Mindfulness

Mindfulness. We see articles about it floating around social media, books about it, heck even online courses on how to achieve it. When it comes to being mindful – are we? Mindfulness is the state of being conscious and aware. It’s a powerful tool in your kit to create a healthier, productive, connected life. Yes please.

So why aren’t we practicing mindfulness more and integrating it into our daily lives? There seems to be a misconception that you have to start out being perfectly mindful and never stop – and that would be nice, but who is that perfect?

You don’t need to be a meditating, yogi guru to be mindful. You do need to eliminate the static and noise around you. How do we do that? Let’s break it down to a few easy reminders (because I know you know!) to get started. 

  • Exercise
    • The mind body connection is one of the biggest components that deliver personal awareness. You cannot be mindful of yourself or others if you are ignoring your health (and I am one of the top culprits in this area). You want clarity? Sweat! It doesn’t have to be extreme – although that can be fun too. While lifting is one of my very favorite activities, walking, hiking, biking – any outdoor activity, is tops with me. Whatever movement you love most, do that,but keep in mind the outdoors lends the best benefits because it gives us an extra opportunity to connect with, observe and listen to nature. And you must listen to be mindful.
    • Any yogi will tell you there is no practice that quiets you and provides mindfulness like yoga. (Disclaimer, I am in no way professing to be a yogi and my practice looks more like a comedy of errors, but I refuse to quit!) I have heard friends say it’s too time consuming and or they don’t have the patience. I found a work around on that. To reboot my yoga practice I went on YouTube to find some videos to use at home. I stumbled across Yoga With Adriene and haven’t looked back. For the impatient, she offers videos from 10 minutes to some over an hour, so you can choose how much time you want to invest. I’ve been to the best gyms and yoga classes in Manhattan, and never has anyone struck a chord with me about making a mind and body connection like Adriene. Kind, goofy, someone you want to hang out with, not to mention gorgeous, she has a special  way of engaging and resonating with her students. If she told me to walk through fire because it’d settle my soul I may actually do it. My point isn’t to sell you on her (though I have introduced her channel to a ton of friends). My point is to let you know there are resources like her out there to make it easy to get on track. Once I began her videos, my physical awareness skyrocketed. From how I carry myself to finally feeling full after 40something years, I feel far more in check with my body now than ever. And that carries into other areas of my life. Mindfulness. Yay!
  • Eliminate Distractions and Be More Present
    • I rue the day the smartphone was released. Let’s just say that I would have written this an hour faster had I left my phone across the room. Start using it like a flip phone because the internet is a The Black Hole of distraction and we mortals get sucked in way too easily.
    • Most of us are not working for social media. Why? Why oh why do we check social media as much as we do? I know, there are thousands of articles about FOMO and the psychology behind it. But seriously ask yourself – what are you missing? The answer is likely that you’re missing out on time you could be spending doing quality activities such as actually having an in person conversation, reading, oh, exercising, ahem. At the same time, social media is a huge tool for businesses. If this is the case for you, place a limit on the amount of time you will spend per day on social media and spend the rest of your work hours on strategies to be as efficient as possible.
    • When you eat, sit, and do so without a screen. When you read, read without the television on. When you drive, keep your phone at a distance. When you interact with people, make eye contact. It’s pretty elementary, but the little things can make a big impact on elevating your common experiences.
    • I challenge you to give attention to those around you, what you’re doing, and to eradicate the distractions from your life. Being present is a vital element to being mindful.
  • Stop Being “Busy” –  and Become Constructive
    • “I’m so busy.” Being busy does not make us more important. No one gets a medal for busy. There is no busy trophy. If you are overwhelmed in your life, do the unthinkable and start dropping things from your schedule. Boom. Now you’re less busy. If you simply cannot let anything go, accept it, and lasso that monster into submission. Create a system to manage your busy and make it work for you, instead of against you. 
    • Ticking off the boxes of your tasks each day can be satisfying – but for how long? Lately I have been trying to be constructive vs productive. The difference is the outcome. When I am productive I am task oriented and then it’s over once it’s accomplished. But what does that yield? A met deadline, some money, a clean house. But when I am constructive, my to do list has meaning – it’s not littered with things to do as much as strategic building blocks to a longer term goal. Now we’re talking. 
  • Set Your Intentions – Meditation and prayer
    • Prayer – Oh no, here we go. Yes. Here we go. I am 100% sure that God cringes when he sees me on the daily and likely cringes just as much when I pray. I am also 100% that nothing is more grounding, or humbling, than prayer. Regardless of your spiritual beliefs (spiritual here for me, because I can’t subscribe to all the pages in one religion), acknowledging that there are larger forces in the universe than you is one of the most important things to remember as you move through your day. Take note, this doesn’t translate to you being insignificant or powerless in your path. Just the opposite. You are powerful in where you put your energy. Use that. 
    • Meditation – In prayer, you talk. In meditation, you listen. Now that’s the real challenge. Training ourselves to truly listen is the cornerstone of mindfulness. Becoming a better listener is likely something I pray for as much as I do for the well being of my son (read – a lot). Listening requires that you become still, quiet, and let all of your inner dialogue go. It involves the kind of letting go that can make a type A, worrywort, OCD girl like yours truly cringe because the who will be in control? Meditation is a practice that I need to practice more, because the times I do, it’s incredibly beautiful and centering, creating more balance throughout the day. Heck I even sleep better. Meditation has taught me to listen, and look, at the world through a different lens. It has sharpened my sense in my interactions at home, socially and at work. Meditation has calmed me, nurtured my creativity, supported my health, and brought me peace. I’m better overall when I practice.
    • Set your intention for the day – Prayer and meditation are not for everyone, and that’s ok. If you are new and want to start, take one small step. When I first began focusing on mindfulness I started with just a few minutes in the morning. And hey, I get it, a lot of us rise to the noise of the demands of the day before our feet hit the floor. I began with simple stretches, adjusting my posture, listening to my breath, thanking God and the universe for my one precious life and setting my intentions for the day. When you set that intention for the day, it is infinitely easier to hit that reset button when things get wild and you instinctively bring yourself back to your intention. 

