If you’re following along, you already know that all of May’s blog posts are dedicated to creating a mindfulness practice. So far, we’ve talked about 4 simple tools you can use to create a habit of being present (specifically related to scaring away your Sunday Scaries) and The First Step in Creating a Mindfulness Practice. (Spoiler alert: like the first step in creating any good habit, the answer is awareness!)
Last week, the assignment was pretty easy: Enter your week bringing awareness around when you find yourself in the present moment and when you find yourself not in the present moment. (As always, feel free to share your findings in the comments below)
I shared that I often find myself caught up in the what ifs in life – what if this happens, what if that happens, what if that would have been different. Keep reading and I’ll share the kind of embarrassing way that I get myself out of my what ifs. I also shared that I essentially use my TV for noise. I’ll turn it on and “watch” something while I scroll through my social media feeds, or while I’m cooking dinner – you get the idea!
Well, awareness is really truly just the first step. There’s a really great quote I love:
“Common sense is not always common action”
That just means knowing and awareness isn’t enough on it’s own. If we want to make change or create awesome new habits, we have to take real intentional action. So… this week, I’m giving you 5 actions that you can take (ASAP) to build on your mindfulness practice.
Five Actions to Build on Your Mindfulness Practice:
1. Eliminate a distraction
Have you ever noticed how many of the little things we do are just distractions from real life or even distractions from the things that we really want to be doing? For example: I love reading. Love it! I’d probably read so much more, if I eliminated just one distraction.
So this week, pick one thing that you’ve noticed is a pure distraction in your life and eliminate it for just a week. Try measuring how much of your time you’re about to get back and see if it’s a distraction you want to give up permanently or at least limit.
Remember how I discovered that I essentially use my TV as background noise?! Well, this week, I’m giving up watching TV for the entire week (I know I know… first world problems but I bet you can relate in some way shape or form, even if your distraction isn’t TV.) As embarrassing as this is to admit…I did the math and by giving up TV for the week, I’m getting back approximately 7 hours this week. 7!!!! I have a stack of books by my bed and I really cannot wait.
2. Give up multi-tasking
Ok, I get that sometimes “multi-tasking” is inevitable. I'm just asking you to try giving it up when and where you can for just a week – we can do anything for a week, right? And the only exception to the rule is human interaction. This means, if you’re having dinner, you’re not also watching TV but you can have a conversation with a human because that is human interaction. Ya see?
Also, want to hear a fun fact about multi-tasking? Studies have shown that only 2% of people can actually multi-task effectively and the other 98% are probably doing more harm than good even attempting to multi-task! (See this Mashable infographic here.)
I talk and write about meditation a lot. It was such a crucial step in my mindfulness practice and I attribute better listening, clearer thinking, less stress, better relationships, and more thoughtful responses to my meditation habit. Since I talk about it so much, I’m going to leave you with a really easy way to get started – in case meditation is new for you.
- To start, sit in an easy comfortable seat (Can be on the floor, on a meditation pillow, in a chair – just don’t lay down.)
- Set a timer on your phone. I recommend 20 minutes per day but you don’t have to start there. You can start with 3 minutes, 5 minutes, and as little as 1 minute will benefit you so start with what feels right for you.
- Close your eyes and focus on your breath. Don’t alter your breath, just notice it for the duration of your timer.
- Your mind will start to wonder. When you become aware that your mind has wondered and you are no longer focusing on your breath, just bring your awareness back to your breath.
*A lot of newbie meditators think that they are meditating wrong or they’re bad at it because of how much their mind wonders but I’m here to tell ya, bringing your mind back to the breath, that is the meditation. Overtime, your mind will wonder less (maybe!) but the exercise for your brain happens when you become aware that you’ve wondered and you return to the breathe.
4. Start a journal
A journal will help you to create another really valuable habit: Introspection. Introspection is the most direct path you can take to self-awareness and as we know, self-awareness is the first step to building a mindfulness habit. Take the action of starting a journal to maintain a constant flow of introspection – learning to look within before we take actions outwardly.
You can journal in the mornings by reflecting on your day before and setting intentions for your day ahead, at night ending with a recap, or even try it on your lunch break! I use a combination of all of the above. Mostly, I journal in the mornings and I also keep a running note on my phone and when I’m feeling stuck, or down on myself, I’ll list somethings I’m grateful for – it’s such a great way to throw things into perspective really quickly and turn things around.
5. Narrate your mundane activities
Ok, this is that kind of embarrassing habit that I mentioned earlier. I’ve noticed that I tend to zone out of the present moment the most when I am doing the typical daily mundane activities like: brushing my teeth, showering, walking to the train, waiting in line somewhere, etc. So, when I realize that I’ve zoned out, in order to bring myself back, I’ll (quietly, in my head, to myself) narrate what I’m doing to keep my focus locked into the present. Similar to meditation, it gives your brain the exercise of becoming aware that you’ve zoned out, and bringing our attention back to the present moment. I realize this may make me sound like a crazy person but I can guarantee you it works.
Ok, people! It’s time to take action: Those are your 5 actions you can take this week to build on your mindfulness practice. Let me know in the comments which actions you’re taking on this week & wish me luck breaking my obsessive TV habit & bonus points go out to anyone who takes on all 5 actions.
As always, thanks for reading!!