When many people hear the word "mindfulness," what comes to mind is a serene-looking yogi chanting mantras softly from atop an embroidered cushion. Many people equate mindfulness with meditation — a nice activity to aspire to, but one that, for a variety of reasons (time, cultural expectations, etc.), often feels unattainable. Meditation, while it does offer many incredible benefits to those who practice it, isn't the same as mindfulness. Meditation can be a wonderful way to cultivate a more mindful life, and with its rise in popularity in recent years, there are tons of sites and apps to guide those interested in it, but mindfulness is about so much more than meditation.
Mindfulness isn't just about deep breathing and motivating mantras (though those can be wonderful!). Mindfulness is, as Masters of Mindfulness founder, Monica Ortiz, says in this video, "just about being present, about being aware of where you are, what you're doing, how you're feeling, what you're thinking, and what's going on around you without being overly reactive or overwhelmed by what is going on."
Of course, we all know that's way easier said than done. Staying in the moment, being aware of what's happening but not feeling reactive or overwhelmed, is really challenging for most of us. It's so difficult, in fact, that most of us would rather not do it, choosing instead to hurry through our days, numb ourselves from awareness, or distract ourselves so we don't have to master the art of being mindful.
But, as with most things in life, it's the really challenging stuff that offers some of the greatest benefits. Here are just a few of the positive things that mindfulness has been proven to do: reduce stress, offer insights into the self, discover deeper a understanding of life, experience better health, enhance job performance, improve relationships, and enjoy how we're spending our time. If mindfulness offers so many benefits, why are so many of us avoiding it?
The reasons for avoiding mindfulness are plenty, but one of the main reasons, I believe, is that people don't know what to do to be more mindful. Mindfulness requires practice and repetition. It's kind of like exercise. We know it's good for us, but some of us aren't interested in going for a run. The thing is: running isn't the only way to get some exercise, just like meditation isn't the only way to practice mindfulness.
When it comes to mastering mindfulness, the trick is to find what works best for you and incorporate it into your life as often as possible. You might have to play around a bit, trying different activities to see what feels right for you. Here are some ways you can play around with adding more mindfulness to your life.
SEEK OUT INSPIRATION
You're already on the right path, just by being here on Positively Present! Seeking out inspiration is a great way to connect with a mindful experience. Just think about the last time you saw or read or experienced something that made you feel inspired. It caused you to stop for a moment and reflect, didn't it? Inspiration can be anything — a stunning piece of artwork, a glorious sunset, a smile on a child's face, a quote that feels like it was written just for you at this exact point in your life. Whatever inspires you, seek it out often because every time feel inspired, you're mindfully in the moment.
GENERATE MORE GRATITUDE
Practicing gratitude might sound like cliched advice, but, trust me, it works. Nothing has helped me more in my quest for a positively present life than learning to be grateful for everything (even the not-so-great parts of life). I've been keeping a gratitude journal consistently for the past year (in my Every Day Matters diary!), and I've seen a huge difference in how I feel about the world around me (and about myself too!). There are many ways to practice gratitude, but a gratitude journal is an excellent place to begin.
MONITOR YOUR MOOD
Paying attention to your mood is one of the best ways to not only be more mindful, but to use that mindfulness to create a more wonderful life. Knowing how you feel in certain circumstances, around certain people, and when doing certain tasks allows you to make adjustments — to include more of the positive aspects of life and to remove more of the negative aspects — and, while these adjustments aren't always easy, it's amazing what you can do when you remove what's not working. Get yourself a mood tracker, and you'll find yourself becoming more mindful of how everything makes you feel.
Relaxation isn't exactly revered in Western culture. It's usually reserved for vacations and lazy Sunday mornings. But learning how to relax leads to great moments of mindfulness. For many of us, relaxation can actually be really tough. We feel like we should be doing something. One way to give more reverence to relaxation is by surrounding yourself with things to sooth your five senses — soft melodies to listen to, calming scents to take in, comforting items to touch (a dog's fur is my favorite), serene images to look at, and foods that make your tastebuds rejoice. Make time for relaxation and you're making time for mindfulness.
These are just a few of the many ways you can practice mindfulness without meditation (though meditation can be really amazing so definitely give it a try if you haven't!). There's also a great new app, Masters of Mindfulness, that's an excellent resource for exploring a variety of mindfulness techniques. The app includes everything you'd ever need to master mindfulness all in one spot: a mood tracker, a gratitude journal, healing songs, mindful living videos, upspirations (inspirational quotes with insights on applying them to your life), and, of course, meditation! Mindfulness isn't about adhering to one strict idea of what it means to stay in the moment; it's about using the techniques that work best for you so you can reap the benefits of being more aware of what's happening in your life.
