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Three Powerful Mindfulness Tips That Can Change Your Life

JANUARY 22, 2016 BY HAMISHLOUX

Be the master of every moment

You are the master of your mind and only you can decide what you’re feeling. Don’t let other people put you down with their words and actions. You have the decision to give in to their misery or to remain unaffected and pleasant.

Think of them as giving you a present; inside of it is a little misery. Your mind has a choice to accept it or not. Without accepting the present, what happens to the present? It remains with the owner and they have to deal with it. People often receive one present of misery and give ten presents back. This just feeds the cycle of misery and it’ll keep going. People who feed the cycle want to receive your attention and get a reaction; don’t give into this. By understanding how this cycle works, you should remain unaffected and stop the cycle.

As humans we crave social interaction, and when we are desperate for attention we say things or do things we don’t mean. It’s a really petty way of getting attention, but that’s okay because that’s what makes us human.

Whether it be for their ego or for their misery – accept that the people you’re dealing with just want to be desperately heard. Don’t feed their ego or misery and remain unaffected; we aren’t cavemen anymore. You have a choice to let things go!

Respect the law of impermanence

We have all heard the saying “what comes up must come down”, and that applies to life as well. People give insufficient attention to this little detail in life. No matter how happy you are in life, there will be a time when that happiness goes away. Same goes with pain, no matter how painful you feel that pain would thankfully go away.

Individuals who get attached to outcomes and material objects suffer a lot more than those who understand the impermanence of everything. Let your attachments to material objects go and you will feel more tranquil and have a lighter mind.

Take for example two people who bought the same pair of shoes. One is attached to the shoe and worries about it getting dirty even though eventually it would get dirty and replaced. The other understands that this is only one of many shoes that he would wear in his lifetime and wears it without worry. Who suffers more?

When you feel attached to an outcome or feel aversion towards one, remind yourself about the law of impermanence. Correct understanding will help you let go of these feelings and have a calmer mind. It is a hard habit to master and may take a long time, but keep at it!

temporary

Accept that everything is changing ALL THE TIME

You aren’t the same person you were a year ago or even 5 years ago. Everyday you change a bit, for the better, or for the worse. It’s just the law of nature that things change over time. Accept that life changes and let things go. Don’t get attached to what had previously happened or worry about the future; it’s a waste of mental energy and focus. Focus on the present instead, and use what you had learned from previous experiences to improve yourself. Forge yourself to be unaffected by sudden or gradual changes, and when the time comes to let past outcomes go – you will be ready.

Your body is the best example of this. You can experience the change and apply the knowledge. The surface of your body is going through countless biochemical reactions at any given point of time. If you focus hard enough you can even feel the changes. A change in temperature, a sudden itch, the feeling of touch, the vibrations caused by blood flow, etc. Just like your body the world is changing a countless number of times at any given point of time.

These changes happen relatively fast compared to your lifetime. Each experience that you have gone through is comparable to a second of small vibrations on your body. You went through it and you’re here now. Why give so much attention and mental energy to something that’s so fast and insignificant? Let go of those thoughts and free your mind from the suffering that they cause.

As grim as it sounds, life is short – your body is changing and degrading all the time. You want to focus on things that matter and not give your focus away like charity. If something is bothering you, let it go because it does not deserve your focus. Realise that it’s a little blimp in your journey called life and you would live more happily and freely!

Enjoy more tips at my blog ‘The Anxiolytic’ (www.theanxiolytic.com) which aims to help those with anxiety and share techniques for stress reduction.
 


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The Art of Now: Six Steps to Living in the Moment

We live in the age of distraction. Yet one of life’s sharpest paradoxes is that your brightest future hinges on your ability to pay attention to the present.

By Jay Dixit,        published on November 1, 2008 – last reviewed on August 11, 2015

A friend was walking in the desert when he found the telephone to God. The setting was Burning Man, an electronic arts and music festival for which 50,000 people descend on Black Rock City, Nevada, for eight days of “radical self-expression”—dancing, socializing, meditating, and debauchery.

A phone booth in the middle of the desert with a sign that said “Talk to God” was a surreal sight even at Burning Man. The idea was that you picked up the phone, and God—or someone claiming to be God—would be at the other end to ease your pain.

So when God came on the line asking how he could help, my friend was ready. “How can I live more in the moment?” he asked. Too often, he felt, the beautiful moments of his life were drowned out by a cacophony of self-consciousness and anxiety. What could he do to hush the buzzing of his mind?

“Breathe,” replied a soothing male voice.

My friend flinched at the tired new-age mantra, then reminded himself to keep an open mind. When God talks, you listen.

“Whenever you feel anxious about your future or your past, just breathe,” continued God. “Try it with me a few times right now. Breathe in… breathe out.” And despite himself, my friend began to relax.

