How Mindfulness Changed My Life
I’m going to preface this by saying that I’ve always been blessed with a naturally optimistic view of life.
I was privileged growing up to have a lot of support and good examples. My parents taught me the importance of gratefulness and a good attitude from when I was very young. As many young adults do, I struggled adjusting to the world when I left to go find my place in it. My beliefs, the things that made me happy, and the relationships that I leaned on all began to shift rapidly. Before I knew it, I began to spend my days inside my head.
I was at the whim of my emotions and frustrated with how easily I lost my good attitude. I had a natural love of the world and living life, but I was always caught up in my stress and anxiety. It began to be difficult for me to approach my day; During any given moment I felt like there was so much more weighing on me than just the tasks at hand. I tested out some meditation here and there, and tried to be easier on myself. This is where I learned my first lesson on my way to a better mental: You get in what you put out, which in my case, was very little.
As I learned more about psychology and experienced the flow of life, the more I became aware that my mindset was affecting every aspect of my existence. This was a major turning point for me! I had gone my entire life as a slave to my mindset, which was great, until it wasn’t. So where did I turn?
What is Mindfulness?
Being completely engaged in your tasks and daily life allows you to experience the full spectrum of the human experience. That includes the highs and lows. We only have one life to live, and many of us spend it all going over past and future experiences in our head when life itself is sliding by right in front of our eyes! The key to reclaiming this natural connection to our experience is, as far as I can tell, practicing mindfulness.
Mindfulness is being aware. More specifically, it’s about being aware of and existing in the present moment. You might think you spend most of your day attentive to the moment and nothing else, but if you pay close attention, you’ll see that it’s not so simple! Understanding that your thoughts are natural and born out of your subconscious is the first step to living with them. Mindfulness is recognizing that your thoughts are streaming endlessly into the past and the future, wrapped up in things you can’t change, and problems you won’t have to face yet. This is a price we pay for having control over our direction in life.
How Can I Be More Mindful?
Just like we practice any skill that we want to master, the process is much the same with mindfulness. This is one of the main reasons people spend time meditating. Take 10 minutes a day (even 5 to start) to practice some mindful meditation.
Sit in a quiet room where you won’t be disturbed and find a comfortable position with your eyes closed. Focus your attention on your body and your breath. Become aware of where your body ends, and the outside world begins. As thoughts come to you naturally, gently remind yourself that these are not relevant to you at the moment, and let them pass. It’s a lot easier said than done, but there’s a reason people call it “practicing” meditation!
Spending time focusing on exercising your ability to be present and mindful in the moment is a game-changer, even if you are spending a brief 5 minutes a day on it. The intent and the willingness to fine tune your brain pays off over time. This same technique now calms me down when I have chaotic plans, or an upcoming meeting that gives me anxiety.
What Difference Has Mindfulness Made for Me?
Deciding to purposefully become more mindful and aware to my experience in the moment changed everything for me. Now, when unfortunate things happen to me, I can handle the feelings that come with it. I still feel a wide range of sadness and happiness, but I am able to more easily keep myself from swinging wildly like a pendulum of emotions. I am more understanding of my own actions, and consequently, those of others. It’s easier for me to focus and complete tasks when I can slip into the moment and remain there for longer. My past haunts me less, and the future doesn’t feel so overbearing.
Mindfulness is the key to a mentally healthier life for individuals, and the positive benefits of practices like these overflow into personal relationships and our community around us. It isn’t a cure-all, and it isn’t magic. I still have days where I lose the battle hour after hour, but the mindset that persists through it all is one of appreciation; Not only for the world around me, but for myself, and the incredible opportunity I have to perceive such a dynamic universe.