10 Tips for a Mindful Life - dummies

By Shamash Alidina, Joelle Jane Marshall

Here’s a distillation of simple and practical ways in which you can live a more mindful life. The simplest ideas and approaches can often lead to the deepest insights. Something as simple as mindfulness of breath, which is just feeling your breathing, can completely transform your life at the deepest of levels.

Engage in daily mindful ‘me time’

Mindful ‘me time’ means taking time out, every day if possible, to practice a mindfulness meditation or other mindful activity. If you’re a constant giver — always thinking about others, perpetually active and never have a minute for yourself — this could turn out to be a valuable principle for you.

You can practice your daily quiet time at any time of day, and for any length of time. However, morning or early evening for ten minutes a day is a great start!

Meet people mindfully

Relationships are so important. Humans are social beings, but getting on with others can sometimes be tough. Mindfulness is a powerful way of improving the quality of your relationships with others.

Enjoy the natural world

There’s something special about nature that soothes the senses and settles the mind. Take time out to be in nature on a regular basis. Listen to the wind as it whistles past your hair. Watch the trees stand tall and straight. Smell the sweet perfume of a rose in bloom and feel the gentle rain as it touches your skin.

Spending time in nature is a way to rest your inner being – your deepest self.

Embrace mindful influences

You’re constantly influenced by the people you spend time with, the newspapers and magazines you read, the television programs you watch and the advertising you see. When you’re mindful, you can be aware of unhelpful influences and seek experiences that lead to the kind of life you wish to lead, instead of being heavily influenced by external factors.

Appreciate your blessings

Gratitude is a simple but hugely powerful emotion and habit. You have much to be grateful for, yet you may find yourself focusing on things you don’t have. Switching your focus on your many blessings makes life more enjoyable.

Live in the present moment

Mindfulness is a practice and a way of living that encourages presence. By living in the here and now, you notice more about yourself and your surroundings, you feel more curious and alive, and discover new opportunities. By living in the moment, you create a better future.

Whenever you’re connected with your senses or are aware that thoughts are popping into your head or emotions are arising in your being, you’re in the present moment. Whenever you’re worrying about the future or reflecting on the past, you’re effectively no longer present.

Accept what you can’t change

Acceptance. This is a powerful concept! Accepting that things can’t always change has been shown to be hugely therapeutic in many studies.

The most transformative area for cultivating acceptance is your difficult, uncomfortable emotions. When you feel sad, anxious or frustrated, although you may not like the feeling, you can try not to avoid the sensation which, unless the feeling is mild or fleeting, can end up giving the feelings more power. You’re fighting or running away from your feelings.

Instead, try accepting your emotions. Acceptance doesn’t mean you have to like your emotions, or resign yourself to feeling bad for the rest of your life. No. Acceptance means that in this moment, this is how you feel, and that’s okay. You acknowledge that this is the way things are at the moment.

See thoughts as thoughts

Thoughts are just sounds and pictures that arise in your consciousness. And yet, problems with thoughts arise when you believe them all to be absolutely true.

By seeing thoughts as just thoughts, you become the master of them and can decide if a thought is helpful for you or not.

Have some fun

Light-heartedness can be hugely helpful in putting the everyday hassles of life into perspective.

An injection of light-heartedness does just that — lightens the load on your heart. Let there be a bit more fun in your life. Try to see the funny side of your situation.

Use the ACT approach

Acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT) is a mindfulness-based therapy. You can use this ACT exercise whenever you’re faced with a strong emotion or difficult situation that you need to deal with to help you live life more mindfully.

  • Accept. Accept your reactions, feelings and thoughts by being present with your sensations, but taking a step back and watching them from a distanced perspective. Have an attitude of allowing or letting be. Hold the sensation in your body, notice what the feeling is actually like without judging it.

    Allow the sensation to rest in your being. Feel your breath and just be present with things as they are. You’re making space for thoughts and feelings to be present without overwhelming you, if you can.

  • Choose. Choose to move towards actions that can enrich and add meaning to your life. Have a sense of being together with your feelings rather than running from or fighting with them. When facing strong emotions, you may choose to go for a walk, talk to a friend or have a long bath. Let your choice be conscious and mindful rather than mindless and automatic.

  • Take action. Take the action that you’ve chosen mindfully. Your choice may help you to soothe your emotions or deal with an issue. Be aware of how your choice, from a thought, turns into action.

    And make the activity mindful by connecting with your senses, your breathing or continuing to notice your thoughts and feelings that arise as you carry out the action. For example, if your girlfriend storms off in anger, you may choose to follow her and talk calmly to her.