It’s no fun to go around day to day feeling about a hundred thoughts swirling in your mind at the same time. Confusion, frustration, anger, negativity and fear can certainly put a damper on your mood. Over time, all that dense energy may even affect your health.

If you answered, "yes," to any of these questions, take heart! There are things you can learn to calm your mind down and enjoy some wonderful peace and quiet.

Mindful living is a good start.

 

Mindful Living: Chaos Sometimes Comes Before Clarity

Sometimes when you’re just about ready to experience a breakthrough or a new season of your life, confusion and chaos will show up.

Have you ever experienced that?

It’s like all mental heck breaks loose and you think you’re going to lose it. You’re thinking, “What did I do to deserve this?”

But then, as suddenly as the chaos started, it ends. You’ve broken through and you get to enjoy clarity and peace. Look back on your life and think about how you made it through so many things!

 

What Does Mindful Living Mean?

Mindful living simply means experiencing your life in a higher, more intentional state of awareness. You pay attention to more things. You are aware of your senses, your surroundings, your words, the people around you, etc. 

Mindfulness: "the practice of maintaining a nonjudgmental state of heightened or complete awareness of one's thoughts, emotions, or experiences on a moment-to-moment basis." - Merriam-Webster Dictionary 

This is part of where the calm comes from. By living mindfully, we are paying attention to the present moment. Much of our worry comes from anticipating what is to come, or regretting, re-thinking or being triggered by what has passed.

Anxiety often comes from the fear of what will happen, but of course we still worry about how we handled something, or what we will do if that something pops up again.

Part of overcoming stress, worries and anxiety is learning to see our thoughts as just that - thoughts. We don't have to attach meaning to all of them, especially the negative inner-voice ones.

Practicing living in the moment, and only paying attention to what is happening right now can give us some space from the weight of our worries. 

 

How Do I Start Living a Mindful Life?

There are many, many opinions on how best to start living a mindful life. At the end of the day though, it's really about a few key things:

Be more observant of what is going on around and within you.

Being more aware of everything will start to guide you toward areas of focus. If you find yourself coming back to the same thing over and over again, like a conversation, or a memory, or a task, write it down (More on this later), record it, and go back to the moment for now. 

When people talk to you, stop thinking and just listen to what they are saying. 

You will be surprised at what you learn when you listen without agenda. And then about how much everyone enjoys being heard. It will deepen your relationships, as well as provide understanding. 

Don't complicate things. Focus on one thing at a time. 

When you're out on a walk, look at the birds. Smell the air, laugh at your dog or partner, notice how the grass is starting to grow back. When other thoughts invade, go back to the beginning. No multitasking. Do one thing at a time and really focus on the experience. This is where enjoyment comes in! 

Carve out time every day for mindfulness practice. 

It doesn't have to be the same time, the same amount of time, or a long time. Just carve it out and protect it. Do it every day. 

Active Listening: What is it & 7 Techniques to Improve  Your Skills

 

 

The 7 Attitudinal Foundations of Mindfulness Practice

(from the book: Full Catastrophe Living, by Jon Kabat-Zinn, Ph.D.)

These are more to do specifically with mindfulness meditation, but for those of us who like structure around what we are doing, these serve well as areas to ponder and shape our experience. 

1. Non-Judging

While humans have certainly become good at judging everyone else, we still are most often our own worst critics. That ugly, negative voice in your head? That's probably some version of yourself, being hard on you.

Practicing mindfulness means you learn not to listen to that voice. Or at least - to listen without reacting. If you have the same thoughts popping up over and over again, yes, you need to get to the root of where it comes from, that you may overcome it.

But learning to be an observer, or just to witness and be aware of your thoughts is a powerful lesson in mindfulness. 

2. Patience

We often feel like we are just racing along at breakneck speed from one thing into the next - which is really the opposite of mindfulness. Why are we doing this? What are we working towards?

There is a saying that anything worth having is worth waiting for, and that requires our patience. We can't have everything as soon as we want it. We must give ourselves the space and time to improve, to grow, to practice. And, to believe that what we are working towards will happen in good time. 

Don't forget that most habits - good or bad - take time to build! 

3. Beginner's Mind

Think of how little kids react when they are learning about something new, or experiencing something for the first time. They are amazed, curious, ask lots of questions. Why? Because their minds are open to this new idea. They know nothing about it, and feel no issue or worry about being beginners.

This is the mindset for mindfulness. Too often, we get stuck in a rut of our own making because we think we know how things are. This can block us off from how we think things are vs. the reality of what they actually are.

Being open to life as though everything we do is for the first time again makes us more receptive to other perspectives - and you may be surprised at what you learn when you get the hang of it. 

