How Mindfulness Changed My Life for the Better
Our last few blog posts have been about small lifestyle changes that can increase your happiness and fulfillment.
Today’s builds on all of that by taking it one step farther.
If you missed any of them, here are some links for you to check them out:
- Slow Down to Speed Up: Get more done in less time and with lower stress
- Simple Tweaks to Boost your Happiness: Secrets of the super successful + neuroscientifically proven strategies you can do right now
- What My 3-Year-Old Taught Me About Gratitude: Practicing active gratitude + 3 free tools to help you develop this daily practice
With the intention of increasing your happiness and fulfillment, today we’re discussing mindfulness.
Many people are confused about what mindfulness is.
I’ve heard it described as a “clearing of the mind” into nothingness.
That’s quite off the mark.
To practice mindfulness is to clear your mind of things other than the present moment and to be fully aware, present, and intellectually active in the moment you’re experiencing.
In other words, much like prayer or a deep thought about a particular subject, mindfulness helps to shift your mind from the usual things that preoccupy your mind and instead direct your thoughts to the present moment – this creates emotional and mental space which reduces stress and increases productivity.
That’s really all you need to know.
It’s pretty simple.
Because of the simplicity of mindfulness, many people have a truly difficult time understanding it.
We try to over-complicate things constantly.
Why do we do that?
…because we’re trained to be the opposite of mindful.
I’m going to let you know everything you need to know about how to prep for mindfulness and how to practice it, but first… a little about what the gift of mindfulness has brought to my life.
Mindfulness is the key to success in my life.
Before I practiced mindfulness I was in a constant state of stress – it felt like I was chasing my tail, or was a hamster on a wheel; I never felt like I had the emotional space to achieve peace.
When I got up in the morning my brain immediately kicked into high gear thinking about my full day’s to-do list and even venturing into many tomorrows… I was on auto-pilot and not living my moments.
That’s a shame because I was missing a lot of my own life and special moments of my daughter’s childhood.
I was born an over-achiever… and that constant quest to be the best in every category drove my brain into a dangerous chronic state.
No one ever taught me how to calm my mind – and that was crippling my potential in every area of life.
My stress level was so high a therapist prescribed anxiety medication for me.
That was not okay with me.
I didn’t want to live dependent on medication.
There’s nothing wrong with using medication when it’s needed; my personal decision for my life was that it was not how I wanted to live on a day-to-day basis.
Mindfulness is my secret sauce to being a loving wife, a great mom, a caring coach, a successful entrepreneur… and last but not least – sane in this crazy world.
What You Need to Know Before Practicing Mindfulness
- There are no supplies.
All you need is the moment you’re in and you’re all set.
You don’t need a fancy cushion, special music, or anything else.
- Quieting your mind is not a thing.
There are forms of meditation that include a bliss state and other-worldly experience.
That’s not this.
This can help train your brain to slow down if you’re interested in meditation, but that is not what mindfulness is.
- Your mind will stray, and that’s okay.
The first thing that my beginning mindfulness students tell me is that they’re frustrated that their minds wander.
Well, of course, they do!
Think about it like this… if you’ve grown up in the U.S. and you’ve driven a car for 30+ years and are accustomed to driving on the right-hand side of the road, it’s natural for you to experience some confusion and disorientation if you were plopped in the middle of France with a vehicle on the left-hand side.
It would be absolutely understandable for you to feel the mental tendency to want to drive on France’s “wrong-side-of-the-road.”
In the same way, your mind is trained (as was mine) to over-think and be busy constantly, never think of yourself, your needs, or your priorities over others’ – so allow yourself space to gently correct yourself and bring yourself back to focus.
When I describe that process to my students, I ask them to visualize the way they would gently guide a baby who is learning to walk away from sharp or pointed objects such as the edge of a brick fireplace… gently guide – no sudden movements, no raised voices… gently and smoothly.
- You’re also accustomed to judging everything (including yourself) and you’re about to stop.
