Mindful living is joyful, peaceful, and balanced living. Are you living mindfully? I’m not asking if you practice mindfulness meditation. What I mean is, are you cultivating mindfulness all throughout your day? Because that’s where the real power of mindfulness lies.
Of course, a regular practice of mindfulness meditation is essential. It offers the intensive mind-training that develops our capacity for being mindful. Which means, it lays the foundation for mindful living. However, it’s through the application of that skill in our activities of daily living that we truly transform our lived experience.
In today’s post, I’m sharing 7 ways you can be more mindful in your daily life. If you want to live with more joy, peace, and balance, try getting more intentional about mindfulness. For the next 7 days, incorporate these 7 tips and see what a difference it makes. My guess is, you’ll appreciate it so much, you’ll want to keep going with it.
Mindfulness & The Benefits of Mindful Living
Just in case you arrived here as a beginner to mindfulness, let’s take a moment to establish the basics. What is mindfulness? And why is it worth your time and effort to focus on mindful living?
For starters, mindfulness means being aware of your present-moment experience in an open, accepting, and non-judgmental way. To live mindfully, then, is to stay connected to whatever’s happening for you in the present moment – without resisting it, judging it, or wishing it to be different.
To better grasp what mindfulness is, it can be helpful to consider what it is not. Daydreaming, worrying, planning out what you need to do next, replaying what happened moments, days, or even years ago; thinking about how much you dislike doing whatever it is you’re doing, etc. This is the type of mental chatter the mind tends to fall into when we’re not intentional about mindfully embracing our present moment experience. It’s the opposite of mindfulness. And thus, engaging in it frequently can produce the opposite results.
There’s a reason mindfulness is rapidly gaining popularity. And, being added to traditional mental health therapy models, as well as inspiring new ones. The reason is, it’s incredibly beneficial to our psychological wellbeing. Studies have found mindfulness can deliver the following benefits:
- increased positive affect (feeling, emotion, mood)
- decreased negative affect
- decreased anxiety
- improved emotion regulation (ability to exert control over your emotions)
- increased cognitive flexibility (ability to adjust to a changing environment)
- more adaptive responses to stressful situations
- decreased stress
- improved relationships
- enhanced insight, morality & intuition
- increased empathy, compassion, and self-compassion
- lowered depression
That’s quite a list, but there’s more. It turns out, mindfulness isn’t just good for your mind. It’s also healthy for your body. Some studies suggest it can:
- support heart health
- improve immune response
- reduce cell aging
Cultivating mindfulness and mindful living can be one of the healthiest and most beneficial things you can do to take charge of your overall wellness. And unlike so many other things we do to improve our quality of life, it’s absolutely free. All it requires of you is some time and attention.
So, how can you access all these wonderful mindfulness benefits?
7 Ways You Can Practice Mindful Living
Of course, the number one way to cultivate mindfulness is through a regular practice of mindfulness meditation. Sitting in dedicated practice activates all those benefits we just went over, and it can actually change the structure of your brain. Studies have found mindfulness meditation increases plasticity in the grey matter of areas of the brain involved in self-awareness, emotion regulation, and attentional control. Not only do these brain changes promote the outcomes listed above, but they help develop your capacity for mindfulness itself. Which means, the more you do mindfulness meditation, the more your brain changes in ways that support you in being mindful. It’s like a snowball effect.
If you don’t already have a mindfulness meditation practice, it’s a good idea to start one. It lays the foundation for mindful living. Just twenty minutes a day can produce results. (You can learn how here.)
However, as I said at the start, it’s when we invite mindfulness into our daily activities that we see the biggest growth. Doing this extends the amount of time we’re training our mind. And, it enables us to actively learn and practice new ways to relate and respond to both the content and the context of our daily lives.
The following mindful living practices require no, or very little, additional time. And for your effort, you’ll not only feel less stressed, more at peace, and more connected to joy, but you’ll notice accessing mindfulness becoming easier and more natural for you as time goes on. Mindful living will become your new normal.
1. Set the Tone Of Your Day For Mindfulness
If you do only one of the 7 mindful living practices I’m sharing here, let it be this one. Starting your day with mindfulness sets the tone for the rest of your day. It sends out a ripple that inevitably touches every moment that follows. Not only does it help you find a sense of positivity, calm, and focus to start your day with, but it makes it easier to access mindfulness naturally throughout the remainder of your day.
Obviously, you can set this mindful tone by practicing mindfulness meditation in the morning. However, if you don’t have time for meditation, the following suggestions are effective. And for optimal results, you can do them in addition to your meditation practice.
Make your morning routine mindful by:
- eating mindfully at breakfast
- taking a mindful shower (observe sensations and stay connected to your present moment experience in the shower)
- mindful movement (walking, stretching, tai chi, yoga, any body movement you perform while staying connected to your present experience of breathing and moving. Just 5-10 minutes works!)
