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Wednesday Wisdom: The Power of Mindfulness

I’ll admit it–self-help books are a huge guilty pleasure of mine. I used to be embarrassed about reading them, and I would find myself asking self-deprecating questions like, “Do I read these because I must be deficient in some way? Am I not capable of learning coping mechanisms on my own? Have I joined the ranks of clichéd self-help book junkies?”

The answer to all of these questions is profoundly “NO!” (with the exception of a “maybe” to the last one). Self-help books are valuable resources that can enhance our daily lives by teaching us ways to maximize our personal growth. Reading them does not mean we are “deficient” or incapable of proper learning experiences; rather, we are simply interested in seeing how we can positively grow–socially, emotionally, physically, and spiritually–to create the best lives we can!

In the beginning of my love affair with self-help books, a term I noticed myself coming across frequently was “mindfulness.” The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin was the first book to explain this foreign concept to me, and I’ve been a fan ever since! Mindfulness is a common Buddhist practice (I know this sounds mystical and didactic, but stick with me) that cultivates conscious, nonjudgmental awareness and attention. It’s being present in your body and surroundings, which brings about an instant sense of calmness. Gretchen Rubin describes it as the sensation of zooming into your own body as if you had been on a two-week vacation and you didn’t even know where you went.

Just think for a moment about a typical college day. We go on endless sprees worrying about deadlines, grades, and outcomes. As soon as one thing ends, another one starts. Stress and preoccupation with the past and future are things we’ve sadly become numb to, and there’s this endless chatter in our minds that pretty much chirps on until we go to sleep. It’s exhausting. Little do most people know, there is a way out. Mindfulness gives you a little escape, almost like a free temporary oasis that is always waiting for your entrance. When you can divert your attention to this oasis, a.k.a. the present, time slows down, and you are left feeling reenergized and rejuvenated.

The typical go-to ways to cultivate mindfulness are to practice yoga and meditation. Those can be pretty heavy to dive right into, but luckily, there are some easy ways to practice mindfulness that you can start right now and build into your routine:

Focus on your breathing.

Slowing down your breathing and giving it your attention can help you zoom into the moment and clear your head.

  1. Breathe in while counting to 6.

  2. Hold it while counting to 2.

  3. Let the breath out slowly, while counting to 8.

Go for a mindful walk.

Go outside for a walk, and rather than operating on autopilot. Become aware of your senses the entire time. Feel them, rather than noisy thoughts occupy your mind. Notice the leaves on the trees, the way the sunlight falls on buildings, the sounds you hear, and the weight of your walk. If a thought pops up, gently acknowledge it, and then let it dissolve away.

Start a gratitude journal.

At the end of each day, write down 1-3 things you are grateful for that happened that day. Be as specific as possible. This gets your mind in the habit of scanning throughout the day to look for the little, special moments that you would have overlooked otherwise.

Choose an object to remind you to stay mindful.

Find something that you catch yourself glancing at frequently, such as a watch or phone, and use it as reminder to come into the present. Take a careful breath, and slowly observe yourself becoming aware of your senses and surroundings.

Maybe we could learn a thing or two from our friends over in the Eastern hemisphere about how to bring more light-heartedness and satisfaction into our lives. At first glance, mindfulness can seem like a foreign concept that Westerners have no business tapping into, but it’s such an easy and valuable habit to start as soon as… now.

Photo source: intentionalworkplace.com

Tori Rubloff is a National Feature Writer and News Blogger. She is a senior at the University of Florida, and will be pursuing a Master’s in Mass Communication next fall. Her dream is to work in the journalism and writing fields to make positive social change and spread big ideas. She enjoys reading, listening to podcasts, journaling and jamming out to old school R&B.
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