You Are Not Your Thoughts

Life unfolds in the present. But so often, we let the present slip away, allowing time to rush past unobserved and unseized, and squandering the precious seconds of our lives as we worry about the future and ruminate about what’s past. “We’re living in a world that contributes in a major way to mental fragmentation, disintegration, distraction, decoherence,” says Buddhist scholar B. Alan Wallace. We’re always doing something, and we allow little time to practice stillness and calm.

When we’re at work, we fantasize about being on vacation; on vacation, we worry about the work piling up on our desks. We dwell on intrusive memories of the past or fret about what may or may not happen in the future. We don’t appreciate the living present because our “monkey minds,” as Buddhists call them, vault from thought to thought like monkeys swinging from tree to tree.

Most of us don’t undertake our thoughts in awareness. Rather, our thoughts control us. “Ordinary thoughts course through our mind like a deafening waterfall,” writes Jon Kabat-Zinn, the biomedical scientist who introduced meditation into mainstream medicine. In order to feel more in control of our minds and our lives, to find the sense of balance that eludes us, we need to step out of this current, to pause, and, as Kabat-Zinn puts it, to “rest in stillness—to stop doing and focus on just being.”

We need to live more in the moment. Living in the moment—also called mindfulness—is a state of active, open, intentional attention on the present. When you become mindful, you realize that you are not your thoughts; you become an observer of your thoughts from moment to moment without judging them. Mindfulness involves being with your thoughts as they are, neither grasping at them nor pushing them away. Instead of letting your life go by without living it, you awaken to experience.

Cultivating a nonjudgmental awareness of the present bestows a host of benefits. Mindfulness reduces stress, boosts immune functioning, reduces chronic pain, lowers blood pressure, and helps patients cope with cancer. By alleviating stress, spending a few minutes a day actively focusing on living in the moment reduces the risk of heart disease. Mindfulness may even slow the progression of HIV.

Mindful people are happier, more exuberant, more empathetic, and more secure. They have higher self-esteem and are more accepting of their own weaknesses. Anchoring awareness in the here and now reduces the kinds of impulsivity and reactivity that underlie depression, binge eating, and attention problems. Mindful people can hear negative feedback without feeling threatened. They fight less with their romantic partners and are more accommodating and less defensive. As a result, mindful couples have more satisfying relationships.

Mindfulness is at the root of Buddhism, Taoism, and many Native-American traditions, not to mention yoga. It’s why Thoreau went to Walden Pond; it’s what Emerson and Whitman wrote about in their essays and poems.

“Everyone agrees it’s important to live in the moment, but the problem is how,” says Ellen Langer, a psychologist at Harvard and author of Mindfulness. “When people are not in the moment, they’re not there to know that they’re not there.” Overriding the distraction reflex and awakening to the present takes intentionality and practice.

Living in the moment involves a profound paradox: You can’t pursue it for its benefits. That’s because the expectation of reward launches a future-oriented mindset, which subverts the entire process. Instead, you just have to trust that the rewards will come. There are many paths to mindfulness—and at the core of each is a paradox. Ironically, letting go of what you want is the only way to get it. Here are a few tricks to help you along.

1: To improve your performance, stop thinking about it (unselfconsciousness).

I’ve never felt comfortable on a dance floor. My movements feel awkward. I feel like people are judging me. I never know what to do with my arms. I want to let go, but I can’t, because I know I look ridiculous.

“Loosen up, no one’s watching you,” people always say. “Everyone’s too busy worrying about themselves.” So how come they always make fun of my dancing the next day?

The dance world has a term for people like me: “absolute beginner.” Which is why my dance teacher, Jessica Hayden, the owner of Shockra Studio in Manhattan, started at the beginning, sitting me down on a bench and having me tap my feet to the beat as Jay-Z thumped away in the background. We spent the rest of the class doing “isolations”—moving just our shoulders, ribs, or hips—to build “body awareness.”

But even more important than body awareness, Hayden said, was present-moment awareness. “Be right here right now!” she’d say. “Just let go and let yourself be in the moment.”

That’s the first paradox of living in the moment: Thinking too hard about what you’re doing actually makes you do worse. If you’re in a situation that makes you anxious—giving a speech, introducing yourself to a stranger, dancing—focusing on your anxiety tends to heighten it. “When I say, ‘be here with me now,’ I mean don’t zone out or get too in-your-head—instead, follow my energy, my movements,” says Hayden. “Focus less on what’s going on in your mind and more on what’s going on in the room, less on your mental chatter and more on yourself as part of something.” To be most myself, I needed to focus on things outside myself, like the music or the people around me.

Indeed, mindfulness blurs the line between self and other, explains Michael Kernis, a psychologist at the University of Georgia. “When people are mindful, they’re more likely to experience themselves as part of humanity, as part of a greater universe.” That’s why highly mindful people such as Buddhist monks talk about being “one with everything.”