- intention setting (Today, I will be mindful by (fill in the blank). Examples: taking mindfulness breaks, eating mindfully, working mindfully, etc.) Visualize yourself following through with it.
Tip: If you want to get really intentional about mindful living, use my guided meditation for intentional wellness for your intention-setting. It sets the tone for mindfulness throughout your day. And it goes a step further. It helps you identify what you really need to support your whole-self wellness each day, then commit to making that a priority.
2. Mindful Living: Work
Whether you go to a place of business or work from home – and regardless of the nature of your daily work – you can add mindfulness to the picture. In fact, not only does this make you more effective at your work, but it can make your work feel so much more enjoyable and less stressful. Inviting mindfulness into your work means staying focused and aware of your present moment task. It’s also noticing what’s happening within you as you’re performing your work.
For example, that might mean noticing when you’re starting to feel overwhelmed and stopping to observe the nature of that feeling. What’s happening with your breath? What sensations do you feel in your body? What thoughts are arising? Taking a few moments to mindfully observe all this – without judging or rejecting it – can have a surprisingly calming and comforting effect. It’s a little act of self-love and self-care that reinforces your sense that you can hold space for stressful experiences, without getting stressed-out.
Additionally, you can invite mindful living into your work life by taking several intentional mindfulness breaks throughout your work day. Every hour, twice a day – whatever time interval you can manage – stop what you’re doing and notice the sensations of your breath. Mindfully observe your surroundings. Take a little mindful walk or eat a snack while doing nothing else but noticing the sensory experience of eating. Or, do a quick guided practice using a mindfulness app on your phone.
Tip: You can download a mindfulness bell app on your phone and set it to go off at different time intervals throughout the day. The sound of the bell helps you remember to stop and take a break for mindfulness.
3. Mindful Living: Walking
How much walking do you do in a day? I don’t mean walking as a form of exercise, where you’ve set aside time to go for a walk. I mean, all those steps you take to get from one room to another, to get from your car to wherever you’re going, etc. You probably walk a lot more than you think on any given day. What if you were to turn all that walking into a mindful living practice? That would add up to a lot of mindfulness training and sprinkle plenty of peaceful moments – when you’re feeling truly present – throughout your day.
To walk mindfully, all you have to do is stay in contact with your present moment experience. Notice the sensations walking stimulates in your body – from your feet to your legs, core, arms, head, etc. Be aware of your posture. Are you leaning forward or back? What does it feel like to walk with upright posture? Lastly, observe your surroundings as you walk, including all the little details. What do you see, hear, and smell?
Tip: Your posture influences how you feel psychologically. As you become more mindful of it, you can promote more positive psychological states by holding yourself upright. Learn how to boost self-confidence via your posture here.)
4. Mindful Living: Eating
I already mentioned mindful eating in the morning routine section. However, this is a powerful and beautiful mindfulness practice you can incorporate with any meal and also snacks. I’ve written a whole post about it, which you can find here. But basically, it slows down the eating process, so you chew your food completely (until it’s a mushy consistency) before swallowing. Most importantly, you notice all your sensory experiences as you eat.
What does your food look like? How does it smell? How does it feel in your mouth? What noises are happening as you chew? And of course, what flavors can you taste?
Additionally, you can contemplate the sources of your food prior to eating. Visualize how it was grown, where it came from, the people whose work went into producing it and making it available to you, etc. A few moments spent in contemplation of how your food connects you to the collective life energy on this planet turns the act of eating into a spiritual practice.
Tip: Choosing whole foods that contain all, or mostly, natural ingredients makes it easier to visualize their source. And since these kinds of food are what your body really needs to sustain health and vitality, selecting them for your practice of mindful eating supports your overall health.
5. Mindful Living: Impulses & Judgment
At its core, mindfulness is about non-judgment. When we’re being mindful, we’re cultivating the capacity to be open to the experience of life – the good, the bad, and the ugly. Because whether we like it or not, life contains all these kinds of experiences. We can try to make our life the best possible existence it can be, but we can’t control every thing, every circumstance, or other people. Inevitably, we will face hardship, disappointment, suffering and loss. When we train our mind in non-judgment, we’re expanding our capacity to accept these facts of life and be resilient in the face of them.
Additionally, mindfulness is about not responding and reacting to life habitually or on auto pilot. It’s about being aware of what’s happening within and around us in each moment, so we may consciously choose what response and/or action is the most skillful. And by skillful I mean, what will truly serve our wellbeing today – in this moment – based on honest and clear-minded self-awareness?
Therefore, if we want to live mindfully, we have to start paying attention to our judging mind throughout the day. How often are we passing judgment? And how are those judgments interfering with our health, happiness, contentment, and overall wellbeing? Likewise, we have to create some space around our impulsive reactions, so we may observe how we’re being compelled to think, speak, and behave the way we do. And then, contemplate whether or not those thoughts, words, and actions truly serve us.
