We live in a busy, fast-paced world and spend a lot of our waking hours on autopilot. But with simple changes and a mission of mindfulness, we can retrain our wandering (and overloaded) brains to be more present and in tune with our surroundings throughout the day.

By Katie Mills Giorgio
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The definition of mindfulness is a moment-by-moment awareness of your thoughts, feelings, and sensations. The idea is to allow them to come and go, without judgment or the need to do anything with them, so you can focus on the present moment. Mindfulness benefits are plentiful too. Mindfulness not only restores your emotional balance and reduces anxiety, depression, and physical pain, but also has been shown to slow aging, uncover our own mental blind spots, reduce fatigue, and improve sleep quality and concentration. Ready to give mindfulness a try? Here are ten little changes to make in your day to become a happier, healthier, calmer version of you.

Calm woman breathing with eyes closed
Image courtesy of Getty.
| Credit: Image courtesy of Getty.

1. Take Time to Treat Yourself

To be more mindful, we must also be intentional. Make a point to do something nice for yourself every day. Sign up for a yoga class. Read one chapter of a book for entertainment or personal development each day. Tune in to a favorite podcast on your way to work. Have a calming cup of tea. Purchase the high-end eye cream you've had on your wish list. By taking the time to treat yourself, you are acknowledging (and reminding your body) that you are a priority in your own busy life.

2. Make Your Bed

And not just because your mother told you to. Having an orderly space in your own bedroom can start your day off on the right foot. It’s possible to create this sense of order in other areas of your life where you spend large chunks of time as well. Do the dishes every night so you wake up to a clean kitchen. Tidy up your workspace at the end of your shift to ensure a calmer, controlled feeling when you arrive at work the next day. Creating order in your physical spaces carves out room for creating mental order as well.

3. Memorize Your Mantra

Choose a mantra for your life and repeat it to yourself at least once a day. It should include all the positive things you believe about yourself and your life. It should also include all the goals you hope to achieve so you are able to envision yourself accomplishing them. It can also be helpful to record yourself reciting your mantra on your phone so you can listen to it daily as well. Reciting your mantra daily will help those thoughts take up permanent residence in your mind.

4. Tap Into Apps

Meditating for ten minutes a day is a huge way to tap into your mindfulness potential. Instead of spending time mindlessly scrolling social media on your phone, use your tech to meditate. Download a free app like Headspace, a meditation app ideal for beginners, or 365 Gratitude, which gives you a positive message each day and prompts you each evening to pause and reflect on three things you are grateful for in that moment.

5. Watch What You Eat

Next time you dish up breakfast, lunch, or dinner, serve it with a side of silence. Instead of eating on autopilot, make a point to enjoy the smells, delicious tastes, and even mouthwatering appearance of that sheet pan dinner. Pay attention to what you are eating, what it tastes like, and how it makes you feel. Acknowledge your hunger and your fullness. You’ll feel more nourished and less likely to overeat.

6. Take In Some Natural Light

If you work indoors, try to gain access to a space with natural light. If that is not an option, purchase full-spectrum light bulbs or a light therapy box (try the Nature Bright SunTouch Plus Light and Ion Therapy, $39.99 on Amazon). Then make a point to get outside and soak up the sunshine; just 20 minutes can significantly lower stress. Spiritual leader Thich Nhat Hanh once said, “Walk as if you are kissing the earth with your feet.” Notice your own body’s connection to the ground, feel your muscles working. And pay attention to your surroundings to be in tune with the world around you.

7. Just Breathe

The simplest form of meditation is focusing on your breathing. Of course, this happens naturally and rhythmically, so if you make a point to pay attention to your breathing, you’ll free your mind from thoughts and worries and fears to focus on one of life’s most basic functions. Try out several different breathing exercises—breathing long, slow breaths or alternate nostril breaths, for example—to see which the best fit is for you. If you need help remembering to make this a part of your daily route, set a recurring calendar appointment to leave your desk and practice breathing for 10 minutes each morning or afternoon.

8. Engage Your Senses

When you're lost in thought, you don’t often notice all the ways your senses can help you keep in touch with the activities of your day. Focus on your senses to truly experience the present moment. When you enter a new space, take a moment to acknowledge the sights, smells, sounds, and objects you feel. What sounds do you hear? What scents are in the air? What colors do you see? As your senses take over, you free your mind and place yourself fully in the space.

9. Change Up Your Scene or Routine

Traveling can be a wonderful way to clear your mind and live in the present moment, as you prepare to soak up new sights and sounds. But even if you aren’t hopping a jet for a new destination anytime soon, you can change up your daily routine to enjoy new experiences. Ever notice how sometimes you commute to work on autopilot? Take a different route one morning and observe the world around you as you go. Stop at a new coffee shop. Check out that exhibit you’ve been meaning to see at the art museum. Changing your routine doesn't have to be drastic; even a simple switch can make you more mindful.

10. Be Present to Those You Are With

When you are with a friend, family member, or really anyone, try to focus on them. Put down your phone. Look them in the eyes. Close off your mind to other distractions. If you are simply talking on the phone, you can even close your eyes so you focus on them while they speak.  Listening is key to really engage with those in your company, so make it your goal to fully listen to what they are saying without getting lost in your own thoughts. And, you’ll find that being mindfully present with others improves your experiences and overall relationships.

Mindfulness can be tricky as our minds tend to wander and our day-to-day lives are chock-full of experiences and stimuli to distract us. It is hard to be fully in the moment when our to-do lists are a mile long. The good news is that the more you practice mindfulness, the more you understand about yourself, your feelings, and your place in the world. Mindfulness will come more naturally to you and it will be easier to stay present and focused.


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