Have you ever been on auto-pilot driving down the road and realized you don’t remember half of your trip? Have you ever had a conversation and five minutes later forgotten what they said? Have you ever been so frustrated or upset that you just couldn’t think clearly? Have you ever mindlessly munched on a snack in front of your computer screen or phone?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, you are not alone. A study at Harvard found that people spend 46.9 percent of their waking hours thinking about something other than what they are doing. Our minds are constantly in motion, thinking about things on our to-do list, rehashing a conversation, worrying about what ifs, stressing out about deadlines.
Our distracting thoughts and wandering minds can affect our emotional and physical well-being. If our minds are constantly frenzied, it can leave us feeling depleted and overwhelmed.
In order to break this lousy habit, we must practice being mindful.
Mindfulness is paying attention on purpose and being fully present in the moment. Research proves that mindfulness makes you healthier.
Benefits of mindfulness include reduction in stress, anxiety and depression, reduction in craving, along with improved concentration and productivity.
When we are fully aware, we are able to respond to stressful situations in a calm, clear and thoughtful way. For example, whether it was our fault leaving late or an accident, we have all been stuck in traffic while late for an appointment. If we are not mindful, our blood pressure may rise and we may go into a panic.
However, if we are fully aware we will quickly realize we cannot control this circumstance. Instead, we can reassess the situation and observe only the things in our control. We can control our thoughts and be grateful we were not in that accident that occurred minutes beforehand. We can turn on the radio to our favorite songs or listen to our favorite podcast to help us become more at peace.
We need to be mindful in our daily interactions with others. Daily conversations become automatic, especially with the people we interact with every day. Being fully engaged allows us to strengthen our communication with others, thereby strengthening our connection.
Making eye contact and truly listening to what someone is saying makes the person feels valued and respected.
As Brene Brown says, “We are hardwired to connect with others. It’s what gives purpose and meaning to our lives, and without it there is suffering.”
What can you do to be more mindful? Start small. Start with activities you already do daily.
When you are brushing your teeth, engage all your senses. Don’t think about what you need to accomplish at work. Pay attention to the minty smell. Taste the fresh, zingy paste and feel the bristles across your sensitive gums.
Next time you take a shower, inhale the aroma from your shampoo, feel the sudsy soap and warm water on your skin and listen to the water hitting the shower walls.
Another great opportunity to practice mindfulness is driving to work. Instead of letting your mind wander, notice the cars and scenery around you. Whether it’s a bird flying above, a beautiful sunrise, a sleek new car that you passed, or a new catchy billboard, you’ll be amazed at all the new things you see.
Each day, challenge yourself to look for something new that catches your eye.
Eating meals is one of the best was to practice being present in the moment. Take the time to sit down and savor your meals. Notice the mix of colors on your plate. Breathe in the flavors. Slowly chew your food and savor every bite.
Is it soft? Crunchy? Spicy? Tangy? Sweet? Salty?
Eat without any distractions. Eating while we are checking updates on our phone or snacking while we are working at our computer will leave us unsatisfied and wanting more.
In contrast, if we are fully attentive while we are eating, our brain has enough time to communicate with our belly to tell us when we are full. Instead of shoveling in food distracted, we are able to be aware of our hunger cues and stop eating when we are full.
This will help us to lose those unwanted pounds that are lingering around.
Once you practice being mindful in daily routine things, it will start trickling throughout other areas of your life. You will be more receptive to the things that once got under your skin, be fully engaged with the people around you and will notice simple yet wonderful things all around.
By practicing mindfulness, you’ll be creating a happier, healthier, calmer life.
Amy Wagenknecht is a life coach specializing in helping women live, bigger, braver lives. If you would like more help with mindfulness, want to start feeling empowered, or want to shed the things that are weighing you down, visit amywagenknecht.com or email firstname.lastname@example.org.