4. Trust

For some reason, many of us have stopped trusting ourselves, our guts, our own feelings. Part of mindfulness is to regain that trust in ourselves, our own intuition and authority. We will make mistakes along the way, but if we trust our own selves and our ability to make decisions and accept accountability, we will be able to grow. 

5. Non-Striving

Meditating or practicing mindfulness is about being in the moment. There is no goal, no achievement, no medal waiting for you at the end. You don't have to do anything, other than be in the moment. It's about being yourself, and existing right now.

This is often why people have such a hard time practicing meditation - many of us simply don't know what to do when we have nothing to do but sit still. That's the point! Your goal is to be yourself.

Sit in the moment. Focus on yourself. How do you feel? What is your body telling you? How do you feel after you've shut everything else out? 

6. Acceptance

This one lies around the idea that we often try to deny things we just don't want to accept as real, or fact. We try to force things to be what we want, instead of what they are. We have to accept ourselves as we are in order to grow and change.

It's not about tolerating bad behavior, or not wanting to improve, rather just saying, "OK, this is me. I have good things and bad things. I see things as they really are." 

7. Letting Go

This is a natural extension of acceptance. Once we accept how things are, we can loosen their hold on us. Sometimes we let an idea, a comment, a past mistake gnaw at our poor brains until we feel frantic and really down on ourselves. 

There is power in knowing what we have a hard time letting go of, be it a person, a feeling, a memory. Exploring why we are holding onto it can tell us what we need to do to let it go and become observers, rather than live within it. 

Now that you have some basic tenets of mindfulness, it's time to just practice. This is the key. There is no finish line. There is no 30 day guarantee. You practice every day, make it your own, and pay attention to what works for you. All of us will have a different experience. 

 

Practice Mindful Living

To be mindful means to live in the present moment. It means to be aware of the now, rather than thinking about the past or future.

You may be in a season of inner or outer chaos now. The mental chatter may be incessant, but don’t lose hope. In fact, believe that as you keep your faith (whatever that means for you), there are some important things happening deep within you.

Do your best to focus on your breath moment by moment. Whatever you’re doing, do it mindfully, with your attention right there on your tasks. Your choice to live mindfully as an optimist will pay off.

You might be tempted to get frustrated or depressed. You might want to say, “This is ridiculous and taking forever!”

Resist the urge to swim in the negativity sea.

Rather, take some time to get quiet with yourself. Take a few slow, deep breaths and relax. Continue to focus on your breath – the inhale and exhale.  Mentally, recite things like, “I am peace,” or “All is well”.

Know that clarity and a breakthrough will come in due time. Trust the process.

Living in the Now: How to Stay Present More Consistently 

 

Embrace Your Feelings

When negative emotions arise, such as sadness, frustration, grief, or fear, take a little time to embrace the feeling. There is a reason that a negative emotion has risen. It may have an important message for you.

It’s easy to feel the intense emotion and get right into fear. If that’s what you’re used to, then it might take some time to break this habit.

There’s a phrase that’s common in therapy circles. “You have to face it and feel it to heal it”.

Do you have racing thoughts in your mind? Are most of them negative?

Practice embracing your feelings.

The next time this happens, do these 4 things. 

“Hey fear. What is it? What message are you trying to get to me? Oh, you need me to create a safe inner space? Take some time every day to shut the world out and go within? Ok, fear. That’s what I’m going to do.”

“Hey confusion. I see you. I hear you. You’re worried I won’t make the right decision. I get it. But I want you to know that I am doing all I know to do to make the right decision for me. I’m showing up as a responsible adult, and I’m taking some silent time to gain some clarity. You can step down confusion. I’ve got this.”

You get the idea.

Practice mindful living. Acknowledge and embrace the emotions momentarily and then let it go. Let them float away like the stream. Trust that whatever decisions you make will be the right ones for you at this time in your life.

 

Ask For Help

Practicing mindfulness and meditation are great ways to help calm the mind.

However, if you’ve been there and tried them to no avail, consider reaching out for professional help. You don’t have to stay stuck with racing thoughts dominating your mind.

There are professionals who are qualified to help you gain some clarity of mind and freedom from negative emotions. Consult with a therapist, Life Coach, mentor, etc. for help. Give yourself permission to receive assistance.

 

Be Patient

It takes time to learn how to calm the mind and experience mindful living. There are neural pathways in your brain that are fairly set in their ways. However, you can learn to rewire them with some time and effort.

You might not experience complete peace of mind overnight, but that’s alright. Learn to be patient and trust the process and your path in life. Do what you can and let the rest come incrementally. Enjoy each day living mindfully – in the moment.

Trust that things are working out for you. That you’re becoming more peaceful. That as you commit to living mindfully, you will be able to experience peace, harmony, and serenity.

Photo by Johannes Plenio