Most of us would agree that we are born into a particular set of circumstances. Perhaps your parents were wealthy professionals who could afford nice things and you had a comfortable childhood. There will be some of you who were born into more difficult and sometimes dysfunctional circumstances, such as an abusive family member or parents who were not mentally or physically able to provide you stability. Beyond the circumstances that have shaped your past, as an adult you are responsible for the creation of your present and future circumstances. You can at any moment choose to modify negative thoughts and beliefs systems. As you reshape your awareness patterns attempt to seek out knowledge through diverse resources. Take the time to learn about other cultures. Get out into nature and see the world without borders. Open your mind to other perspectives beyond your day–to–day existence. The depth of a mindfulness practice is limitless, but to begin here are three specific tools to get you started.
Set time aside every day to be in a quiet place where you will not be disturbed. Turn off your technology and find a comfortable place to sit with your feet on the ground. Touch the tip of your tongue to the ridge inside your mouth that is behind your top front teeth (the incisive papilla). Breathe in deeply through the nose and exhale out the mouth. Take notice of your breath and feel the difference in how deep breathing and a quiet atmosphere make you feel. Are you anxious, board, or calm? Save those thoughts and move on to the rest of the body. What do your feet feel like? How do your legs, torso, chest, neck and head feel? With practice you will be able to embrace the calming effects of truly feeling your own body. You can practice this as many times a day as you need. I would also recommend this practice before going to bed. Deep breathing releases serotonin and reduces blood pressure along with providing oxygen rich blood to the brain.
Our daily lives are very busy. We are rushing from work to home, along with juggling multiple schedules throughout the day. Many of us end the day not knowing how it escaped us. Self–care is an essential part of your mindfulness practice because it allows you “permission” to set time aside to treat yourself well. Self–care such as massage is mentally and physically healing. The physical manipulation of massage increases blood and lymph circulation, and releases nerves and deeper connective tissues. Human touch executes an involuntary relaxation response which slows your breathing, reduces blood pressure and stress hormones, along with releasing serotonin in the brain. When was your last vacation? If you can't get away, set some time aside for a “stay–cation,” but instead of cleaning the house or running errands read a book or visit an art gallery in your neighborhood. Consider having a treat that you normally vilify…hello brownie! Treat yourself to a splurge that you deserve, but remember to savor each experience and be in the moment fully.
I believe this is the most important of the three tools. This act of mindfulness incorporates the practice of gratitude. Each day when we get out of bed, we have a perspective on how our day will be revealed. This mindset sets the tone for the day, and we either skim or skip over small beautiful things because we think we don't have time, or perhaps we're completely oblivious. Wonderful things are happening all around us.
Use all of your senses to find these small fabulous details in life. Observe plants, trees and animals with curiosity. Did you know there are over 670 documented carnivorous species of plants? Apply your favorite perfume and take the time to luxuriate in the nuances of the scent while appreciating the joy it brings you. Visit an art gallery and attempt to review pieces from the artist's perspective. You may or may not understand the art, but that's not the point.
Life is subjective, but when we allow ourselves an opportunity to just be in the moment without having an expectation from it, we can appreciate much more of life. I'm one of those people who stop to smell the roses. This can irritate some people because they are in a rush, or they don't see the value of taking time for such simple acts. These types of behaviors flipped a switch in my consciousness. I started to look at life very differently, and with a great deal more respect and reverence. Attempt to move through life with intention and pay attention with each of your senses. Each day is a gift, and we should treat it as such.
As you pursue a more mindful lifestyle, I encourage you to seek out tools that work best for you. The tools I've provided are the tip of the iceberg when it comes to a mindful lifestyle. As with any practice, it takes time to create a habit. You may find that taking a few minutes at the end of each day to journal will be helpful to remind you what you are grateful for, or the things you need to improve upon. Taking time to be quiet and curious are not luxuries in life (or laziness), they are within each of us and in reach at any time. You will soon enjoy an increased sense of calm, positivity and overall well–being that are part of a healthier lifestyle.