Mindfulness (12)

One of the joys of mindfulness is that you can do it anywhere! You don’t need to sit in silence for hours, chant mantras, or even close your eyes. Mindfulness means bringing your attention to the present moment and keeping your feet and your mind in the same spot, not distracted by memories of the past or anxieties about the future.

Right here, right now.

Here are some great mindfulness hacks you can use to stay present and grounded no matter where you are.

  1. Breathe!

You can use the 3 Breaths technique to anchor your awareness firmly in the present. It’s so easy you can do it right now as you’re reading this. Pay attention to your breathing – breathe in slowly; follow your breath. Feel your diaphragm moving in and out. Slowly breathe out, again paying attention to the movement of your breath. Can you feel a subtle energy shift, a calm peacefulness? That is how mindfulness feels.

You can be mindful anywhere at any time, and no one will know that you are practicing mindfulness.4460037788?profile=RESIZE_400x

  1. Check-in with your senses

If you’re finding it hard to access your inner peace or you find your mind is distracted, keep at it. Make a conscious decision to focus your awareness on what you can see, feel, hear, smell, and taste. With practice, this will ground you in the present moment anytime you feel stressed or harried.

  1. Seize opportunities

An opportunity to practice mindfulness is in every moment. It’s especially useful to use times where you might feel frustrated and impatient, like waiting in line or while you’re stuck in traffic. Let the breath breathe you—don’t control it. In no time, your frustration will start to pass.

  1. Use mindfulness to create space

No matter how busy you are, you can use mindfulness as a stealth tactic to build some more space into your day. When sending an email, take the time to focus your breathing, then reread the email and decide if you want to send it. When walking, watch your diaphragm, notice the horizon, the trees, flowers, and other people enjoying the day.  Engage passers-by with a smile and see their reactions.

Choose to ignore or switch off all your devices for a while. When having a  conversation instead of jumping in with a reactive response, really listen. This is done by giving the other person your full attention and respect, and you’ll have a more meaningful and productive conversation.

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Debunking 5 Mindfulness Myths

You’ve probably noticed there’s a lot of discussions right now about mindfulness in magazines and across social media. Mindfulness and its partner mediation have been shown to have a wide range of social and health benefits. But there are also a lot of mindfulness myths that are worth detangling.

Here are some of the most prevalent mindfulness myths.4459452401?profile=RESIZE_400x

  1. Mindfulness is just for meditation

Mindfulness can be practiced everywhere and at any time. It is simply turning the mind’s attention to what is happening in the present moment, whether you’re walking along the street, preparing a meal, or sitting on your cushion practicing meditation. Mindfulness is quieting the chatter in your mind, bringing your attention back to the experience of living in the moment, its sounds, sights, smells, and feelings.

  1. Mindfulness is easy

Mindfulness is a simple concept, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy! We are so focused on getting things done, being available 24/7, and keeping track of our busy lives. Actively choosing to slow things down and simplify your life can be quite a challenge.

Sometimes mindfulness is easy, sometimes it’s not, depending on what is going on in your life. But like any exercise or practice, the more you do it, the easier it becomes.

  1. Mindfulness conflicts with certain religions

Although the concept of mindfulness derives from Buddhist teachings, it is not a religious practice or connected to a particular belief system. These days mindfulness is seen as a useful technique for taking control of your life, reducing stress, and building resilience.

  1. Mindfulness is passive

Mindfulness is more than positive thinking and can be far from passive. Mindfulness is actively engaging in the present moment. As well as leading to significant calmness, it can be a useful way of problem-solving. When your mind is calm and focused, it is much better at coming up with considered and innovative solutions to problems. 

  1. Mindfulness is always joyous

Just as life is not always joyous, neither is mindfulness. If your present moment includes arguing with your children, being in pain, or dealing with other stressful situations, focusing on that moment will not be pleasant. While mindfulness will not turn you into a Pollyanna or ensure that all your life events are full of joy, it can help you deal with whatever is in front of you right now.

