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!
To live your most positive and present life, it's essential that you love who you are. But loving who you are can be quite a challenge at times. Truly conquering self-love is incredibly complex. It’s not just about positive affirmations or breaking up with that guy who treats you like garbage (though those are great starts!). It’s about investigating and assessing every aspect of your life — and continuing to do it all the time, for the rest of your life.
When it comes to self-love, we're all works in progress, so I've rounded up some of my favorite reminders about self-love to keep in mind. If you're struggling to embrace who you are, check these out for some inspiration (or bookmark them for a time you might need them!).
YOUR FEELINGS, NO MATTER WHAT THE REASON, IS VALID.
You might have it pretty good (and if you're alive and reading this, you probably have it better than a lot of people), but just because you're not suffering from the worst thing in the world doesn't mean that your pain isn't valid. Loving yourself means allowing yourself to experience pain without judging yourself. Sure, other people might have it worse, but self-love means giving yourself permission to feel what you feel. (This doesn't mean you should necessarily act on these feelings, but allowing yourself to feel them is an act of self-love).
YOU WILL MAKE BAD CHOICES, AND THAT'S OKAY.
We all make good choices and bad choices — that's just part of life. Refusing to accept the bad choices you've made (either through denial or by beating yourself for having made them) isn't a great way to show yourself love. Acceptance of yourself and others is one of the most vital aspects of self-love, and that acceptance includes embrace both the good and the bad choices you've made. The point of making a bad decision isn't to serve as a painful reminder you return to again and again; it's an opportunity to learn and make more positive choices in the future.
YOU CAN CHOOSE TO FOCUS ON BEST-CASE SCENARIOS.
When was the last time you imagined the best thing that could happen? Most of us imagine worst-case scenarios, which is totally human nature. We imagine these things so we can prepare for (and hopefully avoid!) them. But what would it be like if you chose to focus on best-case scenarios? Would you really be less prepared or is that just something you tell yourself? At the very least, you can choose to focus on the best-case scenario in addition to the worst-case possibilities. Your attitude, whether it's positive or negative, impacts the way you think and act, and embracing optimism is a self-loving act.
YOU'LL NEVER 100% KNOW WHAT OTHERS THINK.
One thing that all-too-often gets in the way of self-love is making assumptions about what other people are thinking. Even if you know someone else extremely well, you can never know with 100% certainty what s/he is thinking, and making assumptions about what others' intentions are can actually sabotage your own self-love. Assumptions get in the way of relationships with others and those relationships impact the one you have with yourself. Whenever you find yourself assuming what others are thinking, remind yourself that you only know for sure what's in your own head. Creating clear communication with others will make it easier for you to love yourself.
YOUR ANGER IS A SIGN OF FEAR OR PAIN.
Everyone gets angry from time to time, and that's perfectly okay (see #1!), but it's so important to keep in mind that your anger stems from a place of fear or pain. Anger is a symptom, not a disease. Knowing this can help you better understand what you're truly feeling. Your knee-jerk reaction if you feel angry is probably to think, "I'm mad!" but a great way to show yourself self-love is to dig a little deeper and find out where that anger stems from. When you do this, you not only gain a better understanding of the current issue you're dealing with, but you also gain a better understanding of yourself.
YOU DON'T HAVE TO ANTICIPATE WHAT WILL HAPPEN.
Did you know that you can just let things happen? You don't have to analyze everything or worry about what's coming next or anticipate what other people are going to do. In fact, spending too much time prepping for the future (or dwelling on the past...) stands in opposition to self-love. Being present is a challenge, but when you give yourself the freedom to stay in the moment, you're showing yourself a true kindness. It's not easy to shut down a worrying mind, but keep in mind: it's not your job to imagine the future. You deserve to be here, and enjoying, now.
YOU AREN'T OBLIGATED TO LIKE EVERYONE.
This probably isn't news to you, but you're not going to like everyone (and not everyone is going to like you). Once you embrace that fact, you release yourself from a lot of unnecessary stress and heartache. So many people spend time trying to like or be liked, instead of realizing that not everyone is meant to be linked to one another. This isn't to say, of course, that you shouldn't treat everyone with kindness and respect, but doing so doesn't mean you have to be BFF with every person you meet. Show yourself self-love by reserving your time and energy for those you care about most.
YOU'RE ALLOWED TO SAY "NO" WITHOUT AN EXCUSE.
"No" isn't a four letter word, contrary to what many people think. Learning that is one of the absolute best acts of self-love. We've all given only so much time here on Earth, and you reserve the right to use that time how you see fit. Every time you say yes to something, you're saying no to something else. And the same goes for the reverse. Every time you say no to something you don't want to do (particularly if it's something that's not good for you!), you're saying yes to yourself. Be mindful of when (and why!) you say yes, and use that self-awareness to make more self-loving choices.
YOU CAN'T RUN FOREVER FROM WHAT HURTS.