Masters of Mindfulness is the world's most complete mindfulness app, now available on iOS and Android. The app brings all the tools you need to become a master of mindfulness. Meditate with others in a live stream meditation, or on your own time with a library of recorded meditations. Track your Mood daily and discover what is affecting you negatively / positively and become empowered to change things up. Cultivate positivity through your very own Gratitude Journal. Relax and destress with healing songs in the Soothing Sounds section. Browse Upspirations, quotes meant to inspire, and learn how to apply them to your situation. Enlighten and expand your mind through video interviews with health and healing practitioners, mindful living teachers, and more in the Videos section. This app has everything you need to cultivate mindfulness.
Visit their website to learn more about the Masters of Mindfulness app, or download the app to get started today and watch your world change!
Last week, I celebrated the seventeenth anniversary of the day I turned 17 (yes, I'm now 34!) by sharing some of the life lessons I've learned over the past year. Like so many of us, I'm always learning and growing and changing, and I really enjoy reflecting on what I've learned over the past year. (I highly recommend doing it whenever you have a birthday. We're often so busy and moving so quickly through life that we don't often pause to reflect on what we've learned, and b-days are a great time to do this!)
Without further ado, here's Part 2 of the 34 life lessons I've learned this year. (And here's Part 1 if you missed it!)
18. PICK PEOPLE WHO LOVE YOUR B-DAY.
This might sound superficial, but the way people react to your birthday says a lot about them and your relationship (even if they're not a big "birthday person.") Birthdays are kind of silly, yes, but they're also symbolic of the day you were born. If the people in your life aren't excited about that, well... That's not great. Birthdays are a great time to assess where you stand with people, and whether or not those people are having a positive impact on how you feel about yourself.
19. BE KIND TO YOUR BODY.
Over the past few years, I've had to deal with health issues, which is something I'd not encountered before. It's taught me a lot of things, but mostly it's taught me that health is a kind of wealth (see: Health Is Wealth: How to Cope When You're Feeling Poorly), and you have to work hard to achieve it. While I've been very consistent about my yoga practice, I definitely need to step up my game when it comes to eating healthy food!
20. YOU WILL NEVER REGRET BEING NICE.
Sometimes being nice is really, really hard. Depending on the situation, your mood, the other people involved, etc., being kind can be the most difficult choice to pick, but I've been reminded over and over again this year that you'll never regret being nice. Even when you have a completely different point of view, when you're angry or upset, being nice is the right choice. For some tips on niceness and compassion, check out: Campaigning for Compassion: 8 Essential Tips We Need Now
Every one of us encounters bad days from time to time, but I've discovered that most bad days are only as bad as you make them. Once things start going downhill a little bit, it's difficult not to feel like everything is going downhill, to take notice of all the little annoying things you might not think about on a good day. Over the past year, I've had a lot of stressful days, so I made this for myself: Stressful Day?: 20 Things to Add to Your To-Do List. If you're stressed, it might help you too!
22. LEARN ABOUT WHAT YOU LOVE.
"Do what you love" is one of those cliched phrases that's wonderful if you have the ability to make it happen, which isn't always the case for everyone. This year I've had to do a lot of things I don't really love, but I've realized that there's something you can also do what it comes to things you're passionate about: learn about them! There's a freedom that comes from being passion about something, and there are lots of ways to connect to it. Check out this for ideas: Finding Freedom: 6 Ways to Connect to Your Passion
23. DO SOMETHING NEW EVERY SO OFTEN.
For some people, doing new things is easy, but, if you're like me and really love that comfort zone, it can be hard to push yourself out of it, but it's worth it. I've rarely looked back and thought, wow, I wish I hadn't tried that thing. Even if I hated it, it gave me an experience I'd never had before and experience really is the greatest teacher. One new thing I did this year was create and launch a new product, the Instant Insta Self-Love Card Deck, and it was so great to try something new!
24. REMEMBER: IT WON'T LAST.
The good times? They're fleeting. The bad times? Also fleeting. When things have been tough this year, I kept coming back to this concept because, whether it's a good time or a bad time (like when you're coping with a meltdown), reminding yourself of the fleeting nature of life usually brings you back to the present and allows you to either enjoy the good moment or cope more effectively with the bad.
25. LOOK FOR MAGIC EVERYWHERE.
The concept of magic has become a trend over the past few years, but I've always been drawn to it. I'm not talking about magic in the witchcraft sense (though that is fascinating too!); I'm talking about the magic of everyday things and experiences. So often we focus on some grand future moment that we're not realizing how much magic is already in and around us. This year, I've focused a lot on self-love, and part of that had to do with learning to reclaim my own magic.