When you’re attuned to mindfulness, you are less likely to bring the wounds of the past and the anxieties of the future to what is happening in the present moment. So, you’re less likely to over-react or be triggered, because you are more in control of how you respond to pain or conflict.

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Your mind is one of your most valuable assets. It has the final say in the workings of your body and your daily habits. That being said, the mind can make or break itself.

Some habits can damage your mind. These practices will have you forgetting little things, zoning out, and unable to focus. If you find yourself engaging in even one of these habits, beware. Your mind may not age well with you!4280469962?profile=RESIZE_710x

Not Getting Enough Sleep

When was the last time you woke up feeling refreshed? Some people can’t even remember what that feels like. If you can’t either, it’s time for a change. Sleep is a critical time for your mind. During the night, your brain does maintenance tasks and files things away into your long-term memory.

Some people struggle with sleep because they don’t have a nighttime routine. You need to pick a time that works for you and shut down all the screens. Blue light interferes with sleep. Read a book and make some sleepy time tea, maybe put on some relaxing music.

Know that it always takes a little while to fall asleep, so don’t stress. When you have trouble getting to sleep at a good time, keep trying. You need consistency to program your biological clock to fall asleep at a time that works for you.

Spending too Much Time Alone

According to WebMD.com, what matters is a real sense of connection to others. People who have that with even just a few close friends are happier and more productive. They’re also less likely to suffer from brain decline and Alzheimer’s.

So, if you don’t get out enough, pick up the phone and reconnect with a friend or family member. Schedule some dance lessons. There are no wrong answers; just get yourself out there!

Sitting Around Eating Chips

If you think this is a no-brainer, imagine how many people’s plans tonight involve doing this exact thing. It’s a double whammy of bad; inactivity and junk food both hurt your mind. Think of food as your fuel. If you give your mind lousy fuel, it’s going to clog up.

Exercise is excellent for your body and mind. It lowers your blood pressure, increases oxygen flow to your brain, and releases endorphins, which make you feel good. Look into an exercise routine that works for you and your personal needs. You’ll be glad you did.

Not Getting Enough Light      

Science tells us that the sun gives you vitamin D. Your mind well tell you the sun simply makes it happy. People who stay in the dark too often may not realize the damage they are doing to their brains. Especially if you suffer from depression, consider getting more natural light during the day.

You can go out for a walk during lunch, open windows more often, or get active. Find ways to sneak the sun into your day, and don’t forget to apply sunscreen for prolonged exposure! Find a high SPF and apply 15 minutes before going out into the sun.

Smoking         

Are you out here smoking in 2020? The science is in. It’s really bad for you. The small amount of focus a cigarette might give you just isn’t worth it.        

It should be unsurprising that, over time, cigarettes have proven to be bad for your mind. They make your memory worse, and, according to WebMD.com, cigarettes make you twice as likely to get dementia in old age. So, quit! Suck on Life Savors and use the patch if you need to. Even your wallet will thank you.

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If you can’t seem to focus, you probably suffer many frustrations. You may be forgetful, clumsy, and unable to turn in work on time. If made into a lifestyle, these quirks could do a number on your professional and even social life. The good news is that there are things you can do to increase focus and concentration.

Get Up and Go

Starting your day with a workout is a great way to kick start improved focus for the day. You don’t need to pump iron for three hours, though. Just get your heart rate up for twenty minutes. Exercise will also wake you up, and you may find that you don’t need to rely so much on that morning coffee anymore.

If you don’t like the treadmill, you are far from alone. Go for a bike ride, swim, or challenge a friend to a game of racquetball. These low impact physical activities are great cardio. You can even pair a nice sunrise bike ride with listening to a book or podcast—what a way to start the day.

Meditation and Yoga

A lack of focus is a lack of mindfulness. If you practice being mindful, you will become more focused. Learning to quiet your mind and focus on your breath or a lit candle for a few minutes at a time will relax you and make you more present. You will get better the more you do it.

