You might have heard the word mindfulness bandied around a lot over the last year or so. It seems to have been everywhere, from clinical trials to popular culture, and it’s fast becoming an everyday term. If you’re not familiar with it, a simple way to think about it is: Rather than being distracted and lost in thought, mindfulness shows us how to be present and aware.
In becoming more aware of our own mind, we become more aware of those around us, too, ensuring that harmonious relationships are very much part of our own personal journey to health and happiness.
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But it is only when we start to apply mindfulness to our everyday lives that we experience the benefits, so here are three simple tips for living more mindfully:
1. Walk with awareness
A short walk can change your entire outlook, especially when it’s done mindfully. So set aside 10 minutes to refresh both your body and mind. As you set out, notice how the body feels. Is it heavy or light, stiff or relaxed? Without trying to change the way you’re walking, simply observe how it feels. It’s quite common to feel self-conscious when you do this, but the sensation quickly passes. Pay attention to what you can see, hear and smell. By becoming more aware of the physical senses, the mind naturally feels more grounded. If you find the mind wanders at all (which it inevitably will), simply bring your attention back to the physical sensation and rhythm of the body walking along.
2. Reflect on your day
A big part of trying to live more mindfully is appreciating what you have right now, rather than always chasing after something new. As part of this approach, each evening before you go to bed, think back over the day and find three things you feel grateful for. They don't have to be big things; the important thing is to simply acknowledge them. Each time you do, you train the mind to be softer, calmer, kinder and happier—in essence, more mindful.
3. Learn to meditate
It’s a lot to ask of our monkey minds to suddenly quiet down and pay attention; they’re so used to leaping around all the time. Like any new skill, it’s going to take training. One of the best ways to cultivate this approach is through meditation. Meditation is the practice of mindfulness in a controlled environment.
There is now considerable scientific evidence that shows meditation can help lower the incidence and reduce the intensity of everything from stress and high blood pressure to anxiety and depression. It can even boost your immune system and help to provide a better night’s sleep.
An easy way to begin is with just 10 minutes a day practicing watching your thoughts come and go without judgment. The most popular time to meditate is first thing in the morning; this will ensure you start the day with a calm, clear mind.
Andy Puddicombe is the founder of the meditation company and coinciding app Headspace.