If you've ever tried to run from your pain, you're probably well aware that this is true. You might be able to run, but if you don't deal with your pain, heartbreak, frustration, anger, or whatever other emotion you're experiencing, it'll come back later (and often in an unexpected and unpleasant way). Dealing with what hurts is one of the most difficult aspects of being human, but facing difficulties head-on is an excellent way to treat yourself with the love you deserve. It'll be painful, for sure, but avoiding it will only amplify the pain.
YOU ARE IN CHARGE OF THE STORY YOU TELL YOURSELF.
You can't control everything that happens to you, but you can control the story you tell yourself about what happens. Everything we experience gets filtered through our minds into a story we tell ourselves. The story is often more important than the actual experience, because it stays with us and impacts future experiences. Our minds are imperfect — memories can be inaccurate, emotions can be heightened, and the facts can be distorted — but we can choose to make the most of whatever information we have, taking lessons from the hard times and embracing the good times. Choosing the story you tell yourself is one of the ways you can show yourself love.
Self-love doesn't always come easy, no matter how much you strive to make it a priority in your life. If you need some additional inspiration or motivation, check out some of the resources below!
While moving can be exciting, it's often pretty stressful. For the past few weeks, I've been helping parents pack for an upcoming move, which included my own mini-move because a lot of things they've been holding on to for me had to find their way into my (tiny!) apartment. Because moving is such a mentally, physically, and emotionally taxing experience (and something most people have to go through at some point!), it seemed like a good time to reflect a little on how to make the most of it. Even if you're not in the midst of moving, check out these tips so you can better prepare for a future move!
DONATE, DONATE, DONATE
While it's incredibly tempting to throw all your stuff in boxes and worry about it later, the first essential step of moving is decluttering what you have and donating as much of it as you can. Most of us have lots of extra stuff that we don't want, need, or use, and, while it's time-consuming (and sometimes emotionally draining) to get rid of stuff, it's such a great time to do it because then, when you arrive at your new place, you'll only have what you truly need and want. Admittedly, I didn't do the best job of this when I was bringing stuff from my parents' house to my place, and now I'm regretting it because I have a lot of stuff to sort through. Avoid this by asking these questions while packing: Do I really want this? When was the last time I actually looked at / used this? Packing up all the things you no longer need and donating them to a local charity is such a great feeling and eases some of the stress of letting things go.
ROUND UP THE RIGHT SUPPLIES
Unless you're a frequent mover, it might have been awhile since you last moved, and it can be easy to forget all of the packing supplies you might need. If you have a store that specializes in moving (like U-Haul), check out their supplies and ask their employees for advice on how to pack efficiently. They're the experts and they'll likely have all of the supplies you need to make the move as easy as possible. And make sure to get extra supplies if you can. It's incredibly frustrating to be in a packing groove and realize you've run out of the small boxes you need. Most moving supply stores allow returns so it's better to get more and return them rather than run out mid-pack.
PERUSE TIPS ON PINTEREST
There's a lot to consider when it comes to moving. Everything from all of the addresses you'll need to change to how to pack oddly-shaped items will come up while you're in moving mode, and there's almost no better resource for finding answers to moving questions than Pinterest. Not only are there tons of tips and tricks on there, but there are so many amazing checklists to help you plan out your move and advice you might never have considered that will help your move go even more smoothly (like this tip: take a photo of how all the cords are plugged into your TV so you know how to put it back together the same way!). Pinterest is my go-to for a lot of info and inspiration, but I've found it especially helpful for move-related tips.
TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF
It's a fact: moving is stressful. And whenever you know you're going to encounter a more-stressful-than-normal experience, it's a good idea to give yourself a little extra love, care, and attention. If possible, amp up whatever self-love practices you have in your life and mark time on your schedule to do the activities that make you feel the most relaxed. During a busy time, like a move, dedicating extra time for self-love activities might not feel super productive, but, trust me, the hour or two you give yourself will help you feel less stressed and make whatever difficulties you encounter easier to conquer. And if you do encounter challenges, try a relaxing breathing technique — breathe in four seconds, hold it for seven, breathe out for eight — to help combat the emotions that arise during a stressful situation.
MAKE IT YOURS
Moving day is such a stress-filled day, but one of the best things you can do for your emotional state is to do something that makes the new place feel like home. Whether it's hanging up a favorite photo, making up your bed, or arranging your favorite items on a shelf, try to do at least one little thing on your first day to make the place feel like yours. Living in a new spot is always a little unsettling at first, especially when boxes are stacked all around you, so doing even one small thing to make it feel like home can make a big difference in your mindset. It can also serve as a reminder that home isn't about a specific place, but about how you feel when you're in that place.
If you're going through a move, I hope these tips inspire you to feel a little less stressed. It's never an easy thing to do, particularly if you've been settled in one place for awhile and, like me, don't love change, but the more you strive to keep calm, stay centered, and aim to be positive, the easier even the most challenging move will be.