Mindfulness, also called wise attention, helps us see what we’re adding to our experiences. – Sharon Salzberg
What Does Living Mindfully Actually Mean?
Being mindful means being an impartial observer. It is the ability to stay present in the moment without allowing the mind to get side-tracked. It’s somewhat a state of heightened sensory awareness where you are no longer at the mercy of your own habitual thought patterns. You are instead able to see things more clearly and consciously.
Mindfulness is a state of awareness without judgment — awareness about both the long and short-term effects of your everyday choices and decisions. This, of course, requires the necessary foresight and insight to make the best decision in the moment in order to make the most of your situation. As a result, mindfulness can open a path to the best possible long-term outcome in every situation.
In short, mindfulness maximizes the effects of everyday choices and decisions by helping you gain the necessary insights from every situation in order to realize the best possible desired future outcomes.
The Requirements for Mindful Living
In order to live mindfully, you must be very purposeful and deliberate in your actions and intentions. You must fully detach yourself emotionally from outcomes and see things as they are without any emotional filters and or resistance. In other words, you must completely immerse yourself in the moment where nothing else matters except “this” very moment.
To live mindfully you cannot worry about worst-case scenarios. Worry only causes the mind to wander aimlessly onto things that you have no control over. To worry is to become consumed by your conditioned emotional impulses and desire for certainty. This is not mindful living. It’s rather living everywhere but in the moment.
To live mindfully also requires that you do not consume yourself with future desires of what you might do, could do, will do. Instead, you focus on the “right here, right now” and make the most of this very moment.
Likewise, living mindfully requires you don’t indulge in past hurts or regrets. What happened in the past is of no relevance. It’s rather about making the most of this very moment in order to improve your future state.
Of course, in order to live mindfully takes a great deal of patience, effort, and dedication. It’s not something that comes naturally or effortlessly to many of us. It’s rather something that many of us must consciously work on until it becomes a habit.
The Tremendous Value of Living Mindfully
As you begin living mindfully, your perspective of yourself, others and the world around you starts to change because mindful living helps you to better understand the true nature of how things really are.
By being conscious and aware of the present moment will help you to better understand your environment and surroundings. Present moment awareness will also help you to gain better insights into other people’s behavior, intentions, and motives. And maybe most importantly, mindful living will help you gain a deeper understanding of the true nature of your thoughts, feelings and your behavior in specific circumstances.
Mindfulness will of course always provide you with more clarity about your situation. And with more clarity, you become more aware of the possibilities of what you can or potentially cannot do. In other words, it helps you to make the most of every situation. This, therefore, provides you with a sense of control. You finally feel as though you have control over yourself and your life because you are no longer at the mercy of your past or of an uncertain future.
As a result, mindfulness provides you the ability to cope with difficult emotions such as worry, anger, anxiety, stress, and fear. These emotions do not exist in the moment. They only exist in the past and in the future. Therefore when you’re living mindfully, there is no place for them in your life.
Fully focusing on the moment means that you are no longer distracted by what you did in the past or by what could happen in the future. And with fewer distractions, this immediately helps boost your productivity and ability to think creatively in difficult situations. And as a result, you are therefore able to make better decisions in the moment about your life and circumstances.
Living mindfully of course also leads to a feeling of well-being and a deeper appreciation for life. You are no longer preoccupied with a regretful past or an uncertain future. You are instead fully focused on the moment, and in the moment you always have control over how you respond to and think about the events and circumstances of your life. As a result, there is no need to indulge in addictions or unhelpful behaviors because all these things have roots in a past or future state. Living in the moment filters out these variables and allows you to experience life as it really is.
As a result of all this, mindfulness successfully helps you to defuse negativity, turbulent thoughts, aggression and even boredom. You become so “locked-in” to the moment that everything else just fades away out of sight and out of mind — even if just for a brief moment to help provide you with the necessary clarity and insight you need to move your life forward in a better way.
Practical Exercises to Help You Live More Mindfully
Living mindfully requires patience, effort, and dedication. In fact, it also requires that we break out of old habits and patterns of behavior that are currently forcing us to live in a past that can no longer be changed, or a future that hasn’t as yet been written.
To break out of old patterns it’s helpful to begin living more consciously and intentionally throughout the day. And this, of course, can be done in the following ways:
Beginning today, pay close attention to the taste of the food you are eating. Eat slowly, carefully and silently. Chew your food thoroughly. In fact, reflect on every ingredient within each mouthful of food. Mindfulness will help you to experience the true joy of eating and will likewise draw your attention to the silent power contained within every moment.