By reducing self-consciousness, mindfulness allows you to witness the passing drama of feelings, social pressures, even of being esteemed or disparaged by others without taking their evaluations personally, explain Richard Ryan and K. W. Brown of the University of Rochester. When you focus on your immediate experience without attaching it to your self-esteem, unpleasant events like social rejection—or your so-called friends making fun of your dancing—seem less threatening.

Focusing on the present moment also forces you to stop overthinking. “Being present-minded takes away some of that self-evaluation and getting lost in your mind—and in the mind is where we make the evaluations that beat us up,” says Stephen Schueller, a psychologist at the University of Pennsylvania. Instead of getting stuck in your head and worrying, you can let yourself go.

2: To avoid worrying about the future, focus on the present (savoring).

In her memoir Eat, Pray, Love, Elizabeth Gilbert writes about a friend who, whenever she sees a beautiful place, exclaims in a near panic, “It’s so beautiful here! I want to come back here someday!” “It takes all my persuasive powers,” writes Gilbert, “to try to convince her that she is already here.”

Often, we’re so trapped in thoughts of the future or the past that we forget to experience, let alone enjoy, what’s happening right now. We sip coffee and think, “This is not as good as what I had last week.” We eat a cookie and think, “I hope I don’t run out of cookies.”

Instead, relish or luxuriate in whatever you’re doing at the present moment—what psychologists call savoring. “This could be while you’re eating a pastry, taking a shower, or basking in the sun. You could be savoring a success or savoring music,” explains Sonja Lyubomirsky, a psychologist at the University of California at Riverside and author of The How of Happiness. “Usually it involves your senses.”

When subjects in a study took a few minutes each day to actively savor something they usually hurried through—eating a meal, drinking a cup of tea, walking to the bus—they began experiencing more joy, happiness, and other positive emotions, and fewer depressive symptoms, Schueller found.

Why does living in the moment make people happier—not just at the moment they’re tasting molten chocolate pooling on their tongue, but lastingly? Because most negative thoughts concern the past or the future. As Mark Twain said, “I have known a great many troubles, but most of them never happened.” The hallmark of depression and anxiety is catastrophizing—worrying about something that hasn’t happened yet and might not happen at all. Worry, by its very nature, means thinking about the future—and if you hoist yourself into awareness of the present moment, worrying melts away.

The flip side of worrying is ruminating, thinking bleakly about events in the past. And again, if you press your focus into the now, rumination ceases. Savoring forces you into the present, so you can’t worry about things that aren’t there.

3: If you want a future with your significant other, inhabit the present (breathe).

Living consciously with alert interest has a powerful effect on interpersonal life. Mindfulness actually inoculates people against aggressive impulses, say Whitney Heppner and Michael Kernis of the University of Georgia. In a study they conducted, each subject was told that other subjects were forming a group—and taking a vote on whether she could join. Five minutes later, the experimenter announced the results—either the subject had gotten the least number of votes and been rejected or she’d been accepted. Beforehand, half the subjects had undergone a mindfulness exercise in which each slowly ate a raisin, savoring its taste and texture and focusing on each sensation.

Later, in what they thought was a separate experiment, subjects had the opportunity to deliver a painful blast of noise to another person. Among subjects who hadn’t eaten the raisin, those who were told they’d been rejected by the group became aggressive, inflicting long and painful sonic blasts without provocation. Stung by social rejection, they took it out on other people.

But among those who’d eaten the raisin first, it didn’t matter whether they’d been ostracized or embraced. Either way, they were serene and unwilling to inflict pain on others—exactly like those who were given word of social acceptance.

How does being in the moment make you less aggressive? “Mindfulness decreases ego involvement,” explains Kernis. “So people are less likely to link their self-esteem to events and more likely to take things at face value.” Mindfulness also makes people feel more connected to other people—that empathic feeling of being “at one with the universe.”

Mindfulness boosts your awareness of how you interpret and react to what’s happening in your mind. It increases the gap between emotional impulse and action, allowing you to do what Buddhists call recognizing the spark before the flame. Focusing on the present reboots your mind so you can respond thoughtfully rather than automatically. Instead of lashing out in anger, backing down in fear, or mindlessly indulging a passing craving, you get the opportunity to say to yourself, “This is the emotion I’m feeling. How should I respond?”

mind

Mindfulness increases self-control; since you’re not getting thrown by threats to your self-esteem, you’re better able to regulate your behavior. That’s the other irony: Inhabiting your own mind more fully has a powerful effect on your interactions with others.

Of course, during a flare-up with your significant other it’s rarely practical to duck out and savor a raisin. But there’s a simple exercise you can do anywhere, anytime to induce mindfulness: Breathe. As it turns out, the advice my friend got in the desert was spot-on. There’s no better way to bring yourself into the present moment than to focus on your breathing. Because you’re placing your awareness on what’s happening right now, you propel yourself powerfully into the present moment. For many, focusing on the breath is the preferred method of orienting themselves to the now—not because the breath has some magical property, but because it’s always there with you.

