To follow-up on my last post about the benefits of mindful living, I wanted to offer you some simple awareness practices to bring mindfulness into your day:
Upon waking, rather than lying in bed and letting anxious thoughts about the day ahead fester, get up and sit at a desk or another comfortable place to write. Use a pen and paper, and just write down whatever comes to mind. If you’re having trouble, you can start by recording how you feel–I feel tired, anxious, excited, energized–then just let your thoughts flow freely onto the paper—maybe including action steps for your day or your life, things you appreciate, things that are bothering you. Don’t dwell on any one thought for too long; try to get as many thoughts out as you can. It doesn’t have to be anything profound. The point is to just bring some awareness to the nature of your thoughts and stimulate your creativity. If you tend to be in an especially negative mood or phase in your life, which we all experience at times, this is a great, non-judgmental place to release some of this cynicism; by bringing attention to negativity, you may be less likely to carry it with you into the day ahead. Three pages are ideal, but do whatever you have time for.
2. Set an Intention
Wrap up your writing by setting an intention; write it down. Let this be something you can practice throughout the day, rather than some future oriented goal; this is not an item on your “to-do” list. For example: “be present”, “practice non-judgment”, “accept myself”, “radiate positivity”…
Sit for 5-20 minutes in meditation: make sure you’re comfortable, with your back supported, head free, and eyes closed. First focus on your body, then the breath, taking at least 3 full, long breaths. Either maintain awareness on the breath, letting the breath be your mantra—“a tool for the mind”; something for the mind to hold on to—or silently repeat a sound, phrase, or word to yourself :“I am ok”, “all is well”…
4. Use Your Senses
When you walk out your door, take a moment to notice the day, what do you smell? How does the air feel on your skin? What noises do you hear? Notice something unique about this day.
5. Notice Your Thoughts
Notice what goes through your mind during your morning commute—are your thoughts negative or positive? Are you forming expectations for your day or going through your to-do list? Watch your thoughts with a sense of detached curiosity, remembering that it is not the thoughts themselves that bring about feelings of dis-ease, discontentment, nervousness, pleasure, pain, but our your reaction to them. From a Buddhist perspective: thoughts have no birthplace; it is in their very nature to be unceasing; they are not solid, but fluid, changing and changeable; thoughts are like clouds in the sky, they come and go and are something to play with. Notice what thoughts keep your attention and how they manifest in the body—does your heat start beating faster, do you feel nervous, relaxed, joyful, anxious? Being aware of the way you react to your thoughts will help you to feel more in control of your life because, although it is almost impossible to stop them, you will realize the ease at which you are able to let them pass.
6. Radiate Positivity
Be aware of how you interact with co-workers and what energy you are putting off. Better yet, set and intention to humbly point out the positive in light of others’ negativity. We aren’t always perfect, but making an effort to be a source of joy and positive inspiration for others is by default wonderfully healing for ourselves. We can do this with a simple smile, or better yet a genuine compliment, a generous gesture, a gift…
7. Take Awareness Breaks
Continue to check in with yourself throughout the day: stand up and stretch, take 3 deep breaths, notice your thought patterns. How does your mindset change throughout the day? Which actions lead to positive thoughts, confidence, and connection with other? And which actions bring about negative thoughts and criticisms (of yourself or others)?
8. Practice Mindful Eating
9. Cultivate Gratitude
Keep a gratitude journal. As you lie down for bed, write down 3 things that you are thankful for. Remember, it doesn’t have to be anything profound, just the action of cultivating gratitude improves psychological, emotional and physical well-being.
Allie Andrews is the Founder and Program Director at OmBody Health. She is a Certified Health Coach, author, and is pursuing her Master’s Degree in Education with a focus in Corporate Wellness. Allie and her team have been transforming employee wellbeing since 2014. Learn more.