Yoga is similar to meditation in that it is a practice of mindfulness, but it is also a practice of stretching the body. Yoga will increase your focus because it forces you to focus on your body and posture. Not only will you be flexing your focus muscles, but you will learn how to bend and hold your body in new and healthier ways.4276944647?profile=RESIZE_710x

Get Outside

In a study published online in the Journal of Attention Disorders, researchers at the University of Illinois led children diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) through three different environments: a city park and two other less “green” urban settings. They measured an increase in attention after a 20-minute walk in the park.

It’s unknown why but spending time outside increases your focus. It also gives your brain more vitamin D, which helps it function better. So, get out there! But don’t forget to apply sunscreen 15 minutes before sun exposure.

Eat Fat!

The human brain is made up of a lot of fat. However, there is good fat and bad fat. Good fats include monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. Examples of foods containing these fats are nuts, avocados, eggs, and coconut oil. Bad fats are industrial made trans fats. These are found in most candies and dessert foods.

Jam Out

You may remember the fad in which mothers played Mozart to their developing child. Music can increase focus and concentration, but the fact is that it doesn’t have to be pretentious. Electronic music can also do the trick as well as ambient sounds. The music just has to be free of distracting vocals.

So next time you’re feeling distracted at the office put on some headphones and jam out to some music for increased concentration.

Don’t Multitask

You might be better at multitasking than others, sure. However, the fact remains that if you’re focused on many tasks at once, your real focus is on none of them. If you’re skeptical, think about your computer and how it runs slower, the more tasks you give it. If you do one download at a time, rather than many downloads all at once, your computer will finish the tasks quicker.

It’s the same with your work. You will be more present and efficient with it if you focus on doing one task at a time.

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Tips To Stay Positive

Most of us can agree that positive thinking is important. It tends to make us feel better, be more productive and reduces stress.

The problem is, our lives aren't always rosy. Crises happen - be it on a personal level or something more widespread.

That reality is a part of everyone's life, and it makes keeping your spirits up tough4158416881?profile=RESIZE_710x

If you are struggling to stay positive and hopeful when going through tough times, try following these nine tips:

  1. Don't Put Your Head in the Sand

No matter what you are dealing with, ignoring it is rarely the answer. While ignoring problems might feel good in the short-term, it will sap your long-term positivity. Plus, many of the other tips listed here require you to acknowledge your circumstances first.

  1. This Too Shall Pass

When you are in the midst of a crisis, it is nearly impossible to keep things in perspective. That said, you need to recognize that your circumstances are temporary. Things might seem dire at the moment, but try your best to remember that "this too shall pass."

  1. Make a Plan

The simplest thing you can do to maintain positivity during tough times is to make a plan on how to deal with it. When you focus on the solution rather than the problem, you will naturally feel more positive. You will feel like you are rising to the challenge.

  1. Think About the Things You are Grateful For

Even during great personal turmoil, you still have things you are grateful for. When things get tough, it is vital to remember that there is good in the world, and more importantly, in your life. When you are struggling, take some time to list the things in your life you are grateful for.

  1. Reach Out for Support

Support in and support out! Reach out to loved ones and offer your support. Reach out if you need assistance too. When things are dire, it is always reaffirming when people pull together and help each other.

  1. Take a Break

Sometimes our circumstances are so dire that we are forced to think about our problems constantly. It is OK to take a break. You can take a break from the news, social media, or other people. It might not be easy but taking a break from external stimuli can help keep you positive.

  1. Journal Your Feelings

Journaling is a powerful tool in so many ways. By simply giving you a place to express your fears and concerns, a journal helps you maintain positivity outside of its pages. Experience how good it feels to vent to a friend. Well, consider your journal as your best friend.

  1. Focus on Things You Can Control

When your world seems to be is spinning out of control, you may feel helpless. One way to address this and stay more positive is to focus on the things you can control. Instead of fretting about things out of your control, focus on making sure you do your best job on the things you can control. 

  1. Embrace Distractions

Distractions are usually the worst. We are often trying to learn how to avoid or deal with them. They aren't that bad when you are struggling to stay positive in tough times, though. No matter how silly they seem, you should embrace distractions that bring you joy in tumultuous times.