26. SHARE WHAT YOU'VE LEARNED WITH OTHERS.
One of the reasons I started Positively Present all those years ago was so that I could share what I was learning as I was going through my own growth. I always love learning life lessons from others so it made sense that I'd want to share my own, like some of the ones I shared in How to Make Your Life Uncommonly Good. Despite our differences, we all go through a lot of the same experiences and emotions and you can create real connection with others when you share what you know.
27. FEAR IS PART OF LIFE. LEARN TO SIT WITH IT.
Like most people, I don't love being afraid. But I've faced some pretty dark moments over the past year, like when I wrote this Clearing the Clouds: How to Cope with Panic, and those difficult times have reminded me that fear is a part of life. No matter who you are, you're going to experience some fearful, panic-inducing moments, so rather than try to run from them (as I'm always tempted to do), this year I really learned to sit with my fear.
28. BE GRATEFUL EVERY SINGLE DAY.
Cheesy as this sounds, today is not guaranteed. Every day you wake up, regardless of what you wake up to, is a fresh opportunity. I've always been well-aware of the value of gratitude, but this year I started keeping a detailed gratitude list, and I think it's helped my mindset in some big ways. If you're looking for some gratitude inspiration, here are three posts I've written this year about it: 26 Things to Be Grateful For (+ a Free Download!), 100 Things to Be Grateful For (Part I), and 100 Things to Be Grateful for (Part II).
29. GET RID OF WHAT YOU NO LONGER NEED.
This spring, I wrote Springtime Simplifying, Sorting, + Selling while I was in the midst of getting rid of a lot of things. Not only did it feel amazing to get rid of things I no longer used or needed, I also made a good bit of extra money selling some of my things. :) For a lot of people, I know letting go of things can be challenging, but I recommend giving it a try, waiting a few days, and assessing how you feel. More often than not, you'll have completely forgotten about what you got rid of!
30. APPRECIATE THE PEOPLE (AND PETS!) IN YOUR LIFE.
I'm so thankful for the people I have in my life who provide me with support, encouragement, and love. Because I've been fortunate to have a great group of people around me for most of my life, it's sometimes easy to take them for granted. Still, with the help of my gratitude list, I've been reminded daily of how lucky I am. Here are two posts about the wonderful benefits you might get from those around you: 10 Positive Benefits of Having a Sibling and The Positive Power of Pups: How Dogs Can Help You.
31. KNOW THAT YOU WILL ADAPT.
One thing that's definitely topped my life lessons list this year: you might not think you could ever handle a certain situation / person / job / etc., but if faced with something difficult, you will be stronger than you ever thought you could be. We, as people, are pretty darn resilient, and we can adjust to new situations surprisingly well. I learned this first hand a few times this year, and shared some thoughts on it in this post: 5 Tactics for Conquering Positive Change.
32. DON'T HATE IT 'TIL YOU'VE TRIED IT.
It's fine to dislike certain things, but not without having given them a fair shot. Unless something truly terrifies you, try giving it a chance. It won't kill you to try a new food or get out on the dance floor for a song or two. The minute you say, "I don't..." or "I can't..." you limit yourself. Open-mindedness is an important life skill and one I've used a lot over the past year. You can check out me lettering a piece and chatting about it here in Lettering Life Lessons: Being Open-Minded.
33. KEEP YOUR PERSPECTIVE IN MIND.
If you want to make the most of your life, I've learned that it really, really helps if you try your hardest to imagine where other people are coming from. So much of what we think and experience has to do with our personal perspective (read more about the power of perspective in Sky or Screen? : The Power of Perspective.) While it's not always easy to be aware of your own perspective, practicing doing so will help you cultivate compassion and empathy, which leads to better relationships!
34. EMBRACE YOUR IDIOSYNCRASIES.
This is a lesson I find myself learning over and over again each year. There are some things I get really into (Halloween, October, dogs, rainbows, just to name a few) and not everyone gets my weird little obsessions. For the first time in a long time, this year someone called me weird (and not in the nice, jokey way!) and it really inspired me to think about what it means to embrace your weirdness. I, in fact, like being different, and I like people who are different. Embracing weirdness (and having other people around you who do the same) is actually pretty awesome!
Whew, that's quite a long list of lessons! It's fascinating to reflect on all that I've learned since my last birthday — both new lessons and old ones brought back into the light — and I hope reading these has inspired you to think about what you've learned recently. If you have any great life lessons you'd like to share, leave them in the comments below!