4: To make the most of time, lose track of it (flow).

Perhaps the most complete way of living in the moment is the state of total absorption psychologists call flow. Flow occurs when you’re so engrossed in a task that you lose track of everything else around you. Flow embodies an apparent paradox: How can you be living in the moment if you’re not even aware of the moment? The depth of engagement absorbs you powerfully, keeping attention so focused that distractions cannot penetrate. You focus so intensely on what you’re doing that you’re unaware of the passage of time. Hours can pass without you noticing.

Flow is an elusive state. As with romance or sleep, you can’t just will yourself into it—all you can do is set the stage, creating the optimal conditions for it to occur.

The first requirement for flow is to set a goal that’s challenging but not unattainable—something you have to marshal your resources and stretch yourself to achieve. The task should be matched to your ability level—not so difficult that you’ll feel stressed, but not so easy that you’ll get bored. In flow, you’re firing on all cylinders to rise to a challenge.

To set the stage for flow, goals need to be clearly defined so that you always know your next step. “It could be playing the next bar in a scroll of music, or finding the next foothold if you’re a rock climber, or turning the page if you’re reading a good novel,” says Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, the psychologist who first defined the concept of flow. “At the same time, you’re kind of anticipating.”

You also need to set up the task in such a way that you receive direct and immediate feedback; with your successes and failures apparent, you can seamlessly adjust your behavior. A climber on the mountain knows immediately if his foothold is secure; a pianist knows instantly when she’s played the wrong note.

As your attentional focus narrows, self-consciousness evaporates. You feel as if your awareness merges with the action you’re performing. You feel a sense of personal mastery over the situation, and the activity is so intrinsically rewarding that although the task is difficult, action feels effortless.

5: If something is bothering you, move toward it rather than away from it (acceptance).

We all have pain in our lives, whether it’s the ex we still long for, the jackhammer snarling across the street, or the sudden wave of anxiety when we get up to give a speech. If we let them, such irritants can distract us from the enjoyment of life. Paradoxically, the obvious response—focusing on the problem in order to combat and overcome it—often makes it worse, argues Stephen Hayes, a psychologist at the University of Nevada.

The mind’s natural tendency when faced with pain is to attempt to avoid it—by trying to resist unpleasant thoughts, feelings, and sensations. When we lose a love, for instance, we fight our feelings of heartbreak. As we get older, we work feverishly to recapture our youth. When we’re sitting in the dentist’s chair waiting for a painful root canal, we wish we were anywhere but there. But in many cases, negative feelings and situations can’t be avoided—and resisting them only magnifies the pain.

The problem is we have not just primary emotions but also secondary ones—emotions about other emotions. We get stressed out and then think, “I wish I weren’t so stressed out.” The primary emotion is stress over your workload. The secondary emotion is feeling, “I hate being stressed.”

It doesn’t have to be this way. The solution is acceptance—letting the emotion be there. That is, being open to the way things are in each moment without trying to manipulate or change the experience—without judging it, clinging to it, or pushing it away. The present moment can only be as it is. Trying to change it only frustrates and exhausts you. Acceptance relieves you of this needless extra suffering.

Suppose you’ve just broken up with your girlfriend or boyfriend; you’re heartbroken, overwhelmed by feelings of sadness and longing. You could try to fight these feelings, essentially saying, “I hate feeling this way; I need to make this feeling go away.” But by focusing on the pain—being sad about being sad—you only prolong the sadness. You do yourself a favor by accepting your feelings, saying instead, “I’ve just had a breakup. Feelings of loss are normal and natural. It’s OK for me to feel this way.”

Acceptance of an unpleasant state doesn’t mean you don’t have goals for the future. It just means you accept that certain things are beyond your control. The sadness, stress, pain, or anger is there whether you like it or not. Better to embrace the feeling as it is.

Nor does acceptance mean you have to like what’s happening. “Acceptance of the present moment has nothing to do with resignation,” writes Kabat-Zinn. “Acceptance doesn’t tell you what to do. What happens next, what you choose to do; that has to come out of your understanding of this moment.”

If you feel anxiety, for instance, you can accept the feeling, label it as anxiety—then direct your attention to something else instead. You watch your thoughts, perceptions, and emotions flit through your mind without getting involved. Thoughts are just thoughts. You don’t have to believe them and you don’t have to do what they say.

6: Know that you don’t know (engagement).

You’ve probably had the experience of driving along a highway only to suddenly realize you have no memory or awareness of the previous 15 minutes. Maybe you even missed your exit. You just zoned out; you were somewhere else, and it’s as if you’ve suddenly woken up at the wheel. Or maybe it happens when you’re reading a book: “I know I just read that page, but I have no idea what it said.”