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Some days, no matter how focused you are, it's hard not to get distracted. Life can sometimes get in the way of meeting your goals, but it doesn't have to derail you. Here are five tips to stay on track, no matter what else is happening around you.4001610944?profile=RESIZE_710x

  1. Get Organized

It's easier to focus if you're not distracted by the small, daily tasks. Commit to a nightly practice of preparing for the next day and deciding what to wear, what to have for lunch, and the other necessary things that are part of your routine. Have your gym bag ready and packed so you can pick it up and go.

It can help to get organized for your week on a Sunday evening. For example, have all your work clothes clean and pressed and ready to wear. You might even consider a minimalist work wardrobe of similar garments to mix and match. You can also bulk cook and freeze meals so that you don't even think about suppers during the week.

  1. Do the Tough Things First

You can free up a lot of mental energy by putting the difficult tasks and decisions at the top of your to-do list. Do the hardest tasks when your brain is still fresh first thing in the morning, then you can approach your day without the nagging dread at the back of your mind.

  1. Keep Your Energy High

You might be surprised to hear that fatigue can be a distraction. If your energy is low, you won't be performing at your best, so make sure you take regular breaks. Get out of your workspace and get some fresh air. Eat your lunch in the park and give your eyes a break from looking at a screen. Eat lots of fresh foods and stay hydrated by keeping water on your desk.

  1. Manage Your Priorities

Chances are, many of the requests you get during the day don't deserve to be your top priority and can distract you from your core goals. Instead of responding straight away, decide on how urgent the request is in the bigger scheme of things. Do you need to answer that email now? Learn to prioritize requests and respond accordingly.

  1. Keep Your Eye on the Prize

With all the distractions in modern life that it can be easy to lose sight of what you want to achieve. Whether it's a dream board, a mission statement, or a post-it note on your computer, have a visual reminder of where you are heading. Check-in every day to see how you're tracking and make sure you keep a line of sight on your big goal.

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Our daily lives, for the most part, are controlled by the habits that we have developed over our lifetime. Many times we don’t realize that the behaviors that we exhibit are habits, because they have become automatic and intentional. A lot of patterns that we have are unconscious actions that automate the more mundane tasks that we have throughout the day. Many of them start at the time that we wake up and continue until we finally fall asleep.3951348569?profile=RESIZE_710x

Research suggests that up to 40% of our daily routine is habitual. From brushing our teeth to the way, we make our coffee, from the routes that we take to and from work, to the way that we organize our desks. All of this has become an intentional, automatic function of our daily lives.

Habits are formed through learning. Often time, an action follows a cue. The alarm clock sounds, we hit snooze. We come home, put our things down, walk to the refrigerator for a bottle of water. We become rigid in this type of routine. When this rigidity is met with uncertainty, it creates a little chaos, so we make sure that this rigidity is always defined.

If going to the same store every morning means we get that particular bagel, then we do not need to worry about what we are going to eat for breakfast. If we go to that store enough to realize that the bagel is always there at 8:15 in the morning, then we train ourselves to be at that store at 8:15 in the morning.

This daily routine of going to the store over time becomes a habit. We know that we will get what we want when we want it, it becomes a process that has become automatic. A lot of times, habits form to reduce the number of decisions we need to make. According to Vincent Carlos, in an article titled, Why So Many Successful People Wear the Same Outfit Every Day,

“every decision you make uses up your mental energy. Just the simple act of thinking about whether you should choose A or B will tire you out and reduce your brainpower. This means that the more decisions you have to make throughout the day, the weaker your decision-making process will become.”

In this article, Carlos goes on to say that successful people like Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerburg, and others have automated specific tasks throughout their days, to reduce the number of decisions that they need to make during the day. This behavior, although with a specific end-goal in mind, is a habit that was consciously developed.

Our habits define us. They control a large portion of our day.

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4 Ways To Stay Mentally Fit

While taking care of everyone and everything else, do we put our needs aside? It’s easy not to pay attention to what we eat or how we stimulate our brains, which is a necessity that’s usually always minimized. The question is how to stay mentally fit?

