10 Tips for Mindful Living

You may have heard the term “mindfulness” as a helpful practice for stress management and overall health. But what is mindfulness, really? Quite simply, it’s “a mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment.”

Here are 10 simple ideas to help you be a little more “in the moment” and bring a more mindful approach to your day.

1. Tap into your senses.

Life is busy, and at any given moment, your mind can start racing and leave you feeling overwhelmed.  Pause and re-set yourself to be truly present by using your five senses.  What do you see, hear, smell, touch, and taste? Speaking of taste, meal time is a great opportunity to practice this skill.  Instead of chowing down in a rush or multi-tasking while eating, sit down and savour your food.

2. Take a break from your phone.

The binging and buzzing of your phone’s constant notifications can have a distracting effect and take you out of the moment. Set your phone aside or activate the “do not disturb” feature during key family interactions such as dinner or bedtime. Experiment with taking a day off from social media — you’ll likely discover you didn’t miss anything significant.

3. Be attentive.

When someone is talking to you, make an effort to be an active listener. Don’t be the type of person who is only partially engaged and says “mm-hmm” absent-mindedly.  If you are in the middle of something, politely ask the person to temporarily pause their story, then resume the conversation once you’re able to give them your full attention.

4. Remember to breathe.

There’s a reason why “take a deep breath” is common advice in stressful situations. You may not have time for an hour-long yoga class, but a few calming breaths can go a long way. If you’re a parent, the perfect time to try this is once your children are safely buckled in your parked car.  Close the door and take 10 seconds to breathe and regroup before you get in.

5. “SNAP” your way out of it.

If deep breaths aren’t enough to ease your tension, try this four-step process from mindfulness expert and author Julie Potiker. She came up with the “SNAP” acronym to help manage stress on the spot. Her suggested sequence goes as follows:

  • S for Soothing touch – place your hand over your heart as a calming action and a physical signal to pause.
  • N for Name the emotion – clearly identify the emotion you’re experiencing.
  • A for Act – ask yourself “What do I need right now?” Then, select an appropriate strategy (such as deep breathing or visualizing a “happy place”) to compose yourself.
  • P for Praise – support yourself the way you would with a friend, with encouragement and compassion.

6. Be actively grateful.

It’s easy to get caught up in our never-ending to-do lists and take things for granted. Stay in the moment and say a genuine “thank you” to the people you interact with. At the end of the day, challenge yourself to identify something (big or small) that you are grateful for. Keeping a “gratitude journal” is great if you’re keen, but this step can be as simple as counting your blessings as you brush your teeth before bed.

7. Check in with yourself.

Look inside yourself for a quick “mood weather report.” Are you feeling cloudy and dreary, or bright and sunny?  Maybe it’s a mix of sun and cloud?  Be honest about anything that might be bothering you. Are you nervous, worried, or stressed about something? If possible, address the core issue so you can feel calmer and more centred.

8. Try an app.

Meditation can be a helpful tool in enhancing mindfulness, but the overall concept of meditation can be intimidating. If you aren’t sure how to begin, try downloading an app like Headspace or Calm. They each offer a free trial and have many user-friendly options for meditation rookies.

9. Do something active.

Have you ever heard the saying “movement is meditation”? You can enhance all aspects of your health by incorporating some physical activity into your day. At lunch, do a walking errand and bring along your headphones to enjoy music, a podcast, or a quick phone call with a friend. In the evening, invite the whole family for an after-dinner walk. It is a good time to connect and wind down for the evening rather than focusing on screens.

10. Ask your kids. 

Mindfulness is a popular topic in schools, so your kids may have some insights or techniques to share. Some schools even have “mindfulness clubs” that incorporate calming activities like crafts and colouring. Start a discussion at home and brainstorm ways to improve your mindfulness efforts as a family. You’ll all benefit from taking a more mindful approach to each day. Remember, mindfulness is not something you achieve and it’s over. It’s a daily practice that takes consistent effort. Start small and choose one habit that sounds do-able for you, then work your way forward from there. In mindfulness, any progress is good progress!