5 Outlooks for Mindfulness
Mindfulness is very simple, but it’s difficult to practice mindfulness consistently. The following outlooks are ways to improve your perspective and integrate the principles of mindfulness into your everyday life.
Enjoy the beauty of nature for mindfulness
Nature has a way of drawing a mindful awareness from you, rather than you forcing yourself to be mindful. Walking amongst old trees with their branches overhanging the path you’re treading, listening to the birds sing and the twigs crunching under your feet, you can’t help but be aware in the moment.
Nature is a miraculous, living being and you’re part of that life. Try reconnecting with a childlike innocence and visit a natural environment, whatever that means to you.
In a famous study in a care home, half the elderly folk were given a plant to look after themselves, and the other half were given a plant but told that the nurses would look after it. Those who had responsibility to water and nurture the plants lived significantly longer than the others.
The study concluded that responsibility gave the elderly a sense of control, leading to longer life. The study also suggests that not only looking at nature in a passive way, but also growing plants and ensuring that they thrive as best you can is a healthy and life-enhancing activity to engage in on a regular basis.
Enjoy a mindful journey
Mindfulness meditation goes way beyond the meditation cushion. You can spend every moment of your day practicing mindfulness. Mindful walking, sometimes called walking meditation, is a particularly helpful and enjoyable exercise.
Normally, when you’re walking, you’re probably focusing intently on getting wherever you need to go, which means you’re not in the present moment. Walking meditation is about noticing your walking. Feel your feet on the ground as you walk. Try slowing down. Notice the rate and depth of your breathing. Be mindful as your arms swing, which is a clever way of ensuring that your body is balanced.
Become aware of your body as a whole as you walk, and the contact of your skin with the wind. Observe the different sounds around you. Become aware of your emotions and thoughts, without trying to stop or change them in any way – just observe and absorb. Get a sense of both stepping back from your experience and deepening your connection with your experience at the same time.
See the wonder of the present moment for mindfulness
This moment is the only moment you have and you have it right now. Memories of the past come up in the present moment. Ideas of the future are shaped by past experience and projected into an imagined tomorrow. In reality, this present moment is all that’s available.
If you’re currently going through a difficult time, you probably don’t think the present moment is wonderful at all. That’s okay. Don’t worry too much about the future and cope with whatever you’re facing here and now.
To really appreciate the present moment, feel your senses. Notice the range of different colors in front of you. Reflect on the fact that this experience of color is partly due to a rapid amount of biochemical reactions turning into electrical impulses going into your brain, leading to this incredible experience called color.
What would it be like to see color for the first time? How would you describe the experience to someone who’d never seen color before?
Another way to really connect with the present is to focus on your breathing.
Be mindful and remember that thoughts aren’t facts
If you had the thought, ‘I’m a flying, pink chimpanzee’, you obviously wouldn’t believe it. Then why do you believe thoughts like ‘I’m useless’ or ‘I’ll never get better’? They’re thoughts too, that have just popped into your head. Your mind often makes assumptions and inferences that simply aren’t true. ‘I’m feeling low at the moment’ may be true, but ‘I’ll always be depressed’ is not.
As you discover how to observe the nature of your mind in meditation, you realize from experience that thoughts are always arising in your mind, no matter how much meditation you do. The thoughts aren’t going to stop.
You simply need to change your relationship to thoughts. Seeing thoughts as just thoughts rather than facts makes a world of difference. If the thought ‘I’m pathetic’ comes up and you believe whatever arises in your mind, you’re bound to feel low and uneasy.
This takes much of the sting out of the thought and you’re free to dismiss it and carry on with whatever you’re doing, relatively untouched. This is freedom. Freedom, or peace of mind, isn’t about stopping your thoughts, but seeing thoughts as just thoughts and not believing them as reality.
Be grateful every day for mindfulness
Gratitude is the best attitude! Gratitude is when you discover how to want what you have, and not want what you don’t have. Usually, people want what they don’t have, and don’t want what they do have. This is bound to lead to a sense of dissatisfaction. You can practice gratitude right now. Think about the fact that you can read this – another skill inaccessible to millions.
Here are some ways to nurture feelings of gratitude:
Sleep with gratitude. Before going to sleep, spend a minute or two thinking about five things you’re grateful for. They can be very simple things. Just go through each one and see what effect that has on your sleep.
Say thank you. This is a simple act but very powerful. Saying thank you is both an act of gratitude and kindness – you’re making clear to the other person that you’ve recognized her generosity.
Try being grateful for things you wouldn’t be normally. For example, when things are difficult, you can be grateful for the challenge the difficulty offers. Be grateful for access to running water or your ability to hear.