Our bodies require exercise to stay fit and youthful, our brains also need a good daily workout to ensure that our brain cells remain healthy and vibrant well into our golden years. Feeling proactive about your health and taking things into your own hands can mean the difference between aging gracefully and wither away.

Staying mentally healthy enables us to remain attentive, efficiently manage our relationships, and deal with challenges and stress. It also helps you connect with who you are as a person and allow you to take pride in yourself and your abilities.3201160562?profile=RESIZE_710x

Read on for 4 ideas on how to keep your mind stimulated:

1. Search for knowledge

Numerous studies show the relationship between the amount of knowledge you surround yourself with and the wellness of your cognitive functions.

Nowadays, information can be retrieved with the touch of a button, allowing you to immerse yourself in an ocean of books, podcasts, articles, and even mentally stimulating games, such as jigsaw puzzles, Sudoku, crossword puzzles, word searches, and a wide range of others.

When you learn something new or engage in any mental activity, you build new neural pathways in the brain, and the more connections each of our neurons have with other neurons, the more conscious it is.

2. Form healthy habits

Even the task of writing down your goals helps you stay mentally fit. It gives you something to plan and anticipate. It also keeps you engaged in something that boosts your brain cells while giving your emotions an outlet.

Schedule something new to try every month, like a new hobby or new exercise routine.

Challenge yourself to read a different book or eat at a new restaurant now and then.

These tasks keep your mind on alert, mainly because you’re engaging in the process of learning, and, also, because you’re stepping out of your comfort zone. All these factors help boost concentration levels, as well as your confidence in your abilities to try new things and meet new people.

3. Exercise, preferably outdoors

Regular exercise releases ‘feel good hormones’ into your bloodstream, boosting your mood, and elevating memory and concentration levels.

Mixing up workout styles or trying out a new jogging route helps form new patterns in your brain, which mean more neural pathways, and less cognitive decline. To make the most of exercising, try taking your workout to the nearest park where you can connect more with nature, breathe in some fresh air, and get a healthy dose of vitamin-D.

Vitamin-D is known for its ability to prevent depression. Plus, any physical activity helps eliminate brain fog, boost energy levels, and alleviate stress.

4. Manage stress

We all deal with stress and anxiety daily. But when cortisol (the stress hormone) levels are left unchecked, they start messing with your overall wellbeing. That’s why it’s smart to invest a few minutes each day in releasing that negative tension built up by stress. You can do this through meditating, practicing mindfulness, yoga, or prayer.

Therapy may be a way to stay mentally fit by expressing your emotions in a constructive, nonjudgmental environment that allows you to set time aside for your needs. Whichever medium you prefer, the aim is to improve your state of mind while gaining a sense of serenity and control over your emotions and mental happiness.

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If you think that minimalism is all about throwing your stuff away and counting pennies, then you must think again. Adopting a minimalist lifestyle is fundamentally about changing your mindset, about working out what your real values are and living in tune with them Freeing yourself from society’s consumerist expectations is one aspect of minimalism, but here are five reasons you should consider incorporating minimalism into your life.

  1. Minimalism frees you the need to impress

Minimalism means you can step aside from the hamster wheel of always having to look successful, having the latest brands or models of gadgets, smartphones, and clothes. You waste loads of energy trying to get ahead, looking for the next promotion, working 80-hour weeks and juggling all those obligations. You could put all that energy into things you genuinely love and care about instead.

  1. A minimalist life can save you money

Once you’ve decluttered your house, especially your closet, you’re much less inclined to welcome in more stuff. Minimalism encourages you to distinguish between needs and wants. “Needs” are things that help you reach your goals/purpose in life.  Those impulse buys or the bargains that you never use, or wear become much less attractive.

  1. Minimalism can lead to a healthier you

Moving to a simpler lifestyle can have some unexpected health payoffs. Minimalists find they tend to eat better, exercise more, have better sleeping habits, and generally have less stress in their lives.

Rejecting the demands of a materialist society means you are more likely to prioritize and make time for healthy activities like hiking, running, yoga, or mediation. All of which leads to losing weight, lower blood pressure, and a healthier, happier you.