These autopilot moments are what Harvard’s Ellen Langer calls mindlessness—times when you’re so lost in your thoughts that you aren’t aware of your present experience. As a result, life passes you by without registering on you. The best way to avoid such blackouts, Langer says, is to develop the habit of always noticing new things in whatever situation you’re in. That process creates engagement with the present moment and releases a cascade of other benefits. Noticing new things puts you emphatically in the here and now.

We become mindless, Langer explains, because once we think we know something, we stop paying attention to it. We go about our morning commute in a haze because we’ve trod the same route a hundred times before. But if we see the world with fresh eyes, we realize almost everything is different each time—the pattern of light on the buildings, the faces of the people, even the sensations and feelings we experience along the way. Noticing imbues each moment with a new, fresh quality. Some people have termed this “beginner’s mind.”

By acquiring the habit of noticing new things, says Langer, we recognize that the world is actually changing constantly. We really don’t know how the espresso is going to taste or how the commute will be—or at least, we’re not sure.

Orchestra musicians who are instructed to make their performance new in subtle ways not only enjoy themselves more but audiences actually prefer those performances. “When we’re there at the moment, making it new, it leaves an imprint in the music we play, the things we write, the art we create, in everything we do,” says Langer. “Once you recognize that you don’t know the things you’ve always taken for granted, you set out of the house quite differently. It becomes an adventure in noticing—and the more you notice, the more you see.” And the more excitement you feel.

Don’t Just Do Something, Sit There

Living a consistently mindful life takes effort. But mindfulness itself is easy. “People set the goal of being mindful for the next 20 minutes or the next two weeks, then they think mindfulness is difficult because they have the wrong yardstick,” says Jay Winner, a California-based family physician and author of Take the Stress out of Your Life. “The correct yardstick is just for this moment.”

Mindfulness is the only intentional, systematic activity that is not about trying to improve yourself or get anywhere else, explains Kabat-Zinn. It is simply a matter of realizing where you already are. A cartoon from The New Yorker sums it up: Two monks are sitting side by side, meditating. The younger one is giving the older one a quizzical look, to which the older one responds, “Nothing happens next. This is it.”

You can become mindful at any moment just by paying attention to your immediate experience. You can do it right now. What’s happening this instant? Think of yourself as an eternal witness, and just observe the moment. What do you see, hear, smell? It doesn’t matter how it feels—pleasant or unpleasant, good or bad—you roll with it because it’s what’s present; you’re not judging it. And if you notice your mind wandering, bring yourself back. Just say to yourself, “Now. Now. Now.”

Here’s the most fundamental paradox of all: Mindfulness isn’t a goal, because goals are about the future, but you do have to set the intention of paying attention to what’s happening at the present moment. As you read the words printed on this page, as your eyes distinguish the black squiggles on white paper, as you feel gravity anchoring you to the planet, wake up. Become aware of being alive. And breathe. As you draw your next breath, focus on the rise of your abdomen on the in-breath, the stream of heat through your nostrils on the out-breath. If you’re aware of that feeling right now, as you’re reading this, you’re living in the moment. Nothing happens next. It’s not a destination. This is it. You’re already there.


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12 Little Known Laws Of Mindfulness

by MARC CHERNOFF     The Open Mind     August 28, 2015 

“Your vision will become clear only when you look into your heart. Who looks outside, dreams. Who looks inside, awakens.”

 – Carl Jung

Mindfulness as a daily ritual is the ultimate challenge and practice.  It’s a way of living, of being, of seeing, of tapping into the full power of your humanity.

At its core, mindfulness is…

  • Being aware of what’s happening in the present moment without wishing it were different
  • Enjoying each pleasant experience without holding on when it changes (which it will)
  • Being with each unpleasant experience without fearing it will always be this way (which it won’t)

Knowing this is important.  Living every day in such a way that makes mindfulness possible is life-changing.  Here are twelve basic laws of (practical) mindfulness we often cover with our coaching/course students that make mindful living a gradual reality:

1.  Your only reality is THIS MOMENT, right here, right now.

  • The secret to health for the mind, body and soul is not to mourn the past, nor to worry about the future, but to live the present moment mindfully and purposefully.
  • True wealth is the ability to experience the present moment fully.  No other time and place is real.  Lifelong peace and abundance is found in such simple awareness.

2.  A negative thought is harmless unless you believe it.

  • It’s not your thoughts, but your attachment to your thoughts, that causes suffering.
  • Attaching to a thought means believing that it’s true without proof.  A belief is a thought that you’ve been attaching to, often for years.

3.  You will not be punished FOR your anger; you will be punished BY it.

  • Speak and act when you are enraged, and you will make the best speech and motions you will ever regret.
  • Being angry and unhappy about something is easy.  Doing something productive about it is the hard and worthwhile part.  Life is too precious and too short to spend it being upset.  Drop it.  Be positive. Be your best.

4.  Inner peace is knowing how to belong to oneself, without external validation.

  • In order to understand the world, you have to turn away from it on occasion.
  • Sometimes you justify yourself to others when you cease to be at peace with your thoughts.  Don’t look for anyone else to give you permission to be yourself.  You don’t need anyone’s validation to be happy or to live a good life.

