Posted on January 21, 2020
Mindful living is a pretty buzzy phrase these days, and for good reason. From our laptops and smartphones to 24-hour news cycles and late-night emails, we live in a completely connected world. It takes intention and drive to disconnect both physically and emotionally, and it’s not easy. Mindful living is accessible to everyone, and there are even therapist matching services to give you mindful tips and help you navigate through the journey.
But what does mindful living mean, and what are the benefits of mindfulness? Read on for our mindful living guide.
Understanding How to Live Mindfully
The first step to mindful living is to understand what we even mean when we say “mindfulness.” The long and short of it is about choosing to pay attention to the present moment in a curious and nonjudgmental way. “Mindfulness calls on us to notice when our thoughts have drifted to the past or wandered into the future, and when we are regretting, fantasizing, or worrying rather than engaging with what is right in front of us.”
The best part about how to live mindfully is that there is no way to fail. Every moment presents a new opportunity for mindfulness, so if you didn’t catch it the first time, another opening will inevitably present itself.
Ability To Stay Present
One of the most difficult aspects of mindful living is staying in the present moment. People casually offer this concept as advice all the time, but it’s truly harder than it sounds. To be present means training yourself to become an impartial observer without allowing the mind to get side-tracked. But, it’s pretty difficult to arrive at a state of heightened sensory awareness where you release your habitual thought patterns, AKA worries. The reality is, you will probably never achieve this state of mindful living for prolonged bouts of time without serious practicing, and that’s OK. Any amount of work to stay present will help you to think more clearly and consciously.
A No Judgment Zone
People’s usual inclination is to start thinking about practicing mindfulness for anxiety when they’re in the thick of a crisis or chaotic moment. Probably not the best time to put pressure on yourself. Instead, set yourself up for success with more mindful thinking during a quiet, pleasant moment. It’s easier to implement when you’re already halfway to mindfulness. It’s also great practice for building your mindfulness muscle, so when a stressful situation arises in your everyday life, you’ll be equipped with the right tools.
That said, mindful living is a one without judgment, of others, and mostly yourself. While it does involve seriously considering long and short-term effects of your everyday choices and decisions, don’t be too hard on yourself. Get set up for success with the necessary foresight and insight to make the best decision at the moment in order to make the most of your situation. As a result, mindfulness can open a path to the best possible long-term outcome in every situation and maximize your ability to combat everyday stress.
In order to truly live mindfully, it’s important to be purposeful and deliberate in your actions and intentions as much as possible. This means trying to fully detach yourself emotionally from outcomes and avoiding emotional filters that could cloud objectivity. In other words, you must completely immerse yourself at the moment where nothing else matters except “this” very moment. Again, easier said than done. However, focusing on the facts and not the feelings will help you remain in the present, and get a handle on the situation, thus having a calming effect.
Mindful living means you cannot worry about worst-case scenarios which will only cause the brain to wander into fears over which you have no control. That’s living everywhere but in the moment! Practicing mindfulness also requires that you not consume yourself with future desires of what you might, could, or will do. Fully focusing on the moment means that you are no longer distracted by what you did in the past or by what could happen in the future. And with fewer distractions, this immediately helps boost your productivity and ability to think creatively in difficult situations. And as a result, you are therefore able to make better decisions in the moment about your life and circumstances.
Instead, you focus on the “right here, right now,” and what is possible for you at any given moment.
Likewise, mindful living requires you don’t focus on past hurts or regrets. Living in the past is very much NOT in the moment, either. What happened in the past is of no relevance to today in many ways. Rather, mindful living is about making the most of this very moment in order to improve your future state, regardless of what came before.
All this work you’re doing to be conscious and aware of the present moment will help you to better understand your environment and surroundings, in addition to better insights into other people’s behavior, intentions, and emotions. Most importantly, mindful living practices will help you look inward to gain a deeper understanding of your own thoughts, feelings, and behaviors.
