What you think you become.Buddha
Let’s face it, even before COVID-19 hit and took the wind out of our sails, it was easy to get wrapped up in our day-to-day routines. Between school, family, and work responsibilities, most of us live on auto-pilot. It’s like we have to literally schedule “play” into our lives. Otherwise, we’ll just keep going until we crash. And then, let’s not ignore the elephant in the room: the current state of the world. On most days, with all of these external forces, I am left feeling overstressed and underwhelmed.
It’s times like these when I find it important to take a moment to be present, shift my focus inward, and direct my appreciation toward the positive things in my life. 2020 wasn’t the best year of my life by any stretch of the imagination, and likely it wasn’t for all of you either. However, I learned one thing: Take care of myself. Self-care, especially while our lives are compromised by COVID-19, is crucial to our mental wellness, and by extension, our physical health as well. Self-care helps us be the best version of ourselves. If we don’t give it priority, there’s no amount of stress relievers in the land to help what life is throwing at us. (Please tell me there isn’t any more coming down the tracks.) And if you don’t believe me, let one of these TEDTalks on self-care convince you.
According to mindful.org, “mindfulness is the basic human ability to be fully present, aware of where we are and what we’re doing, and not overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around us.” When we practice mindfulness, our well-being and attitudes are improved. Our physical health is enhanced by less stress and agitation. And mental health issues like OCD, depression and family conflicts are more curtailed. Doesn’t this sound so peaceful?
Incorporating some mindfulness practices into my daily life wasn’t the easiest thing to do. It was always hard for me to sit still, to shut up, to relax, to put my cares away. However, taking just a few moments each day—especially in moments of raging stress or depression—brought me more peace and tranquility.
Here are a few mindfulness practices I’ve incorporated into my life. They help me be present and leave me feeling more at peace. I think if you try them, and continue with them for a couple of weeks, you will feel more calm and relaxed too.
Set Daily Intentions
“I intend to do my best to reach my goals today” is an example of a daily intention and a positive way to start your morning while still lying in bed. We often set goals for ourselves which are tangible and measurable and occur in the future. However, setting daily intentions for the here and now are easily overlooked. Try to spend a few moments each morning to ground your inner self and become mindful. I suggest keeping your intention or affirmation cards on your nightstand, or in the kitchen next to the coffee maker. It’s a simple yet effective way to set a positive theme for the day and build self-confidence. It’s also a great habit to start with the whole family. Make your own or check out this list of cards to purchase.
Saying what we are thankful for is not something we should reserve for the holidays. Practicing daily gratitude can give you a more positive outlook, make you more mindful and give clarity on what truly matters in life. Keeping a gratitude journal is a simple way to incorporate gratitude into your daily life. Keep your journal on your nightstand. Take a few minutes before bed to reflect on your day and write at least one thing for which you’re grateful. When you’re feeling down, refer back to your journal to remind yourself of all the people (and things) you appreciate. Use any blank notebook. Here is a curated list of gratitude journals to get you started and keep you inspired.
Breathing is a requirement to live and something we do thoughtlessly. But mindful breathing exercises open your awareness to the act of breathing, helping you to feel present and relaxed. They are easy to do and have great benefits to put the body and mind at ease. Try doing breathing exercises as part of a morning meditation or stretching. This will likely leave you feeling centered and ready to start the day. They can also be a beneficial end of the workday ritual or an effective means to improve sleep by calming racing thoughts before bed.
Make the Mundane Mindful
Do you sometimes feel like a robot when even performing your daily tasks? How many times have you driven away from home questioning whether you turned off the stove, locked the door, or unplugged the iron? Our minds are always elsewhere. Practice being more mindful while doing mundane tasks. Put the phone away and focus on one thing at a time. Try not to rush through your daily chores. Rather, think about what it is you’re actually doing in that moment.
Connect with Nature
Taking time to be outdoors and connect with nature is a wonderful way to practice mindfulness. Go for a walk or sit in a park in your neighborhood using all of your senses to really be present. Take a moment to watch a leaf blow, feel the grass, smell a flower, or listen to the birds.
If you believe in evolution, it’s quite possible our phones will evolve into a 5th limb. Simply put, we are glued to our phones. For most people, it’s the last thing they check at night and the first thing they look at when they wake up in the morning. How many times have you looked around a restaurant or gathering (ahh those were the days) and seen everyone on their phones? No one really talks to each other much anymore.
During the current Covid-19 lockdowns, we are most likely on our phones more than ever. Sometimes completing simple tasks can be difficult due to the constant distraction of our phones. Try to break the habit of looking at your phone first thing in the morning or in the middle of the night. Instead, do some breathing exercises. When you are working on a task or meeting with a loved one, put your phone on airplane mode. You may feel more in the present moment.
I’m an event planner by trade, and am guilty of being one who always wants to know what we’re doing when, where and for how long. And if I’ve planned it, there’s a list or neatly formatted itinerary that accompanies those plans. I sincerely acknowledge that for those around me, it’s likely overwhelming and frustrating at times. Life always seems to be taking place in the future. One thing that can help break the planning cycle is to take one day a week off and have an anti-plan plan. This can be incredibly beneficial to your overall well-being. Use this time to slow down and connect with yourself. Turn your phone off, read a book, take a bubble bath. Do what makes you feel good and forces you to be in tune with the present moment.