5.  Everything is created twice, first in your mind and then in your life.

  • If you don’t stand for something, you will fall for almost anything.
  • Keep your morals close to your heart and at the top of your mind.

6.  There is a wilderness you walk alone, however well accompanied you are.

  • Others can walk beside you, but they can’t walk in your shoes.
  • Give yourself an opportunity to discover who you truly are, and to figure out why you truly are always alone even when you’re surrounded, and why this is perfectly OK.
mindfulness

7.  To strongly believe in something, and not live it, is dishonest.

  • Don’t bend; don’t water down your dreams; don’t try to make every feeling logical; don’t edit your own soul according to the fashion trends.  Rather, follow your most intense passions, mindfully.
  • Characterize yourself by your actions and you will never be fooled by other people’s words.

8.  The right path and the easy path are rarely the same path.

  • You will ultimately come to realize that the struggle is not found on the path, it is the path, and it’s worth your while.  Every step forward may be tough, but will feel better than anything else you can imagine.
  • People don’t stop pursuing their dreams and passions because they grow old; they grow old because they stop pursuing their dreams and passions.

9.  If you want the benefits of something in life, you have to also want the costs.

  • Instead of thinking about what you want, first consider what you are willing to give up to get it.  You can’t have the destination without the journey.  If you want the six-pack abs, you have to want the sweat, the sore muscles, the early mornings at the gym, and the healthy meals.
  • Ask yourself: What is worth suffering for?  If you find yourself wanting something month after month, year after year, yet nothing happens and you never come any closer to it, then maybe you don’t actually want it at all, because you’re not willing to suffer though the work it’s going to take to achieve it.

10.  Overcommitting is the antithesis of living a peaceful, mindful life.

  • There’s a difference between being committed to the right things and being overcommitted to everything.  It’s tempting to fill in every waking minute of the day with to-do list tasks or distractions.  Don’t do this to yourself.  Leave space.
  • Keep your life ordered and your schedule under-booked.  Create a foundation with a soft place to land, a wide margin of error, and room to think and breathe.

11.  When you try to control too much, you enjoy too little.

  • Don’t live a life packed full of concrete plans.  Work hard, but be flexible.  The best moments often happen unplanned and the greatest regrets happen by not reaching exactly what was planned.
  • Sometimes you just need to let go, relax, take a deep breath and love what is, right now.

12.  When you are tired, you are attacked by ideas you likely conquered long ago.

  • You must refill your bucket on a regular basis.  That means catching your breath, finding quiet solitude, focusing your attention inward, and otherwise making time for recovery from the chaos of your routine.
  • It’s perfectly healthy to pause and let the world spin without you for a while.  If you don’t, you will burn yourself out.

Afterthoughts

As I am wrapping up this post, I am reminded that the greatest enemy of good thinking, and thus mindfulness, is busyness.

Busyness isn’t a virtue, nor is it something to respect.  We all have seasons of wild schedules, but very few of us have a legitimate need to be busy ALL the time.  We simply don’t know how to live within our means, prioritize properly, and say no when we should.

Although being busy can make us feel more alive than anything else for a moment, the sensation is not sustainable long term.  We will inevitably, whether tomorrow or on our deathbed, come to wish that we spent less time in the buzz of busyness and more time actually living a purposeful, mindful life.  (Angel and I discuss this in more detail in the “Adversity” chapter of 1,000 Little Things Happy, Successful People Do Differently.)


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If You Want To Live A More Mindful Life, Read This

There’s been a lot of hype around the term mindfulness. Apparently it’s one of the top trending words of 2014 and it seems that everybody and their dog has jumped on the mindfulness bandwagon. But what does it mean, exactly, to be mindful? Does it mean you have to meditate like a Buddhist monk or turn into a raw-food vegan?

Mindfulness is essentially about not allowing life to pass you by in a blur. It’s about not reaching the weekend or the end of the month (or year) and looking back and not being able to remember the highlights, the lowlights, or anything in between. It’s about remembering to be aware of the journey through life, even the little things. (Especially the little things!)

We’ve all become participants (victims?) of social media, experiencing both major and minor life events through the lens of a tablet/iPhone/Android in order to upload the photos/videos onto Facebook/Twitter/Pinterest.

If you, like me, want to live a more mindful existence, but don’t want to have to change drastically in order to do so, here are 5 easy ways that you can incorporate mindfulness into your daily life.

1. Chew your food.

This may seem incredibly basic and boring, but in my practice I have seen many people who suffer from indigestion, bloating, constipation or a variety of other digestive issues, simply because they were eating too quickly. My advice? Chill Out. Turn off your gadgets. Sit down at a table and enjoy your meal. Not only will this reduce the acid reflux you may get from wolfing down a plate that you barely tasted, but it will also allow you to actually appreciate your meal. Eating and chewing slowly forces you to eat mindfully.

