes” to a “yes but…” as this will give you an opportunity to condition your agreement to what works best for you.

    Sometimes, the condition can be to do the task, but not in the time frame that was originally requested. Or perhaps you can do part of what has been asked.

    Final Thoughts

    Beginning right now, you can change how you respond to requests for your time. When the request comes in, take yourself off autopilot where you might normally say yes.

    Use the request as a way to draw a healthy boundary around your time. Pay particular attention to when you place certain demands on yourself.

    Try it now. Say no to a friend who continues to take advantage of your goodwill. Or, draw the line with a workaholic colleague and tell them you will complete the project, but not by working all weekend. You’ll find yourself much happier.

    More Tips on How to Say No

    Featured photo credit: Chris Ainsworth via unsplash.com

    Reference

    [1] Science of People: 11 Expert Tips to Stop Being a People Pleaser and Start Doing You
    [2] Anxiety and Depression Association of America: Tips to Get Over Your FOMO, or Fear of Missing Out
    [3] Cooks Hill Counseling: 9 Healthy Ways to Say “No”

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