It's 2017, and 17 years ago, on Wednesday, I turned 17, making me officially the big 3-4!
As I often do on my birthday, I'd like to share some life lessons that I've learned this year (or oldie-but-goodies that've become particularly relevant to me over the past 365 days). Because we're always learning and growing— at least, we should be — even a year or two ago seems like another lifetime in terms of what I've learned about life, and I find it incredibly useful to write these life lessons lists — not only as potential guidance for others, but also as a way for me to reflect on how far I've come (and how far I still have to go!).
This year has been a transformative one for me (and for a lot of other people!) in so many ways, so here are just a few of the things I've taken to heart this year:
1. STAND UP FOR WHAT YOU BELIEVE IN.
While I've always been a big believer of standing up for my beliefs — after all, one of my nicknames in college was "Beliefs" — this year I've learned more and more about the importance of identifying, standing up for, and speaking out about your beliefs. You can read more about this is in my post How to Share Your Beliefs (Even with People Who Don't Agree). (And if you're looking for more on standing up for your believes: 5 Ways to Fight Hate (Right Where You Are!)
2. NEGATIVITY IS REALLY POWERFUL.
Over the past year, I've encountered a lot more negativity than I'd like, mostly because I spend way too much time on Twitter, scrolling through the news which, let's face it, is often pretty negative. My news anxiety has been quite high (see: Break / Make / Take: Coping with News Anxiety) over the past year, and it's reinforce what I've known for a long time: negativity can be really powerful, seductive even, and simply being aware of that fact can help me cope with (and, when possible, avoid) it. (For more on how to keep yourself sane in a negative world, check out How to Distance Yourself from Negativity).
3. SELF-LOVE IS A KIND OF MAGIC.
After declaring this the Year of Self-Love, self-love become even more important to me. Self-love is the foundation for all relationships. If you don't love who you are (or you're at least not trying to make that a priority), all aspects of your life will suffer. You know that whole "put on your own oxygen mask before helping others" thing on airplanes? That applies to love, too. If you don't help of yourself first, you're going to struggle to help others. Like most of us, I still struggle with this, which is why I wrote Struggling with Self-Love? 10 Must-Read Reminders just recently!
4. DON'T WASTE YOUR TIME.
You're probably well aware of the notion that life is short, but how often do you really think about that when choosing how to live your life on a day-to-day basis? I've spent a lot of time curating my life this year (particularly when it comes to social media; see:Inspired Unfollowing: A Week of Conscious Content Choice), and it's reminded me of this very important truth: wasting your time — on people, activities, careers, etc. — that don't make you feel fulfilled and joyful is a bad idea. Of course, we can't always do what we want to do, but more than we realize, we have the power to control how our time is spent.
5. KNOW YOUR STRENGTHS (AND WEAKNESSES).
If you don't know where you're strong and where you're weak, it's going to be tough to improve — and to thrive in the areas where you can be really successful. Discovering your strengths and weaknesses isn't as a easy as it sounds. It involves a lot of soul-searching and self-honesty, two things that require a lot of emotional and mental effort. Still, this year I've really tried to think about The Power of "I Am" and How to Harness It, trying as much as I can to honestly get in touch with my true self.
6. PAY ATTENTION TO HOW YOU FEEL.
Feelings will tell you a lot about what you should / shouldn't be doing. This isn't news to me (or probably to you either), but over the past year I've become more in tune with my feelings and, after writing this — A Life-Changing Question + Why You Need to Ask It — I've become even more aware of how important paying attention to feelings can be, and I've learned that I benefit a great deal from listening to them (even when I'd rather not!).
7. BE MINDFUL OF THE WORK YOU CHOOSE.
Not everyone has the ability (or the desire) to pursue some sort of calling or passion, but I've realized over the past year just how fortunate I am to do what I love, to do something I've chosen mindfully. Back in February, I wrote The Great 8 Challenge + 8 Years of Blogging! and it was so amazing to reflect on how far Positively Present has come. Though I'm still working on making this whole thing as financially successful as I'd like, I'm still incredibly grateful for the opportunity to spend so much of my time doing what I love.
8. MAKE PEACE WITH MONEY.
Whether you have a lot or you barely have any, money is a tough topic, and one that I generally try to avoid thinking about (suuuper healthy, I know). This year I've been working on getting more comfortable talking (and thinking!) about money (see: Making Merry (When Not Making a Lot of Money), and while I definitely wouldn't consider myself in a great place, I'm on a much better path than I was a year ago, and that's all because I've been able to open my mind up to thinking about money in new ways. I've learned that my state of mind has a great impact on my financial state.