2. Breathe deeply on purpose.

This is also another basic technique, but we’re all victims of shallow breathing (i.e. short rapid breaths that only expand the upper chest rather than engaging our diaphragms for deep belly breaths). Although breathing is a very unconscious act, starting to be conscious of it will not only help your blood circulation (and stress levels and posture and energy) but it’s another simple way of being present and mindful.

nature and beauty concept - smiling woman smelling flower with eyes closed

3. Stop and smell the roses.

Literally and figuratively. There have been so many times that I’ve sped past a yard or park with gorgeous flowers and my thoughts went something like this:

Oh wow, what gorgeous flowers … Flour … Damn, need gluten-free flour from the grocery store …

If you’re like me, stop. That grocery list can wait 30 seconds. Your life will not end if you actually stop to smell those flowers. Or pet that dog. Or smile at that child. Or sit on that park bench. Enjoy the simple things, stop sweating the small stuff, and pat yourself on the back for spending those few seconds (or minutes) being mindful.

4. Don’t be afraid to say no.

FOMO, or the fear of missing out, is what drives us to go to those parties when all we really want to do is lie in bed with a book, or get into our jammies and watch Breaking Bad. Stop and take a moment to figure out why you want to go to that party/bar/birthday/event and ask yourself if it’s just that you’re afraid of missing out or being alone. Ask yourself if you’d rather be doing something else.

Guess what? That thing you’re doing by checking in with yourself is being mindful. Staying present in your decisions, being aware of the impetus behind those decisions … that’s what being present and mindful is all about. Don’t let life sweep you along by making decisions based on habit or avoidance. Take responsibility for your choices and be present while making them.

5. Find a hobby.

“Meditating” is this big scary word that automatically makes people think I can’t do that. Meditation is not necessarily confined to sitting on a cushion, forming a mudra with your hands, and observing your thoughts. Meditation comes in all forms, and hobbies that you enjoy are probably among the best forms of meditation. Remember what it was that you loved to do when you were six years old? Pick it up and re-discover it. Make it a priority during your free time. Getting lost in your music/poetry/writing/yoga/sketching is an excellent way to be present and mindful.


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Here’s Why You Struggle To Stay Present

BY ERIN OLIVIO    NOVEMBER 13, 2014 

So many of us humans tend to go through our days on autopilot, which is essentially the opposite of mindfulness. We act unconsciously or habitually, even forming thoughts and judgments without conscious awareness of what we are doing (or why or how well). We just react.

We spend most of our energy rehashing the past or rehearsing the future: wishing, hoping, planning, ruminating, missing, regretting.

We are disconnected from what is happening in our lives — right now, in the present moment — and even within our own bodies and minds. In this mode, emotions seem to just sort of happen to us, and we might not acknowledge them, understand them, or realize we can control them.

Or we might try to dodge emotions or shut them out. Either way, this is a recipe for emotion to overwhelm us. When we are not in the moment, we don’t actually feel our feelings, and that creates more of the very emotions we may wish to avoid. It also doesn’t (and can’t!) solve the problems we are trying to escape.

We can make another choice, however. We can switch off the autopilot and take the wheel ourselves. This starts with mindfulness. Anyone can do it, even those whose usual M.O. is a far cry from being mindful. Mindfulness is a skill like any other, so it can be learned. Also like any other skill, the more you practice it, the better you will get at it.

So here’s the two-word guide on how to practice mindfulness: pay attention. And I mean really pay attention. To things as they are. In the present moment.

And that’s it.

Well, of course there’s more (see the multitude of books and blogs already devoted to this subject). But in a nutshell, that’s really all you need to know. Being mindful means summoning awareness and attention and deploying them inwardly and outwardly, with intention and compassion and without analysis or judgment. Notice all that is happening within your mind and body and in the world around you right now. Attend to one thing at a time — acknowledge, observe and accept each sensation, experience, thought and feeling as it arises —from moment to moment.

Modern life is chock-full of habits of the mind that get in the way of mindfulness. Be on the lookout for them in your own life. Steering clear of these is key to practicing mindfulness.

Here are eight of the most common barriers that keep you from being mindful:

  • Thinking about the past and the future takes you out of the moment
  • Multitasking
  • Being in denial
  • Attaching to thoughts or observations
  • Pushing away thoughts or observations
  • Having a lack of intention
  • Having a lack of compassion
  • Judging, analyzing, criticizing or evaluating

Judgment is one of the most common ways that keeps you from being mindful. Whether you are judging your experience as good, bad or ugly, it’s an obstacle to being fully present in the moment. And you do it all the time. Everyone does. The way to do it less — the way to not let judging interfere with your ability to be mindful — is to increase your awareness of when you are judging.

