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7 Essential Things You Need For A Mindful Life You Dream About

7 Essential Things You Need For A Mindful Life You Dream About

1. Redefine mindfulness.

Do you dream about having a mindful life? Does it seem out of reach? Do you believe it takes a lot of time to learn mindfulness? A misunderstanding of the word mindfulness can put a wall between you and your so called mindful life.

I began to pursue mindfulness in 1973. I went to workshops and read books. I pictured myself sitting cross-legged on the floor, my hands resting on my knees with my fingers touching my thumbs, chanting a mantra that was mine alone. I pictured reaching a state where thoughts no longer entered my mind at all.

One summer morning, a friend of mine took me on a tour of the Self-Realization Fellowship in Los Angeles, California. The grounds are gorgeous! If there is a perfect place to find a spot and sit cross-legged, this is it. Although this took place forty years ago, I still remember walking towards a young man doing just that. As we approached, I noticed his eyes start to flutter under his lids. I knew we had disturbed his concentration. I felt bad, but I wondered how far he had gotten from taking that ultimate vacation away from his thoughts.

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Now don’t get me wrong. I know this type of mindful meditation has huge benefits. Those benefits have been highly researched and replicated. I just never found the time or the determination to get there. So if there’s more to mindfulness than meditating, what is it?

Jon Kabat-Zinn, a biologist and an expert in mindfulness, defined it this way: “Paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally.” This means that we purposefully pay attention to what is happening in the present moment. We cease living in the past through rumination or the future through worry. We strategically bring our minds back to the present moment so that we are actually living our lives anchored in our environment rather than in our heads. So first, redefine mindfulness.

2. Do only what works.

There are hundreds if not thousands of mindfulness exercises to choose from. As a psychotherapist who uses mindfulness practices in my group setting, I have seen some clients who cannot tolerate certain types of exercises, but find others extremely helpful. One client cannot handle it when we begin to focus on our breath or go through any sort of “slowing down” exercise. Her mind is constantly racing. She is now practicing an exercise for very short periods of time to help her slow down her thought processes.

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Another client needs a brain teaser—something to totally focus on—in order to bring herself back to the present moment. For another, using all of her five senses to experience her world is enough to bring her back to her “now” within a very short time. Explore the vast array if mindfulness exercises out there through the Internet or books or CDs. Some will work for you and some will not be as helpful.

3. Eat right.

You’ve heard it before: Food is medicine. We can get away with not eating right when we are younger, but as the years fly by, damage that is invisible to us is happening on the inside. We experience digestive problems or aching joints. We can become easily fatigued. Getting informed by reading blogs or books on healthy eating will help.

4. Sleep more.

Speaking of fatigue, getting enough sleep is essential to leading a mindful life. Our brains wake up with so much energy for a day. If we are healthy, we have enough physical energy, cognitive energy, and emotional energy. Then we have a reserve. Without enough sleep, once these energy stores are used up, they are used up until we sleep again. There is no reserve. That is when we feel our worst and can’t seem to get it together mentally or emotionally. If you are experiencing this, look at your sleep schedule. For most adults, 8–9 hours are needed.

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5. Learn how to listen.

Have you ever listened to yourself? I have. And sometimes, I don’t like what I hear. I will be sitting across from a friend having a latte or talking to my sister on the phone, and once I’m on my way home or I’ve hung up the phone, I realize I did not ask them what was happening in their life. I find my own life so exciting that I blabbed on and on without inquiring how they are. Ugh. Just intentionally listening to another is a type of mindfulness. As how others are doing. Find out what is happening in their life. Listen, and pay close attention. Ask questions. It’s impossible do that if you are not paying attention, living a mindful life.

6. Practice gratitude.

Research shows that if you write down a few things you are grateful for each day, depression lifts after a while. You cannot reflect on what you are grateful for if you are wallowing in the past or worrying in the future. You are thinking about your life—now. Practicing gratitude is part of living a mindful life.

