Achieving mindfulness can best be defined as the act of being fully present and staying in the moment. It involves releasing thoughts of the past and fears of the future and, instead, existing in the here and now. It means being grounded in your current time, concentrating on the world around you as it is, and controlling your thoughts to stay with you where you are.
Being mindful can seem simple and difficult to try and practice. As a concept, it doesn’t sound complicated, but learning to fully dictate how your mind moves is more difficult than it sounds. For some, it may even seem like a fantasy! But with the myriad scientifically backed physical and mental benefits for mindfulness, it’s a practice to add to your life.
So what is it like to be aware? Here are 10 effective ways to achieve full attention that will help you answer that question.
1. Let yourself daydream
Daydreaming isn’t just fun and relaxing, it’s healthy too. It means that even when you are not involved in serious task, you are thinking, moving, and flexing your creativity muscles. Research has seen many positive effects of daydreaming, and one of the lesser known benefits is how it can aid mindfulness.
The act of having a “busy” brain, or a brain that is almost always involved in something interesting, is believed to help alter the consciousness of your mind. Your brain is wandering, as brains naturally do, and you realize that. You let the brain go where it pleases, and then, when you need it, you bring it back to the present without judgment. That’s a good first step toward mindfulness, on its own!
Your senses are what connect you to the present, which is a key aspect of mindfulness. Learning to engage your senses to stay grounded in the present moment is a great way to start learning mindfulness.
This is because when your thoughts control you and you get lost in them, you probably don’t pay much attention to your senses. Here are some ideas on how to start getting more in touch with all of those things today:
The sense of sound
Listen to sounds in your home that you don’t usually pay attention to, like the hum of a fan. Appreciate the subtle instrumentation of your favorite songs. Listen to the clink of dishes as you wash them.
· The sense of sight
Observe and appreciate the colors and shapes of the objects you interact with every day, such as your phone or a cup of coffee. Notice the details in the patterns of the elements around you. Take a closer look at the people in the background of TV shows and movies.
The sense of smell
Aspire, and I love the aroma of your tea or coffee. Guess the underlying notes of your soaps, shampoos, and lotions. When you go through the stores, take note of each smell that they emit.
Pay close attention to the different flavors of the food you eat. Observe the strength of your toothpaste and mouthwash. Chew gum to engage your taste buds when feeling cut off from the world.
The sense of touch
Notice the textures of the clothing you wear and the objects you interact with on a daily basis, such as your computer mouse or sheets. Feel the different textures of the ground under your feet and shoes as the day progresses. Notice how the water feels when you wash your hands and how the soap changes the feeling.
3. Eat mindfully
Many people eat distracted. Could:
- Check your phone
- Read the newspaper
- Watch TV shows or videos
- Pick up food quickly while thinking about your to-do list
- Work while you eat
- Participate in a constant conversation
While these seem fine, they actually get you into an autopilot mode which means you ignore what you eat. On a physical level, it means that you don’t realize you are full and may overeat. On a mental level, you are losing mindfulness.
Studies have shown many benefits for mindful eating and it can certainly help you become more mindful. Be present in their actions. When you eat, focus only on eating. When you drink, focus only on drinking, if possible.
This does not mean avoiding social interaction while eating or drinking, but it does mean putting the act of eating before everything else. Don’t try to do a million other things when you’re supposed to eat! Focus on the taste of the food, the amount, and even the texture. It’s an underrated type of mindfulness, and practice will come in handy when you really need to be mindful later.
4. Listen with all your heart
When someone is speaking, they may:
- Focus on what you are going to say next
- Make judgments about your words
- Get completely lost in your thoughts
- Think halfway through the things you need to do
- Be aware of your posture or appearance
These acts mean that you are without really listening to those who speak to you. Not only is it disrespectful, it is also bad for you if you are trying to be mindful.
So the next time you listen to someone, open your heart and mind to just listen with all your heart. Trust yourself to know what to say when it is your turn. Leave judgment at the door. Focus only on the words you hear and what they mean. The other person will feel more listened to and you will be perfecting your mindfulness.
5. Start small
Mindfulness doesn’t come naturally to everyone, and most people take the time to learn how to do it. So don’t be discouraged if you have trouble doing it at first. Start small and take small steps to achieve mindfulness.
Punishing yourself for not being good at being aware right away is completely counterproductive. Work on small things, one at a time, until each one feels natural to you and you can move on to the next challenge. There really are no shortcuts, so take your time and challenge yourself to achieve your mindfulness goals!
No matter how bad each day has gone, try to end each day with a positive thought by focusing on its best parts. Be grateful for all the little positive moments, even if they are as simple as having a nice cup of tea or smiling at someone on the train.
When you end your days in a positive way, you regain control of the crazy cycle of life and put it in your hands. No matter how your day has gone, your mindfulness allows you to have noticed its good sides and you can focus your energies on appreciating them rather than being caught up in the bad times.
7. Use your strengths
Using your strengths doesn’t just mean playing around with the things you’re good at. It also means turning negative moments into moments that highlight your abilities. Instead of assigning bad things to yourself, look at the good in the bad and focus on how to bring the positive out of the negative.
Here are some examples of how you can do this:
- When your mind wanders a lot, don’t focus on how hard it is to focus. Instead, focus on the creativity of your mind and how you can be aware of your ramblings.
- When you don’t like your perfectionism, think about how it can be used to make a good schedule that you can easily stick to because you want to meet your expectations.
- When you think negative things about your appearance, appreciate your humility and think about how helpful that humility would be if it were well placed, fair and accurate rather than hurtful and overly critical.
8. Get lost in the things you love
You probably have things that you are passionate about in your life. When you do those things, they are a great way to allow your mind to fully focus on those actions. It is an often overlooked form of mindfulness and is a wonderful way to begin practicing the concepts of mindfulness presence.
You don’t have to do anything great to achieve conscious passions. You can be:
Any of these options, and any other you can think of, works for this purpose, as long as you really enjoy doing them. Get lost in your actions, put aside your worries and fears, think of something positive and have fun!
9. Fill your waiting time
There are brief moments of respite that you will have in your daily life. For many people, waiting can be annoying, especially if you are waiting in traffic, in line, to get to your stop, or for an appointment.
Instead of considering this time boring and annoying, use it to practice mindfulness. You can easily get 10 minutes of effective yet unobtrusive mindfulness meditation while riding a train, or spend a few minutes grounded while waiting for your food order to arrive. You would be amazed at how much mindfulness practice you will get in one day if you use your “boring” time to participate in it!
10. Practice visualization
Visualization is an amazing practice. All you have to do is close your eyes and imagine something positive and pleasant. Can be:
- Going to your happy place
- Thinking of people or things you love
- Imagining your life goals
The most positive way to do this is probably by visualizing goals. This is because visualization is an incredibly powerful tool when it comes to achieving personal dreams and goals. In fact, studies indicate that visualization can have noticeable immediate self-actualizing effects and even stimulate you to take actions that allow you to reach your goals more quickly.
Achieving mindfulness can take time as you break the cycles and patterns that you have become used to for years. Just remember that you are in full control of your mind and can bring it back in control with impressive ease if you try! If you need help achieving mindfulness, there are many resources online to help you, and most mental health professionals can help you through the learning process as well.