  • Environment – Create an Environment that Supports Mindfulness
    • At home – Our home should be an oasis. If I told you the chaos the three of us are dealing with in our house you’d scratch your head and stop reading anything I’ve written. But hey at least we’re trying. We are sure to carve out time to be together as well as alone. Fresh flowers, a few plants, keeping the house free of clutter and  playing our favorite music are all things that foster a sense of ease at home. And where there is ease, there is room to focus more on mindfulness in that space. 
    • At work – Your workplace, and workspace, no matter how inundated you are, can also be an oasis. In fact, the office space I currently have is the only one that feels like my own adult space, because at the moment I have a five year old roommate who loves to proudly hang his school projects and line up cars all over our house. (At first I hated it, it was a huge act of letting go for me, but he lives there too, and I am not about to quash what makes him happy.) I have a unique workplace in which we have designed together and is more like a family. I cannot wait to get to the office and I know I am lucky. I didn’t always work there though and a couple of those positions were in very turbulent environments (what’s up, recession?)In those situations I found that aside from revamping my resume, a favorite photo of someone or someplace I love was very grounding when the day started to take over. Same as at home, I believe eliminating clutter in the workplace creates clarity and a better sense of focus. We spend a huge amount of waking hours at work. Be sure you create an environment that fosters your betterment there as well.

Just as kindness begets kindness, mindfulness creates more mindfulness. Over the years I have noticed that when you speak with people, they are more mindful overall. Or maybe it’s just who I’m meeting, but I like to hope for the best. Ask yourself –  What does mindfulness mean to you and how can you become more mindful in your daily life? For me, I am reestablishing the practice of listening. I am also becoming more careful to take notice of what the world is showing me. Let’s show each other we’re in it together, and practice mindfulness as much as we can.

Jenna Lorenz is a writer and photographer who for the life of her, cannot surf. She looks at the areas where she stumbles and writes about them in the hope she can help others avoid the same pitfalls, or feel less alone when they find themselves there. When she’s not writing her own material, she works her dream job with a glorious group of souls for a well known author. Should she ever complete the book she’s writing, she vows never to leave them. Jenna lives with her dreamboat son and goofy husband in New Jersey. The pretty part.

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