7. Practice, practice, practice.

When you first rode a bike, you had to watch someone else do it first. You noticed that you needed to swing your leg over to the other side, sit on the seat, put your feet on the pedals and hands on the handle bars. Then you needed to push the pedal forward with one foot first, then the other, all the while steering the bike. Eventually you graduated to one without training wheels that had brake grips attached to the handle bars. Soon, with enough practice, you were going everywhere on your bike. If you put your bike away for awhile, even for years, chances are you would be able to jump right back on it and ride.

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You had developed muscle memory. Your brain knows how to ride the bike. This is how learning any skill works. The more you practice it, the easier it becomes, and the more automatically you use the skill when needed. You cease needing to think about it ahead of time.

I have taught mindfulness exercises to others for almost five years. I remember the first time I noticed I had automatically brought myself back to the present when I was ruminating about an event from long ago. I went outside and sat on my back porch. I changed my focus to the sound of the birds in the trees and the warmth of the sun on my face. I began to search the trees for the birds. I noticed the turquoise blue of the sky through the leafy branches of the ash tree. My mood lifted. I was living a mindful life.

So, have you only dreamed about leading a mindful life? Begin now by keeping these seven essentials in mind.

Featured photo credit: Mindfulness via

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Last Updated on March 25, 2020

How to Live Longer? 21 Ways to Live a Long Life

How to Live Longer? 21 Ways to Live a Long Life

When it comes to living long, genes aren’t everything. Research has revealed a number of simple lifestyle changes you can make that could help to extend your life, and some of them may surprise you.

So, how to live longer? Here are 21 ways to help you live a long life

1. Exercise

It’s no secret that physical activity is good for you. Exercise helps you maintain a healthy body weight and lowers your blood pressure, both of which contribute to heart health and a reduced risk of heart disease–the top worldwide cause of death.

2. Drink in Moderation

I know you’re probably picturing a glass of red wine right now, but recent research suggests that indulging in one to three glasses of any type of alcohol every day may help to increase longevity.[1] Studies have found that heavy drinkers as well as abstainers seem to have a higher risk of early mortality than moderate drinkers.

3. Reduce Stress in Your Life

Stress causes your body to release a hormone called cortisol. At high levels, this hormone can increase blood pressure and cause storage of abdominal fat, both of which can lead to an increased risk of heart disease.

4. Watch Less Television

A 2008 study found that people who watch six hours of television per day will likely die an average of 4.8 years earlier than those who don’t.[2] It also found that, after the age of 25, every hour of television watched decreases life expectancy by 22 minutes.

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Television promotes inactivity and disengagement from the world, both of which can shorten your lifespan.

5. Eat Less Red Meat

Red meat consumption is linked to an increased risk of heart disease and cancer.[3] Swapping out your steaks for healthy proteins, like fish, may help to increase longevity.

If you can’t stand the idea of a steak-free life, reducing your consumption to less than two to three servings a week can still incur health benefits.

6. Don’t Smoke

This isn’t exactly a revelation. As you probably well know, smoking significantly increases your risk of cancer.

7. Socialize

Studies suggest that having social relationships promotes longevity.[4] Although scientists are unsure of the reasons behind this, they speculate that socializing leads to increased self esteem as well as peer pressure to maintain health.

8. Eat Foods Rich in Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Omega-3 fatty acids decrease the risk of heart disease[5] and perhaps even Alzheimer’s disease.[6] Salmon and walnuts are two of the best sources of Omega-3s.

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9. Be Optimistic

Studies suggest that optimists are at a lower risk for heart disease and, generally, live longer than pessimists.[7] Researchers speculate that optimists have a healthier approach to life in general–exercising more, socializing, and actively seeking out medical advice. Thus, their risk of early mortality is lower.

10. Own a Pet

Having a furry-friend leads to decreased stress, increased immunity, and a lessened risk of heart disease.[8] Depending on the type of pet, they can also motivate you to be more active.

11. Drink Coffee

Studies have found a link between coffee consumption and longer life.[9] Although the reasons for this aren’t entirely clear, coffee’s high levels of antioxidants may play a role. Remember, though, drowning your cup of joe in sugar and whipped cream could counter whatever health benefits it may hold.

