Becoming the poster boy of mindfulness is not a matter of deciding to be one tonight and waking up tomorrow as one.
Developing mindfulness as a habit in life takes time and practice.
The good thing with practicing a skill set is that the more often and the longer sessions you put yourself through, you can only get better. It is almost impossible to get worse.
With this in mind, here are some critical skills to master on your road to becoming a mindful master.
Being in the present
The mind works in mysterious ways. And it don’t just go about what it does all the time. It also works late into overtime.
It is no wonder that nine and a half out of ten random people will not be able to focus exclusively on one object for as little as a minute.
In fact, while you were having a 10-minute conversation with a friend earlier today at work, he was probably spending 90% of that time thinking about something else.
Being present is a very difficult skill to cultivate, let alone to master.
The best way to make it a habit is to change your philosophy of how you see life.
You see… a very big reason why we allow our minds to drift off all the time is because we see life made up of the past, present and future.
And the past is something that we often access from our memory bank. While we tend to fantasize about the future. The present is what we neglect most of the time.
If you embody the saying “The past is gone, the future hasn’t happen yet, and we only have the present”, then this belief within you will automatically make you give more attention to the present.
Look at it this way.
Have you ever regret something you did or did not do in the past? Well if you had the presence of mind at that moment in time (in the past) to put more thought into what to do (as you are now), maybe you would need to feel regret over it now.
The same can be said about the future.
Live in the present.
Have you noticed that when we sleep at night, our eyes, ears and mouth goes into hibernation? And the only organ on our face that is doing the night shift is the nose?
No. Actually it does 24-hour shifts. Everyday!
This alone is reason enough to magnify the impact that breathing exercises, or proper breathing, can have on our well-being.
You can learn more about this in our writeup on breathing techniques. Or read the following for a shorter version.
- Find a quiet spot where nobody would disturb you
- Get comfortable on a chair or sofa
- Pay attention to your breathing
- Start taking deeper breaths and count from 1 to 10
- Keep your attention on your breathing
This is a simple exercise that not only aides your breathing, but also your focus and awareness as well.
You might be floored at how you are unable to keep your mind solely on your breathing and begin to wander off to fantasy island.
Keep practicing and you will slowly develop the skill of directing your attention.
Become a meticulous freak at home
Start noticing everything about anything you do. And I mean EVERYTHING!
When you have you morning coffee, take notice of the details on the cup, the bubbles on the top, the texture of the sugar cubes you used, etc.
Do this with everything and anything you do.
You are not exactly training to be a spy for the CIA. But you are training yourself to be more PRESENT. More AWARE.
The best practice is to activate all your senses. This means to hear, small, feel, taste, and see.
The more in-tune you are with your senses, the better your ability to understand your surroundings. This would make you one hell of a mindfulness freak.
Learn to let go
The saying that “There is always time to worry tomorrow. So why do it now?” might sound like a phrase out of a kindergarten teacher. But it makes total sense in the world of adults too.
The primary reason why people feel stressed out over little things that really don’t matter is because they are not able to let go.
I’ve just got off the phone with a girlfriend who still cannot forget this guy she was dating for a while. She acknowledges that this is not a special guy who she loved deeply. But she is feeling stressed out because she is unable to let go!
Learning to detach oneself from thoughts and feelings is a life journey. So much so that we often only associate this skill with the elders.
But this is not true.
Everyone and anyone will be able to detach their feelings and thoughts as long as the DECIDE to do so.
- Identify what you want to detach yourself from
- Acknowledge the presence of it
- Accept that it is a problem which you want to solve
- Tell yourself that you can distance yourself from that unhealthy attachment
- DECIDE to detach
If you are able to nail down the skill of detachment, you are definitely one-up on most of the people around you. Even your high school crush might suddenly find you attractive.
This is a key skill. It was mentioned briefly earlier. But it’s importance is worth re-visiting.
A famous study was conducted decades ago that is still referenced in many areas of self-development.
This study was about getting a individuals to notice items in front of them that is of a specific color. Then the subjects are requested to close their eyes… and name the objects in front of them of a different specific color.
None of them could name all items of the other color. This is even though those items were right in front of them for observation when their eyes were open.
This tells us about the power of attention.
Imagine putting your attention on positive stuff and blocking out all the stressors that are having constant Christmas parties in your head. That’s what should be at least on of the goals you have written down in your black book.
So start practicing the skills required for controlling your attention and attention span, to cultivate mindfulness, so as to conquer your stress and anxiety.