Updated: Mar 16, 2022
Mindful living is about living with awareness in the present moment. It involves being conscious of the world we live in and the impact of our daily decisions on ourselves, our families, society, and the environment. Choosing to live a mindful life is an active decision. It is a conscious effort to disconnect ourselves from the “rat race” and take the time (and mental energy) to identify our values and then align our choices to prioritize those values. It combines seemingly tiny changes in our daily lives to add up to significant changes in our lifestyle over time.
One of the most noticeable factors when you start living more mindfully, is a change in consumption habits. As soon as you begin to practice mindful living, you will be more aware of how and with who you are spending your time, what you eat, what you consider essential and how it affects your overall health and well-being. You may start to shift away from the material consumption of goods and choose to consume more moments and life experiences instead.
10 Ways to Practice Mindful Living
1. Practice Cognitive Diffusion
Cognitive diffusion means to view a thought for what it is instead of giving your thoughts too much weight. Your mind has the unique ability to create inner dialogue, solve problems, remember past experiences and plan for the future. These abilities enable you to endure and even thrive in the face of life’s many challenges and threats to survival.
Unfortunately, your mind is also prone to many unhelpful thought patterns, such as excessive worry about the future and rumination (i.e., stewing over the past). These unhelpful thoughts can lead to emotional suffering and interfere with planning, decision-making, and effective action. You might, for instance, criticize yourself over past mistakes. However, frequent self-criticism is likely to lead to rumination, depression, and unhelpful coping behaviors like emotional eating, substance use, and excessive risk avoidance due to fear of failure or rejection.
Cognitive diffusion can help by lessening the influence of unhelpful thoughts on our feelings and actions, as we learn to view thoughts as just thoughts (rather than facts or reality). This creates an opportunity to choose your responses mindfully and purposefully based on your core values and what is likely to be best for your future.
It’s important to understand that cognitive diffusion is not about getting rid of, controlling, or changing your thoughts. It’s about noticing your thoughts as they arise and seeing them for what they are. The next time you find yourself caught in a “thinking trap,” try treating your thoughts as background noise and continue to focus on whatever you are doing.
2. Remember your Values
In stressful circumstances, such as living through a pandemic, it is common to lose touch with your core values while coping with current hardships. Unfortunately, disconnecting from your values usually leads to more stress and unhealthy lifestyle habits that only offer temporary relief. Things like being sedentary and Netflix binges, emotional eating, substance use, and social isolation create a trap that you feel you can not escape from. If you find yourself falling into this trap, it can be helpful to clarify and reflect on your values, as you might discover new ways to live a rich and meaningful life while still dealing with stressful life events.
First, it is important to clarify what areas of life are most important to you. Is it your family, work, religion, self-care education, community, or the environment? Once you have established what you value the most, try to positively enforce those areas by being more caring, disciplined, supportive, fun-loving, patient, persistent, courageous, knowledgeable, and generous. In most cases, when you decide to live more mindfully, you will find that your values will include spending time with friends and family and enjoying the outdoors while focusing less on the consumption of material possessions.
3. Focus on your eating habits
To live mindfully, you need to be aware of the food you are putting into your body. And that means you will have to invest in cooking healthy homemade meals regularly (1). Stressful jobs and children to take care of might make you feel like it is impossible to establish good eating habits. It is okay to notice the resistance in your body to cooking meals when you are tired. Allow yourself to feel the resistance and cook a healthy meal anyway.
While cooking is an integral part of mindful living, so is eating your meal. Do not just gulp down your food while watching a show. Notice how your food tastes instead and enjoy every bite, while spending time with your family.
4. Improve your Posture and be Present in the Moment
Do you look at the ground when you walk outside? To experience mindful living, you will need to change the direction of your gaze when going for a walk. Stop for a moment and look up to the sky. Notice the birds flying by, the sounds around you, what you smell and feel. Take an upright posture and straighten your body. Be open to experiencing the beauty life has to offer.
5. Listen to Others and Recognize how you Communicate
While listening to someone else speak, are you sometimes already coming up with the best thing to say before the person even finished speaking? It happens to all of us. The truth is our thoughts race so fast that they are hard to ignore. But part of mindful living is to focus on the present moment. If someone is speaking to you, rather than coming up with the right words to respond with, focus on just hearing their words and listening to them.
In periods of stress or heightened emotions, we tend to communicate poorly. How do you react when you do not like what someone is saying? We stray away from mindful living when we respond instead of pausing and listening. However, to live mindfully, we need to become aware of how we communicate in tense situations. Sometimes you might give a sharp response when you are tired. Or a state of panic might cause you to overreact. Communication isn’t simply about saying what needs to be said. It is also about being aware of how those words come across to others. Be mindful of that and change your tone when you realize you are not communicating in a positive tone.
6. Change Your Habits
Ask yourself if the habits you have are good or bad habits. The content we consume daily through media resources shapes how we view the world. If you watch drama shows, you might inject some of that drama into your relationships unnecessarily. Watching the news constantly might lead you to judge others harshly and feel negative all the time. It is crucial to try and consume positive media content every chance you get. You will find that you will become more compassionate and kinder towards others while thinking more positively about the world we live in.
7. Practice Meditation
You might want to take up a regular meditation practice to live a mindful live. Because your mind often races at 200km per hour during the day and sometimes also at night, it makes sense to teach your brain to become calm and focus on one thing at a time. It helps you to become aware of your thoughts. Stop and think your thoughts through each day. Use different strategies like a mantra, bible verse, prayer, image or focused breathing techniques to help your mind focus and be calm.
8. Appreciate Those Around You
Mindful living involves noticing the people in your life. Try not to compare yourself and your family situation to other families. Your goal should not be to be better than those around you. Instead, focus on being better than who you were ten years ago, a year ago, or even yesterday. Every day spend some time praising someone. You could do this by telling a friend how amazing they are or by praising a co-worker’s talents. Leave a note in your spouse or children’s lunch box telling them that you love and appreciate them. By showing appreciation to others, you will notice that your life will become more positive.
9. Accept the things that are out of your control
There are things in life, like your reactions and actions, that you have control over. However, some things are entirely out of your control. The COVID 19 pandemic has shown just how certain things in life cannot be controlled by us at all. It is important to remember that even though you can not control what happens to you, you can control how you react to it. When things are going well, put out as much good into the world as you can. Make life easier and better for those who are struggling. On the other hand, when things aren’t going well for you, allow them to happen with minimal resistance. Sometimes bad things lead to the construction of a better and stronger you.
10. Pause and Reflect
Lastly, take the time to pause and reflect. Throughout your day, take some time to pause on how you are spending your day. Are you having a positive or a negative impact on the people around you? Living a mindful life doesn’t happen overnight. It is a conscious decision that takes time to develop.
Start today by making minor changes in your life. You can do acts of kindness, you can let go of pain, show appreciation to others, or meditate. Unlearning old habits and developing new ones takes patient effort. Meditate on your habits every day and make a conscious decision to change the bad habits into good ones one at a time.
Listen to our Podcast on Mindfulness today!
1. Mindful Living: 16 Ways to Live Mindfully in 2021 .... https://declutterthemind.com/blog/mindful-living/
2. What is mindful living. — Seek United. https://www.seekunited.org/mindful-living
3. Empowering You to Live Better during the COVID-19 Crisis .... https://mindfullivingcentre.ca/coping-with-covid-part1/
4. 3 Ways to Live a Mindful Life - Mindful. https://www.mindful.org/3-ways-to-live-a-mindful-life/
5. Meditation - Dr Daniela Steyn : https://www.wellnessmdhealth.com/post/meditation