mindfulness basics: the day to day

Mindfulness is about more than just meditation, even though that’s the focus of so many posts here. Here are some quick tips to be more mindful in your day to day life.

  1. Constant vigilance:The first tip is one for which there is no trick. Put simply, if you’re going to be more mindful, you have to work at it, at least initially. Without a constant effort, you will remain as you were.
  2. Common Experiences: Before you scream at that idiot driver in front of you (or as you are screaming, in my case), think of yourself or a loved one in a similar situation. In my case I try to think of my mother, who has some vision problems, driving over-cautiously when I get frustrated with an over-cautious driver that is slowing down my commute. It is not an exaggeration to say that becoming a more mindful driver is one of my toughest challenges.
  3. Renewing habits: I think we all know it’s not hard to “start” a new habit. It’s hard to make it an actual habit instead of something you just do for a week. It’s always important to keep in mind that something is better than nothing; as such, I like to think of “renewing” habits constantly for when I fall off the wagon a little bit. This is a subset of the first tip, really.
  4. Take time: Take time out to recognize how beautiful something is every day. For me, this is often marveling at a sunrise or sunset (sunset more now that I don’t get up so early for work). Another favorite natural marvel of mine is the way green leaves look at the end of the day. There is something about the way the light strikes the leaves, especially if you look towards the sun while the leaves are blocking it, so that light creeps around the edges, that I find so beautiful….
  5. Drink and eat: You probably didn’t expect this one. I know we all hear it so often, but that’s only because it’s true: Drink Water! It’s amazing how often a couple glasses of water can turn you from being irritable to at peace. The same goes for eating; if your blood sugar is out of whack, you’re going to have a hard time controlling your mind. Don’t abuse your body through neglect.

These are basic, but if you apply them they will make a difference in your life and your ultimate happiness. And no, I cannot stress enough how difficult battling road rage is for me. Why don’t you share your biggest mindfulness challenge in the comments?

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  • http://innovationimitation.com/ Mike Polischuk

    Good post, Brian.
    Since I have discovered mindfulness about a year ago, I have read a great book (John Kabbat Zin’s “Wherever You Go, There You Are”),  and started working through the MBSR Workbook.  But I find it increasingly difficult to keep up with regular practice – the only thing I am more or less successful in doing, is the “mindful check-in” – just checking-in into moments during the day, and becoming mindful in them.

    How do you work with the mindfulness practice? Is is something you”force” yourself doing (like going to gym)?

    As a novice practitioner, I find myself frustrated by my inablity to keep a disciplined schedule, which somewhat misses the whole point of mindfulness. I would love to hear your thoughts.

    • http://www.bryemye.com Brian Miles

       Hi Mike,

      John’s book is a good primer and an interesting way to look at it.

      I think there are basically two parts to a mindfulness practice at the start. I think you need to continue to “renew” the habit of devoting a specific part of your day for specific mindfulness practice for at least a few weeks. For me this is meditation and lasted 30 minutes a day for a month when I was starting out. After that, to be honest, I have found myself falling in to meditating just about every day as a relief after work rather than getting up early to do it as I did before. It’s not something I make myself do so much as something I want to do in lieu of taking a nap.

      Not everyone resonates with doing a sitting meditation. For many people yoga fills a similar void. For others some hobby with manual work does it. My mother primarily gardens and that really works for her (though she does do sitting meditations as well).

      I said there are two parts and the second part is the checking in you referred to in your post.

      Another way to look at it is in terms of concentration vs. mindfulness. One improves their concentration through disciplined work much like going to the gym as you suggest. Once you can concentrate you can also do the opposite. This is much like purposely tensing your muscles and then letting them go and relaxing more than where you started before you tensed up the muscles.

      In short I think a disciplined, daily practice is helpful at least at the start. From there you have to find what works for you. There is a lot more than the breathing exercises I talk about here, although those are the exercises that work the best for most people. 

      Does that answer your question? It is a tough one and I’m afraid I rambled a bit but I hope what I wrote above helps.

      • http://innovationimitation.com/ Mike Polischuk

        It certainly helps :)
        Today, after a 2 months break I had a bodyscape practice, and it felt great. Renewing commitment is so important – especially when you “fall of the wagon”, and feel that you lost the rhythm anyway. When life is hectic it’s easy to fall into the mindset “I don’t have time for mindfulness now, I’ll get to it once my life is more ordered”. I have thoughts like that often, even though I understand the absurdity of it.

        Thanx for the long reply, Brian, I appreciate your support and I look forward to learn more from you.