9. READ AS MUCH AS YOU CAN.
Since the rise of the internet and the instant access of smart phones, my offline reading level has decreased dramatically, which makes my book-loving heart heavy. While I do read a ton online, that's not quite the same as reading a book, either fiction or non-fiction, which gives such a deeper experience. This year I created The Ultimate Book Gift Guide, and it was one of my favorite activities because it reminded me how wonderful books are and how I need to dedicate more time to reading!
10. LEARN TO LET GO OF WHAT YOU CAN'T CHANGE.
Recently, my obsession with Kesha's song "Learn to Let Go" inspired me to write Your Happy Ending's Up to You as a ode to the the idea that I've learned (and am always learning again and again): you have to let go of the things you cannot change if you want to live a positive, present life. The past is over and you cannot go back. Likewise, this year I was also reminded of how important it is to choose to let thing go, as I wrote about in Let the Dead Leaves Drop: Lessons from Autumn on Letting Go.
11. CELEBRATE YOUR ACCOMPLISHMENTS.
Like a lot of people, I'm not always the best at tooting my own horn (a life lesson I definitely need to improve in the years to come!), but whenever my sobriety anniversary rolls around, I somehow manage to find the courage to be a little bolder about celebrating myself. (Read this year's post: Self-Love + Sobriety : The Perks of Being Sober) Every time I achieve a big goal like this, it's so exciting to celebrate it, and I highly recommend celebrating your own accomplishments (no matter how big or small!) as much as you can.
12. CHOOSE YOUR DISTRACTIONS WISELY.
This year, my phone use has gone up dramatically, and I've learned that it's up to me to look closely at how (and why!) I choose to distract myself so much. I wrote about phone use in Wireless Wonderland: Managing Phone Use to Stay Present, but I've also been doing some soul-searching recently to uncover why I seek distraction so often and how I can make those distractions more positive. (For example, when I really want to zone out, I try using Song Lyric Therapy and drawing illustrations for Instagram, rather than just mindlessly scrolling through social media.)
13. LIVE LIKE YOU LOVE YOURSELF.
A question I've found myself pondering a lot this year is: Would someone automatically answer "yes" if asked, "Does Dani love herself?" Honestly, I'm not sure everyone would because loving yourself isn't all about feeling. It's about action, too. I've been giving a lot of deep thought to self-love as I work on my next book (yay!) and I've uncovered a lot about how self-love plays out in our day-to-day actions, as I wrote about in R-E-S-P-E-C-T Yourself: 11 Things to Do Daily. I'm still a work in progress, but, hey, aren't we all!?
14. SEEK OUT KNOWLEDGE ON NEW TOPICS.
I've always been a lover of learning, and I spend countless hours each week trying to absorb new information through articles and books and people. One lesson I've been especially in touch with over the past year is seeking out knowledge on new topics. For example, before this year I'd never heard of the concept of "hygge," but I ended up researching it and writing about it (Hygge: What It Is + How to Do It) and striving to embrace, and it serves as a reminder that there's so much to learn, particularly from other cultures.
15. KNOW THE VALUE OF "NO."
While I've been writing about the power of no for years, this year I've been embracing it even more. I've been striving to get in touch with what I really want (What Do You Really Want? (+ a Worksheet!), and doing so has reminded me of how important it is to say no to the things you don't want in your life. There's only so much time, space, and emotional effort available to each of us, so it's vital to know what you want so you can say no to the things (and people and vibes and experiences) you don't want.
16. TRY AS HARD AS YOU CAN TO STAY PRESENT.
My desire to be more present in my life is one of the reasons I started this site, but, eight years later, it's still a struggle for me. Each year, I learn more and more about how important it is to stay in the moment (and more and more tools for embracing that mindfulness), but one of the best lessons I've learned is paying attention to others, particularly non-humans, stay in the moment. Still as it sounds, this article I wrote actually taught me a lot: A Pup's Guide to Being Present.
17. YOUTH IS GREAT — BUT SO IS AGING.
Older people always go on and on about how youngsters shouldn't waste their youth, about how wonderful it is to be young. Youth is great — but so is the freedom and knowledge and self-awareness that comes with age. This year I realized (particularly after writing this What I Wish I'd Known 20 Years Ago), if I had a choice, I'd much rather be the age I am now than a younger version of me. Sure, there are some downsides to aging, but there's a heck of a lot of good stuff too.
It's my hope that, in writing about what I've learned this year, you've learned something too! Stay tuned for Part 2 coming next week! And if you want to help me celebrate my b-day, check out some of the things I make below and support Positively Present with a purchase! :)