Written By: Sarah Randall, a health & nutrition coach, and yoga teacher
It seems like everyone is talking about being “mindful” today. They are mindfully eating, journaling, meditating, making decisions, and spending their time mindfully.
But what does that actually mean and how can you embody “mindfulness”?
Headspace (a popular meditation app) defines mindfulness as “the idea of learning how to be fully present and engaged at the moment, aware of your thoughts and feelings without distraction or judgment.”
As simple as it sounds there is a lot to unpack. Mindfulness is first and foremost about awareness and presence. You cannot be aware of how you’re feeling or what is going on around you without being present in the moment. Being present is something that takes practice because we’ve been trained in the current world we live in to be doing 10 things at once, moving a thousand miles an hour, and constantly looking ahead.
The second part of mindfulness that gets skipped over the majority of the time is being non-judgmental. We are constantly judging our thoughts and feelings based on past experiences and stories that have been told to us that we now believe as truth. Mindfulness is about being aware of the thought or feeling and not judging why it came up or where it came from.
To be able to experience a thought or feeling, acknowledge its presence and decide if it’s serving you or not without judgment is tough! And that’s not to scare you, rather remind you that change isn’t going to just happen overnight. It takes work to change your habits, default responses, and ultimately change the way you’re living.
So where can you start?
The morning is one of the best places to instill a mindfulness practice because it sets the tone for your day. You are the most vulnerable in the morning because you just woke up without any external factors influencing your mood, emotions, or thoughts, just yet. By incorporating mindfulness into your morning, you are setting up your day to put you in a mood and feeling that you want versus letting the morning happen to you.
Does this mean you need to have a 2-hour morning routine full of journaling, meditation, and yoga before you go about the rest of your day? Absolutely not! Unless, of course, you want or need two hours and those are the activities that allow you to feel the way you want to.
Start with the first part of mindfulness-awareness.
- What do you currently do in the morning?
- What happens right after your alarm goes off? Then what?
- How do you normally feel when you start your day?
As you go through those questions, notice if there are any judgments that come up. A morning routine does not need to belong to be effective. It will be exactly as long as you need it to be with the activities that make you feel your best.
Once you have an idea of what you do on a typical morning, decide what activities you want to replace, if any, with more mindful-based activities. Here are a few of my favorites –
Keep a gratitude journal
It sounds cheesy, but it works. Harvard Medical School published an article citing a study conducted by two psychologists and they found that after 10 weeks of keeping a gratitude journal, participants were happier, had a more positive outlook on their lives, and even moved their bodies on a more regular basis.
In our daily lives, it’s easy to get swept up at a fast pace and constantly look forward. What keeping a gratitude journal allows for is a moment of pause. It takes less than 5 minutes to do it but has a massive ripple effect on the rest of your day and future.
Check out the Five Minute Journal. It’s simple, effective, and gives you daily prompts.
Pay attention to how you feel about what you eat
Have you ever reached the bottom of a chip bag and not even realized how much you ate or how you got there in the first place? It’s totally normal. Being aware of why you’re eating takes you out of autopilot and gives you a chance to redirect habits that no longer serve you. You might be eating because you’re bored, stressed, anxious, happy, celebrating, it’s time to eat, someone else is eating – the list goes on.
Once you know why you’re eating, you will open pathways to understanding your hunger and fullness cues and making mindful and intuitive eating a part of your life.
Click here for a free guide on where to start with intuitive eating and support along the way.
Move your body
Movement gives you a chance to connect with your body and step away from the outside world. Yoga is one of the best ways to strengthen the connection between your mind and body. You don’t need 60 minutes to get the benefit of the practice. Try 5-10 minutes!
Not a huge fan of yoga? That’s ok. Explore what other types of movement give you space to listen to your body, make autonomous choices about what you want to do, and give you the feeling you desire.
If meditation seems like an unattainable practice for you because you feel like you can’t sit still or you don’t have time, this is for you. A meditation practice can look like whatever you need it to bed. That might be listening to a guided meditation, listening to a song while you sit with your eyes closed, going for a walk without your headphones at a slower pace than normal, and more.
There is no time requirement, so start small. Try 3 minutes and then increase by a few minutes every week if that’s a goal of yours.
Meditation is a wonderful mindfulness practice because it gives you an opportunity to see all the thoughts you’re having, how you respond to them, how you’re able to focus on one thing and understand that you have control over your thoughts.
Incorporating more mindfulness practices into your life can have dramatic effects on the quality of your life and how you feel. It doesn’t take a lot of extra time, in fact, it all starts with becoming aware of what you’re doing, what you’re thinking, and how you’re feeling.
Pick one activity that interests you and start there.