  1. Your relationships will improve

Minimalism has the potential to make you a better person! The process of re-evaluating your life and behavior makes you focus on what’s important to you and your family. Practicing minimalism virtually forces you to sit down and talk about values and how to live an authentic life.

Understanding what makes you happy gives you a different perspective on the world. If you no longer focus on creating a good impression, you are more inclined to slow down, really listen to people and be more empathic. You think before you speak and you’re more respectful of other people.

  1. You’ll be more confident

Having done the work to begin a minimalist lifestyle, you’ll realize you are a work in progress. You’ll stop being so hard on yourself (and others) and be more comfortable with imperfection. Minimalism leads to a more authentic, more self-assured you!

 
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We are going to examine how being mindful benefits your emotional health. Mindfulness is the art of tuning into your emotional state of being. It’s becoming aware of yourself, and particularly your emotions. You might think that you are already in-tune with your emotional states, but are you?

Do you recognize when you have experienced an emotion? Or do you realize when you are experiencing a feeling? There is a difference. The first way is past recognition and the second present recognition. Most people are guilty of the former, although they believe they are doing the later.

Being able to decern the difference is what mindfulness of your emotional states is all about. Being emotionally healthy is the ability to recognize your current or present emotional experience. When you intentionally identify what your current emotional state is, you can experience significant improvements in psychological health.

If emotional health is something you want to improve, below are some of the benefits of mindfulness.

Experience Full Emotions

When you practice mindfulness around our emotions, you learn to experience your emotions at their fullest expression.  

Suppose you are sitting around a table during the holidays with your closest friends and family.  There is delicious tasting food packed on every last inch of the table. There is a sweet and pleasant smell in the air. The sound of laughter and conversation is bouncing off the walls. At that moment, you notice a warm glow deep inside your chest. 

What if you were able to identify this warm deep glow inside of you as joy and love in the present moment? Not after the fact—when you reminisced about this memory—but in the present when it occurs.

When you’re mindful about emotions at the moment you are experiencing them; you can also cultivate the feeling and allow it to develop into its fullest expression. You can experience the joy and love to its fullest.

Allowing your emotions to express themselves to their fullest does wonders for your emotional health. It’s much like allowing your body to experience the fullest expression of physical motion, which is good for your physical health. Mindfulness helps you exercise your emotions to their full expression.

Experience a Complexity of Emotions

When you practice mindfulness of your emotions, it also enables you to experience the entire complex array of emotions that you possess.

When you are at the mercy of your emotions—meaning that your feelings occur to you and are entirely outside your control—you will often notice that the same few emotions seem always to be present. You will tend to have a “top tier” set of emotions that seem to dominate the others. They can dominate so much that you soon never see any other emotion surface.

When a few emotions dominate over the rest, it’s not a healthy way to live. Just as going to the gym and only working your calves and biceps creates an imbalance in your musculature, merely expressing a few emotions creates an imbalance in your emotional health.

When you practice mindfulness, you develop the ability to cue into different emotions you possess intentionally. You can experience a wider variety of emotions because you deliberately seek out new emotions and identify them when they occur. Being mindful benefits emotional health and leads to a more balanced and exciting emotional state.

Experience the Right Emotion

Finally, practicing mindfulness helps you experience the right emotion for the situation.  When you are not mindful of your emotional state, a feeling that is not well suited for the occasion might present itself.

A very hurtful and sad experience can happen to you, for example, and anger boils up in you. If you don’t practice mindfulness, you might unconsciously experience this emotion and therefore display a behavior that is not well-suited for the situation. Using anger can lead you to experience more distress, anxiety, and pain.

A person adept at practicing mindfulness, on the other hand, would be able to identify the current emotions they are experiencing and determine whether or not they need to pivot and access a different feeling that would be more effective for the situation. Mindfulness applied in this manner allows you to function in a healthier emotional space. 

Being mindful benefits emotional health, and the reward it brings is a state of wellbeing. It is your choice to be aware of your emotions and experience all that life has to offer or react to your feelings and put yourself in a cage.

Image by John Hain from Pixabay

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