One of the many benefits of mindfulness is a deep sense of appreciation for everything around you. When you are no longer preoccupied with a regretful past or an uncertain future, there is more space to be focused on what’s in front of you, with better control over how you respond to and think about the events and circumstances of your life. Filtering out the elements you can’t control can allow you to experience life more fully and positively. With less of your brain taken up by wandering thoughts, you will experience a heightened physical and mental capacity to feel love, joy, and happiness.
So, now that you’re convinced to practice mindful living, how’s it done? Let’s check out our mindful living tips.
Be Mindful Of Your Daily Life
Your everyday life is filled with many small, routine activities. We move through them mindlessly because they become innocuous and unnoticeable, fading into the background of larger daily events. A great way to practice mindful living is to identify two of these activities, like making coffee in the morning or brushing your teeth at night. Decide that you’re going to be completely present for those two activities every single day for a week. Sure, your mind might wander, but gently nudge it back towards the simple movements at hand. Take note of what you notice by being present. The smell of the coffee beans? The feeling of clean teeth? You might not be mindful of these specific small moments again. Try two new activities the following week and see if you can build upon what you started the week prior. Learning how to practice mindfulness at work can help you apply these same techniques on the job for low-stress workday every day.
Whether it’s procrastinating, falling down an Instagram wormhole, or mindlessly snacking, we all have the urge to indulge in a bad habit. Usually, we succumb to them because they feel oh so good. But, mindful living requires us to be present, notice the urge come on, and then allow it to pass through. Focusing on the feeling of wanting to indulge in bad habits will help you learn to move through and past it, leading to more presence, peace, and productivity in your day.
Likewise, mindful living asks us to become comfortable with unrest and uneasiness. Starting something new or challenging an old habit is daunting and overwhelming. Fear of the discomfort brought on by change is why many people get stuck in a rut. Like the urge to indulge, let the feeling of discomfort move through you. Take note of the restlessness and then let it pass. This way, you’ll feel in control of the discomfort, knowing it’s temporary. The more you are able to practice this, the more your comfort zone expands, and the less anxious you will feel. Breathe And Ground
Breathing is a fundamental key to mindful living because it’s something you know you CAN (and should) do. It’s accessible to anyone, anywhere, at any time. Taking three or four deep intentional breaths at any given moment can help calm and focus the mind. But, if breath work isn't quite enough, get grounded. Take a seat at a counter or table. Notice how the chair feels under your body as you place your hands flat on the surface in front of you. Some people choose to keep a small stone or keepsake in their pocket as a literal touchstone to bring them back to the present when they are feeling overwhelmed.
If you’re serious about trying to achieve a more mindful life, consider seeking a mental health professional to assist you on your journey. As you practice moments of mindfulness on a regular basis, with the help of a licensed practitioner, you will notice it come more naturally and easily. Ultimately, mindfulness practices have been proven to help defuse negativity, anxiety, and even restlessness.
Of course, practicing mindfulness takes a great deal of patience, effort, and dedication. It’s called a practice because it’s not something that comes naturally or effortlessly to most humans. It takes work! In fact, there is no achieving perfection when it comes to mindful living. It’s something we have to consciously be working on until it becomes a habit. Even then, there is always room for improvement, and there is nothing wrong with talking to a therapist to help you along the way. Baby steps towards a more mindful lifestyle can dramatically alter your perspective of yourself, others, and the world.
Alison LaSov, LMFT
Alison LaSov is a Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist with experience treating clients struggling with anxiety and depression. She predominantly focuses on mental health intervention for children and adolescents, particularly those who are in crisis. She has worked within the Los Angeles education system treating students with Individualized Education Plans (IEPs), as well as supervised a non-profit Teen Crisis Hotline out of Cedars-Sinai Hospital. Alison earned her B.A. from UCLA and M.A. from Pepperdine University. She is a native to Los Angeles and co-founder at Advekit.