After your brain strays, it will likely want to stay in that “straying” area by launching into a dialogue of shaming statements.
“Why can’t you do this?”
“Oh… you did it again… you can’t even do something this simple!”
“This is so frustrating… I quit.”
If you were trying to learn how to compete in an Olympic high-diving event, you wouldn’t say those things to yourself the first time you went off the platform.
You’d realize that it takes years of practice and repetition to get it right.
This is no different.
Allow yourself the room to be perfectly imperfect and stop judging yourself for doing so!
- Failure equals success.
Bruce Lee said he doesn’t fear the person who has 10,000 kicks; he fears the person who has one kick he’s perfected 10,000 times.
Thomas Edison said he hadn’t failed; he just found 10,000 ways something didn’t work.
By failing 10,000+ times you will perfect your craft.
Don’t encourage your straying mind, but chill out about it!
Calm the *&%! down!
Go back to that toddling baby who is just learning how to walk.
Imagine it is your child… your own precious child who you love.
What happens when the child stands up for the first time?
I’ll tell you- you cheer and clap as though that child has done the impossible – as though he or she is the only person in the history of the universe to accomplish such a feat!
He or she is NOT the only person to accomplish that.
Most of us do it.
At that point when that precious child has finally supported his or her body weight on those two little legs, does any parent start cheering for the child to take off in a sprint?
Because… each milestone leads to a new set of failures that will help the person succeed in the next milestone.
How Do I Practice Mindfulness?
The first thing you need to do is talk yourself into not over-thinking this.
The instructions are simple, so please don’t allow your complicated brain to over-complicate this simple and relaxing gift.
Mindfulness can be practiced in motion, but not for beginners.
Right now you are the baby just trying to roll over or sit up.
So sit down and get comfy.
- Set a timer.
There’s no bigger distraction for me than my mind asking “how much longer do I have, I wonder…” or “how long have I been doing this?”
Set a timer and remove that distraction.
Your timer initially should be set for no more than 5 minutes.
- Position yourself for success.
In mindfulness, you’ll stay still.
When you get into position for your session, you can be reclined (as long as you won’t fall asleep!) or sitting up straight, with your feet on the floor, or in lotus/cross-legged position.
There are no rules to the way you sit other than it needs to be pain-free and something you can sustain for the duration of your session.
- Close your eyes.
When you shut off your sense of sight, your other senses are heightened.
You’ll hear things you weren’t previous consciously recognizing.
I notice gentle sounds in the area where I’m sitting – especially if I’m practicing outside.
I’ve also gotten to the point in my practice where I can recognize the touch of every fabric fiber on my skin and the way air gently brushes against me even when there’s not an otherwise noticeable breeze.
It’s pretty unbelievable.
Have you ever sat still with your eyes closed on a rainy day just to listen to the rain?
Why did you close your eyes on that rainy day?
It helped you be present and really hear the drops hitting.
It’s so relaxing!
It’s a reset button for any moment in your day.
I even do this in the airport on busy travel days and sometimes while sitting in my car & waiting for a red light to change or for a train to finish crossing.
- Be gentle to your wandering mind.
I’ve already covered this but it’s important enough to mention again.
Your mind is programmed to work overtime and dart about like the ball in a pinball machine…
Don’t expect it to just sit still immediately because you’ve decided to start practicing mindfulness.
The last 3 words of the previous sentence were “START PRACTICING mindfulness.”
Starting takes patience.
Practicing takes repetition.
Mindfulness takes both.
GILD has a playlist on our YouTube channel dedicated to guided”I AM” affirmations, Gratitude, and more… these are all forms of mindfulness.
Check that out for a quick-start – each guided session is about 10 minutes long – the perfect length to get started.
Mindfulness works to bring peace and tranquility to even the busiest of minds.
My daughters practice it with me – both have attention deficit issues and that brings a high level of stress to our household.
Mindfulness helps us all hold it together.
Let us know how mindfulness is making your life happier!
Either comment below or shoot an email to me here.