For a long time, I always found mindfulness to be less of an actual, implementable concept and more of a selling point in a self-help book. While simple in theory, how can it be possible for someone to actually achieve mindfulness? In the time I've spent trying to figure that out for myself, I've learned that there is no finish line – there is no perfect, self-actualized state of being in which a person is completely mindful of themselves and their surroundings. Instead, it’s an ongoing process of self-acceptance and awareness that, once begun, can help us all to be our best selves. As someone who practices mindfulness every day, here are my favorite tips for getting started:
- Focus on engagement
Our minds tend to run a million miles a minute – it seems like there is always a deadline to meet, or a test to study for, or a shift to work. Among all the chaos of our everyday lives, it can be easy to forget what we’re really doing. Make sure to take some time every day to be completely present in your environment, aware of both the people and objects that surround you. Think about what you are grateful for, and also what in your life you want to change. It’s important not to be passive participants in our own lives and to actually immerse ourselves in both novel and everyday experiences.
- Stretch it out
Stretching is really helpful because it forces you to listen to your body. It is essentially a low-impact exercise that will hopefully not only clear your mind, but relieve your muscles of any built-up tension. In my experience, the 15 minutes I leave to stretch before I go to bed is a time to decompress and feel more present in my body. Try to focus on the feeling of your muscles loosening up, breathe into the stretch a little more deeply, and thank your body for carrying you throughout the day.
- Go for a walk
The best way to be mindful of your environment is to actually go out and experience it. With everything happening at high speed, it can be easy to overlook the things around us that bring small joys. Walk slowly and enjoy every moment, appreciating everything that your community and this world are offering you. With the earth under you, the sky above you and everything else in between, take the time to embrace all of it.
- Just breathe
The power of a deep breath is unquestionable. Every so often, take a break to focus solely on your breathing and feel the reconnection between your mind and body. Sometimes, on the worst days, breathing deeply can remind us that simply being here, doing our best, is enough. Not every day is going to be great, nor are we always going to want to engage or stretch or walk, but we can always breathe and reground ourselves in the present moment.
Mindfulness doesn’t mean seeing the world through rose-tinted glasses, but it does mean stepping away from our hectic schedules for a moment and enjoying life’s simple pleasures. As much as you can, try to be fully present in every experience, open your mind to new ideas, and let yourself feel however you are meant to feel. By being more mindful, we are being more kind to ourselves and others, acknowledging that our value as human beings isn’t in our pasts or futures, but in our existence right now.