Try spending a few days noticing all the judgments you make throughout the day. About anything and everything: “What the hell is that lady wearing?” “Yuck, this food is gross!” “I should not be the one handling this!” Any time you catch yourself playing Judge Judy, notice it, label it as a judgment, and resist the temptation to judge yourself for being judgmental.

Then try to tell yourself the same story but with neutral (nonjudgmental) language: “Her shirt is bright.” “Oh, that is bitter.” “I have a task that I do not like.” With enough practice, you’ll begin to make that kind of switch automatically — in mindfulness practice as well as in life.

Adapted from Wise Mind Living: Master Your Emotions, Transform Your Life by Erin Olivo, PhD. 


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Three Ways To Fight Disease With Your Mind

Three psychological approaches which improve health at the cellular level.

Practising mindfulness meditation, yoga or being involved in a support group have positive impacts at the cellular level in breast cancer, a new study finds.

The study, conducted at Canadian cancer centres, found that breast cancer survivors who practised meditation and yoga or took part in support groups had longer telomeres, part of the chromosome thought to be important in physical health.

Dr. Linda E. Carlson, who led the study, said:

“We already know that psychosocial interventions like mindfulness meditation will help you feel better mentally, but now for the first time we have evidence that they can also influence key aspects of your biology.”

The role of telomores — protein complexes that book-end the chromosomes — is not fully understood, but shortened telomores have been linked to cell ageing and disease states.

Dr. Carlson continued:

“It was surprising that we could see any difference in telomere length at all over the three-month period studied.
Further research is needed to better quantify these potential health benefits, but this is an exciting discovery that provides encouraging news.”

The study divided 88 breast cancer survivors into three groups (Carlson et al., 2014).

One group took part in eight weekly mindfulness meditation classes that lasted 90 minutes, which also included some gentle Hatha yoga.

Participants continued their mindfulness practice at home for 45 minutes a day.

Happy Thoughts

Another group went to a ‘Supportive Expressive Therapy’ group in which they talked openly about their concerns for 90 minutes over 12 weeks.

The aim of the group was to help the women express both positive and negative emotions with each other along with building mutual support between group members.

A third group — the control — took a single 5-hour stress reduction class.

The results showed that while telomore length had shortened in the control group, it was maintained in the support and meditation groups combined.

One of the study’s participants, Allison McPherson, who was first diagnosed with breast cancer in 2008, said:

“I was skeptical at first and thought it was a bunch of hocus-pocus.
But I now practise mindfulness throughout the day and it’s reminded me to become less reactive and kinder toward myself and others.”

Another breast cancer survivor who took part, Deanne David, said:

“Being part of this made a huge difference to me.
I think people involved in their own cancer journey would benefit from learning more about mindfulness and connecting with others who are going through the same things.”


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6 Ways to Become More Mindful

How aware are you of the thoughts, feelings and sensations inside your body? Do you every truly focus on every sensation you experience? If so then you are probably a believer in mindfulness. Mindfulness is a very important concept in Buddhism and it focuses on the concept that by being in the moment and being aware of every thought and feeling your body experiences you can enhance your physical and mental well being.

Here are six ways you can become more mindful:

Rise and Shine

Being mindful can start from the minute you wake up every morning. Before you jump out of bed to get on with your day take some time to focus on the environment you are waking up in and the sensations of the world around you. If you start your day in a mindful day then you will start it calm and relaxed, and you will find your days are calmer and happier.

Enjoy Your Food 

Many people are so time poor that they wolf down their food, and a vast percentage of the population even eat their lunch at their desk whilst continuing with their work at the same time. Instead to eat more mindfully, eating should be the only thing you focus on. Taste your food, savor every mouthful, and experience the flavors and textures you may never have experienced before.

Stop Multitasking

We live in a society where people value multitasking and the ability to do more than one thing at the same time is highly praised. However multitasking doesn’t make you more productive: if anything it can slow you down and cause unnecessary stress and pressure. Use mindfulness to focus wholly on just one task at a time and you’ll find yourself feeling calmer and happier, and less prone to rushing or making mistakes.

Take a Walk

In our rushed and modern society we are used to always being busy. However one of the best ways to be mindful and focus on yourself is to simply take time out. Take a walk and and think about how that meditative exercise makes you feel. Focus on your breathing and on how your body feels as you move it. Even a walk to the grocery store or round the block can become mindful walking if you focus your mind as you do it.

Let it Ring

When your phone rings don’t rush mindlessly to answer it. Instead take a second or two to focus on your breathing and gather your thoughts before you answer. Focus on the effect the ringing phone has on your body (it causes many people to become more tense, for example) and breath deeply before you mindfully take your call.

Capture The Sceneconsciousness-spiritual-creation

Finally, if you really want to be as mindful as possible in your everyday life then try your hand at mindful photography: no camera required! Take mental photographs of everything you find interesting and everything you’d like to remember as you do round your everyday life. Think about what details you’d like to capture and take the time to focus on them to commit them to memory.

Author: Juliette Foster