Mindfulness is a useful, learned skill that will help anyone who is trying to live their best life. While there are helpful resources available, for the most part, mindfulness is self-taught. It can be confusing, and those who are learning may even think they are doing it wrong and give up. In this article I discuss what mindfulness is and give examples of everyday situations in which I’ve use mindfulness (working out, trying something new, making a mistake, trouble sleeping and public speaking) in hopes it will help you incorporate mindfulness into your life, and not give up!
Let’s get to it!
Mindfulness is active awareness of thought. It’s a great technique that will help you quiet your brain and worried mind. While it’s not going to solve all of your problems, it will put you in a mentality that will help you navigate and solve them. After all, when you change your thoughts, you can change your life.
Those just starting with mindfulness may get frustrated and think they are failing, even when they aren’t. In this article I share relatable, real-life examples of how I practice mindfulness in my life. I share examples in the hopes that it will help you introduce mindfulness into your life.
I tried to pick topics that most can relate to. I give an in depth reflection on one area (working out) and then added some shorter sections about starting something new, sleep, and public speaking. Remember that these examples are how I use mindfulness, but you can incorporate mindfulness into all areas of your life.
What is mindfulness?
It’s not just sitting in a corner, cross legged with your eyes closed being completely devoid of thoughts— a common misconception. Mindfulness is awareness. In this article we are focused on mindfulness being the awareness of thought and how it can be practiced throughout the course of your daily life.
“Mindfulness is not meditation.”
The first step in learning mindfulness is awareness of being aware of thought (stick with me here). We need to be aware that we are trying to be conscious of our thoughts so we can then be aware of them. This type of awareness will likely take repetition. A proven technique for you to try here.
If you are having trouble with awareness of thought, you are not alone. Remind yourself that you do not need to be aware of every thought. Pin point times when you are feeling particularly stressed or when thoughts are negatively affecting your life (like when trying to sleep) and focus on being aware of your thoughts then.
I’m not aware of my thoughts all day, that would be like a full time job!
If you forget to be aware and realize it the next day (or hours later), then you are on your way (really, stick with me here)! Just realizing you forgot is a step further in the learning process. It will help you to remember next time. You will build up to remembering in the moment, then you will be aware of thought, then you are mindful.
Real Life Example of Mindfulness
Glute day. Last exercise – deadlifts. I finished the first set and thought/felt I didn’t want to do anymore, that it was impossible for me to do anymore. I acknowledged the thought and took an inventory. Was I pushing myself too hard? Should I stop?
Albeit a little hungry, I wasn’t pushing myself too hard. I decided to continue with the rest of the deadlifts. During the second set my brain was shooting me thoughts with each rep, “you should stop,” “this is tough,” “you won’t be able to finish”. I acknowledged the thoughts and kept going.
I took a rest period in between sets and completely turned my brain off. I had decided I was gong to finish and that’s that. I didn’t allow any intrusive thoughts to deter me and I focused on finishing the next set.
During my 3rd set the thoughts were still there. I started to feel like I physically couldn’t do the deadlifts (even though I knew I could). Almost like my body was going to freeze and I would be unable to move. I continued doing the deadlifts with mental discomfort. My anxious thoughts told me I couldn’t make it to 10 deadlifts and that I should stop. I acknowledged the anxious thoughts and continued until I was finished.
I did something my thoughts told me I couldn’t do. I did something my mind was making me feel like I physically couldn’t do—even though I very well knew I could (and did).
After I finished my workout I realized that I didn’t want to do the deadlifts to begin with. I had other things on my mind. I wanted to finish the workout, eat and then finish some writing. I was anxious to finish my writing and that anxiety was present in my workout, manifesting as anxious thoughts telling me I couldn’t finish.
It was important for me to finish. I had a goal. If I hadn’t finished I would have felt miserable about it later on, aka create suffering for myself.
“You should sit in meditation for 20 minutes a day, unless you are too busy; then you should sit for an hour”Old Zen Saying
After finishing the workout I still felt anxious. I decided to take some time to relax and stretch, my body really needed it. I stretched for longer than I usually would have and I used that time to quiet my thoughts. I still got my writing done.
Some other quick examples:
Writing (or trying something new)
The example above was from when I was exercising, but I’ve had these occurrences while doing other things, like writing. A few weeks ago, while writing an article, my mind told me I wasn’t good enough. I acknowledged the thought and continued writing.
That instance was actually very sad. When I acknowledged the thoughts I realized they were a result of me not being encouraged to write or pursue my interests. Sometimes when I write I’ll hear those limiting beliefs again. I consciously work through them, and here I am, a writer.
Making A Mistake
I was in my kitchen and dropped something. Huge mess. Had to clean it up. Dinner I just cooked waiting and Netflix ready, so this was particularly frustrating. “You’re so dumb” my mind tells me. “Wow, that was harsh. I definitely do dumb shit sometimes, but I’m not dumb,” I snap back at my inner voice.
Then I reflected. My inner voice can be very cruel sometimes. I was not pre-programmed with a harsh inner critic, and the inner voice I have is a result of things that I’ve heard others say to me or about themselves. So somewhere in my life I’ve encountered someone who would berate themselves, or me, and I’m continuing it in my mind —I am continuing suffering.
Enough is enough. I cleaned up the mess. Acknowledge that I make mistakes, assessed if i could avoid what happened in the future and then enjoyed my dinner.
Going to sleep
After a long day, or a day where I’m writing and reading a lot, my mind can tend to explode with ideas. This also happens if I’m stressed or worried. Recently I made a huge mistake and while I am physically well, and there was not much but monetary loss, I kept beating myself up about it. I couldn’t sleep. Then, thoughts of the craziness of the world and everything else just crept right on it.
It was like my stressed thoughts opened the door to a negative thought party.
I needed sleep. I stopped my thoughts by acknowledging them, telling myself that they will be there in the morning and I can think about them then. I switched the anxious thoughts with the thought that my bed is for sleeping, not for thinking. Then I repeated my mantra “time for sleep, not for think” (feel free to borrow it!) and fell asleep. If that doesn’t work I practice the floating leaves technique.
Sometimes waiting to speak at a meeting can generate anxiety. Which sucks because I was usually one of the last ones to present. I get a little shaky and my stomach feels empty. My thoughts are so automatic in this occurrence I don’t even consciously think them.
Here, I used mindfulness to dive into them. I wonder why I am anxious and think of what could go wrong. I realize I just want to do a good job at relaying the information I need to present. I remind myself that I am prepared and put a lot of effort into my speech for the day. I take a few deep breaths and calm my nerves.
RELATED ARTICLE: Change Your Thoughts, Change Your Life
Mindfulness: Your Likely Doing It Right
Mindfulness is often confused with meditation and some may think that mindfulness is complete quietness of thoughts. That is not the case. We can be mindful while we are going about our daily lives, and simply acknowledging our thoughts is mindfulness.
If you are aware of your thoughts, you are being mindful. Basically, if you think you are doing it wrong because you are still having thoughts, you are actually doing it right because you are aware of your thoughts. Mindfulness is not going to be delivered via Amazon Prime or 2-day direct. Have patience and you will get the mindfulness that you seek.
Photo by Aleks Marinkovic