Mindfully Experience Your Surroundings
Several times throughout the day take a conscious and deliberate time-out to fully experience your environment. Stop and smell your surroundings. Experience each scent as if for the very first time. Moreover, listen to the sounds of your environment. What specific sounds do you hear? Maybe you hear the ticking of a clock, maybe the chirping or a bird, the rustle of the wind blowing through the trees, or a faint piece of music playing in the distance.
No matter what it is you smell or hear, fully experience it and be there with it in the moment. Let nothing else distract you. Instead, just allow these smells and sounds to captivate your entire being right here, right now, for moments at a time.
Draw Your Attention Inwards
Every now and then, draw your attention inwards into your own body and mind. Begin by taking a few deep breaths, close your eyes, then tune-in to your body. Feel your lungs expanding and contracting as you breathe in and out. Now listen to the ticking of your heart, and feel the blood rushing through your body. Be there in the moment with just “yourself”, and fully experience and appreciate who you are right here, right now without any other thoughts or distractions.
Pay Attention to the Details
Consciously throughout the day take the time to pay attention to the details of your environment and surroundings that you so often take for granted. Notice the new things, the changing things, and the old things. Now ask yourself questions about why these things are the way they are and why they are not any different. Every question you ask will draw you deeper into the moment and will help you develop the habit of mindfulness.
Break Free From Old Habits and Routines
We immediately become more mindful of the moment when we are doing something new, interesting and different. These activities or tasks pull the mind away from aimlessly wandering throughout the day, and instead focus us on what we’re doing right here, right now.
The more you break up your regular habits and routine the more mindful you will become of what you are doing and the consequences of those actions. This will, of course, help you to experience the state of mindfulness where nothing exists but this very moment.
Play the ABC Game to Release Your Worries
Whenever your mind gets sidetracked worrying about an unknown future or regretting past mistakes you might have made, try playing the ABC Game. The ABC Game is designed to help you get back into the moment where worry and uncertainty do not exist.
Start with the letter “A” and name all the things within your present environment beginning with this letter. Take time to identify each one of these things paying careful attention to the colors, textures, sounds and anything else that comes to mind. Then when you’re done, move onto the letter “B” and do the same.
After a few minutes of playing this game, what you will find is that your thoughts are no longer obsessively focused on the past or the future. You are instead more relaxed and in-tune with the moment and your surroundings. It’s now time to use this momentum to get back on track with your day and focus on what’s most important to help move forward in a positive way.
How to Live Mindfully
Living mindfully each and every day will not be easy. It will take some work and dedication on your part. However, it certainly can be done, however, you will need to make a conscious effort to instigate the following changes in order to give yourself ample opportunity to make mindfulness a part of your daily routine.
Take Time to Reflect on Your Life
Make a conscious effort to consistently reflect on how you are living your life. In other words, don’t live your life on “auto-pilot”. You are not a computer program or robot. Every day you must be mindful of your own choices, decisions, behaviors, and actions. If they are getting you the results you are after, then, by all means, keep doing what you’re doing. But if anything is not working for you or you feel it should be working better, then you must make the necessary changes in order to get yourself and your life back on track.
Throughout the day while you’re undertaking a certain task or activity, reflect on whether or not you are actually getting optimal results from all your efforts both long-term and short-term. Ask yourself:
How do I tend to do things?
What specific process do I use to go about this task/activity?
What choices do I normally make when it comes to this activity?
What outcome am I trying to realize?
What is currently working for me? Why?
What doesn’t seem to be working for me? Why not?
What changes could I potentially make to get better results?
How could I do things in a more optimal way?
As you work your way through these questions you are at that very moment living mindfully and consciously. You are also living purposefully and intentionally. You are no longer working on “auto-pilot”. You are instead mindful of every activity and consciously working to improve the process of how you go about this activity in order to optimize your short and long-term gains. And this is essentially what living mindfully is all about.
Living mindfully is about being conscious of the moment by asking yourself the right kinds of questions that will help provide you with the necessary insights and clarity you need to improve how you go about specific tasks/activities, all for the purpose of optimizing your results and desired outcomes.
Take Time to Reflect Upon Yourself
In order to live mindfully, you must consistently reflect on your emotions, feelings, choices, and the resulting behaviors. Everything you do or say you must be mindful of because everything you do or say has consequences. And your objective, of course, is to optimize every outcome in the best possible way.
Living mindfully means that you are always seeking improvement. You are always looking to improve your life and circumstances consciously and intentionally. This essentially means that you take absolutely nothing for granted. Everything in your life has meaning; everything in your life is a result of a cause-effect relationship that has at some point been set in motion. Mindful living helps you become aware of these relationships, and as a result, it can help you make the necessary changes to potentially move things in a better and more optimal direction.