12. Eat Less

Japan has the longest average lifespan in the world, and the longest lived of the Japanese–the natives of the Ryukyu Islands–stop eating when they’re 80% full. Limiting your calorie intake means lower overall stress on the body.

13. Meditate

Meditation leads to stress reduction and lowered blood pressure.[10] Research suggests that it could also increase the activity of an enzyme associated with longevity.[11]

Taking as little as 15 minutes a day to find your zen can have significant health benefits, and may even extend your life.

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How to meditate? Here’re 8 Meditation Techniques for Complete Beginners

14. Maintain a Healthy Weight

Being overweight puts stress on your cardiovascular system, increasing your risk of heart disease.[12] It may also increase the risk of cancer.[13] Maintaining a healthy weight is important for heart health and living a long and healthy life.

15. Laugh Often

Laughter reduces the levels of stress hormones, like cortisol, in your body. High levels of these hormones can weaken your immune system.

16. Don’t Spend Too Much Time in the Sun

Too much time in the sun can lead to an increased risk of skin cancer. However, sun exposure is an excellent way to increase levels of vitamin D, so soaking up a few rays–perhaps for around 15 minutes a day–can be healthy. The key is moderation.

17. Cook Your Own Food

When you eat at restaurants, you surrender control over your diet. Even salads tend to have a large number of additives, from sugar to saturated fats. Eating at home will enable you to monitor your food intake and ensure a healthy diet.

Take a look at these 14 Healthy Easy Recipes for People on the Go and start to cook your own food.

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18. Eat Mushrooms

Mushrooms are a central ingredient in Dr. Joel Fuhrman’s GOMBS disease fighting diet. They boost the immune system and may even reduce the risk of cancer.[14]

19. Floss

Flossing helps to stave off gum disease, which is linked to an increased risk of cancer.[15]

20. Eat Foods Rich in Antioxidants

Antioxidants fight against the harmful effects of free-radicals, toxins which can cause cell damage and an increased risk of disease when they accumulate in the body. Berries, green tea and broccoli are three excellent sources of antioxidants.

Find out more antiosidants-rich foods here: 13 Delicious Antioxidant Foods That Are Great for Your Health

21. Have Sex

Getting down and dirty two to three times a week can have significant health benefits. Sex burns calories, decreases stress, improves sleep, and may even protect against heart disease.[16] It’s an easy and effective way to get exercise–so love long and prosper!

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Featured photo credit: Sweethearts/Patrick via flickr.com

Reference

[1] Wiley Online Library: Late‐Life Alcohol Consumption and 20‐Year Mortality
[2] BMJ Journals: Television viewing time and reduced life expectancy: a life table analysis
[3] Arch Intern Med.: Red Meat Consumption and Mortality
[4] PLOS Medicine: Social Relationships and Mortality Risk: A Meta-analytic Review
[5] JAMA: Fish and Omega-3 Fatty Acid Intake and Risk of Coronary Heart Disease in Women
[6] NCBI: Effects of Omega‐3 Fatty Acids on Cognitive Function with Aging, Dementia, and Neurological Diseases: Summary
[7] Mayo Clinic Proc: Prediction of all-cause mortality by the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory Optimism-Pessimism Scale scores: study of a college sample during a 40-year follow-up period.
[8] Med Hypotheses.: Pet ownership protects against the risks and consequences of coronary heart disease.
[9] The New England Journal of Medicine: Association of Coffee Drinking with Total and Cause-Specific Mortality
[10] American Journal of Hypertension: Blood Pressure Response to Transcendental Meditation: A Meta-analysis
[11] Science Direct: Intensive meditation training, immune cell telomerase activity, and psychological mediators
[12] JAMA: The Disease Burden Associated With Overweight and Obesity
[13] JAMA: The Disease Burden Associated With Overweight and Obesity
[14] African Journal of Biotechnology: Anti-cancer effect of polysaccharides isolated from higher basidiomycetes mushrooms
[15] Science Direct: Periodontal disease, tooth loss, and cancer risk in male health professionals: a prospective cohort study
[16] AHA Journals: Sexual Activity and Cardiovascular Disease

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