Here are some questions a mindful person might typically ask throughout the day:
What am I feeling at this very moment?
Why am I feeling this way? What was the cause?
When did I begin experiencing this particular emotion?
What is this emotion trying to tell me about my situation, about my life, and about myself?
What’s the lesson in all this?
How can I use these insights to make positive changes for the future?
Why specifically did I choose to do things in this way?
Why specifically did I take this action? Why not that action?
What does this say about me?
How could I do things differently next time to get more desirable outcomes?
This set of questions is of course not exhaustive. But I hope that they can provide a little insight into the type of questions a mindful person would typically ask themselves when thinking about their life, about themselves, and about their circumstances.
Reflect on Other People’s Perspectives
We live in a social world, and as such we often need to deal with other people throughout the day. A lack of mindfulness in social situations can lead to miscommunication, misunderstanding and at times conflict. Emotions can then get in the way and relationships can be threatened. And it’s all because we are too absorbed in our own thoughts, emotions, and problems. That is of course where all the problems start. However, you don’t necessarily need to fall into this trap if you’re living mindfully.
A mindful person is always thinking about other people’s motives, opinions, needs, and perspectives. They are always in-tune with what the other person is thinking and feeling in the moment, and that is what helps them gain the necessary insights they need to help them make the best possible decisions. For instance, in a social situation a person who is mindful might ask:
What are this person’s intentions?
Why are they of this specific opinion?
What specifically motivated them to take this side of the argument?
What can I learn from how they are seeing this situation?
How can I use these insights to get the most from this interaction?
When you approach every social interaction in a mindful way, you will gain more insights about the situation and about the other person to help you make better choices and decisions — for all concerned — moving forward.
Additional Suggestions for Living Mindfully
Living mindfully is very much about deep thought and reflection and about asking insightful questions that help you reflect on the present moment to help you optimize your efforts.
However, in order to get to this state of “mindfulness” throughout the day, it’s helpful to develop a few small habits that can make a world of difference.
First of all, begin by doing things slowly, deliberately and with greater levels of concentration and care. It’s just too easy to rush through the day without giving much thought to anything that we do. It’s easy because it comes from habitual tendencies that we’ve built up over time. However, rushing through things on auto-pilot doesn’t give you the time to think and reflect on the choices and decisions you are making. And if you’re not thinking and reflecting upon those choices and decisions then you never really know if you’re doing things in the most optimal way possible.
However, some of us live very hectic lives, and it’s not always easy to stop or even slow down throughout the day. In such instances, it’s helpful to use a self-reflection journal at the end of the day where you can jot down your thoughts and feelings. But don’t just use it for this purpose. Use it to really sit and reflect on your day, on your choices, decisions, actions, social interactions, etc. Consider how you went about things, the outcomes you derived and how you could improve on things moving forward. In this way, you will be able to make improvements the following day to move forward in a better way.
Finally, when all else fails and you are finding it very difficult to follow the guidelines presented here, then there is one simple thing that you can do that will help you become mindful of the moment. And this simple thing is “gratitude”.
Periodically throughout the day stop yourself and ask two simple questions:
What am I grateful for?
Why is this important?
These two questions will immediately bring you back to the moment and focus your mind on what’s most important in your life. No longer will you regret the past or stress about an uncertain future. Instead, you will be fully focused on what matters most right here, right now.
Time to Assimilate these Concepts
Did you gain value from this article? Is it important that you know and understand this topic? Would you like to optimize how you think about this topic? Would you like a method for applying these ideas to your life?
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Gain More Knowledge…
Here are some additional links and resources that will help you learn more about this topic:
- 3 Bit Reasons to Try Mindfulness @ Psych Central
- 3 Ways to Slow Down @ Mind Body Green
- 5 Ways to Live in the Moment @ Think Simple Now
- 6 Mindful Habits @ Tiny Buddha
- 6 Simple Alterations to Become More Present @ Pick the Brain
- 6 Tips to Mindfully Make the Most of Your Day @ Psychology Today
- 7 Easy Ways to be Mindful Every Day @ Psych Central
- 7 Obstacles to Mindfulness and How to Overcome Them @ Tiny Buddha
- 10 Fun Tips to be More Present @ Mind Body Green
- 10 Steps to Mindfulness @ Reader’s Digest
- 13 Things Mindful People do Different Every Day @ Huffington Post
- Inhabit the Moment @ Zen Habits