The Judging & Impulsive Mind
The judging mind is deeply engrained. To not judge – to really stay open to what is – doesn’t come easily. Our instinct to pass judgment is supported by a long history of our body-mind system responding to pleasure vs. pain, gain vs. loss, esteem vs. shame, etc. We’ve spent a lot of time categorizing the world into likes and dislikes. So, to suddenly try to stop – or even slow down – this process requires a lot of intentional effort.
The same can be said of our impulses. There are powerful forces at play when we feel the urge to consume, react emotionally, do something that’s become a habit, etc. Sometimes, acting on impulse can happen so swiftly, we may not even register we’ve made a choice. We just go along without thinking. However, a focus on mindful living can help us gain conscious control.
It begins with simply observing. Just set the intention to start noticing when you’re judging, and when you’re thinking or acting out of habit. Then, when you notice it, bring some curiosity to it. You can label it – as in, I notice my mind is judging this experience. Or, wow, I’m feeling a really strong urge to (fill in the blank) right now.
There’s no need to change what you’re doing. In the beginning, just acknowledge the tendencies as they arise. This creates the cognitive space for self-awareness. Over time, as you become more aware of your judging and impulsive mind, you’ll feel less automatically compelled by your judgments and impulses when they arise. And the space for alternative responses will open up.
6. Mindful Living: Social Media
What’s your relationship with social media like? Do you spend a lot of time creating content, checking engagement on your posts, or reading/liking other people’s posts? If so, this mindful living tip is for you.
Did you know social media algorithms are designed to manipulate (and monetize) your brain’s chemistry? Specifically, to create a dopamine-response cycle that’s not much different than what happens in addiction to substances like cocaine and methamphetamine? (Learn more here.) Furthermore, the whole business of social media comes down to likes, thumbs up, thumbs down, shares, etc. Which means, not only does it draw upon the judging tendencies of your mind, but as you engage with it, you’re reinforcing the habit of your judging mind.
Social media, by it’s very design, is a mindless activity – the opposite of mindfulness. It’s no wonder, then, time spent on social media produces the opposite results. Studies have drawn connections between social media use and anxiety, depression, lowered self-esteem, and even loneliness. That means, getting intentional about how much time we’re spending scrolling our feeds is an important part of cultivating mindfulness. And it’s also an important step on the path to creating a more joyful, peaceful, and balanced life.
How To Bring Mindfulness To Your Social Media Use
To be more mindful about your social media use, set a firm boundary around the time you’re willing to give to it. No matter what notifications come in – enticing you to hop on for just a few minutes – remind yourself of your commitment to limit your social media time. Instead of opening the app, bring mindful awareness to the urge you’re feeling. What does it feel like? Where do you feel the pull in your body? What thoughts are arising for you? Get curious about this phenomenon of feeling compelled to get on social media. What’s driving it, really?
As you witness all this, let whatever you notice take its course. Let it arise, peak, and dissipate without judging yourself or the experience and without acting on it. (This practice is called urge-surfing, and it’s quite effective in combatting addictive habits.) In this way, you will have turned an old habit that encourages mindlessness and judgment into an opportunity to expand your capacity for being mindful and more consciously involved in choosing what serves your wellbeing.
7. Mindful Living: Nature Time
As a nature lover, I couldn’t write a post about mindful living without including a section on nature. Spending time in nature can be one of the most powerful and enjoyable ways to cultivate mindfulness. That’s because the quiet, peaceful setting of a park or other nature retreat helps us slow down and access the place of quiet within our own self.
However, you don’t have to go to a special setting to connect with nature. Simply stepping outside to witness whatever bits of nature surround you can support you in mindfulness. You can find a patch of grass. Look up at the sky. Notice the sounds of the birds and the breeze. Look for plants and trees, even if they’re potted. The point is to connect – in the present moment – with the energy of life expressing itself just as it is – naturally.
If you think about it, the myriad lifeforms we find in nature simply go about the business of living without pretense or judgment. They’re always in the present moment. I think this is why we find it so peaceful, relaxing, and inspiring to be in nature. We’re tuning-in to that frequency.
But more than that, when we sit or walk in mindful awareness of all the sights, sounds, smells, etc. that proliferate in nature, we enter an oasis. The noisier, more artificial buzz of our everyday experience drops away, and our whole system calms down. This invites the appreciating tendency of our mind to arise, and allows our judging mind to relax.
To incorporate nature time into your mindfulness practice, all you have to do is go outside and take notice. Pay attention with all your senses. Begin with the bigger picture and gradually take in more and more of the subtle details. When your mind wanders, take a deep breath and come back to your present moment experience. Open to curiosity, wonder, and appreciation.
Tip: Sunrise and sunset are especially good times to commune mindfully with nature. Not only is the display of beauty easily accessible and captivating, but these times of day – the sattvic hours – are energetically suited to quiet reflection. (Previously, I wrote a whole post about the sattvic hour, in which I focused on the early morning sunrise. But sunset is also considered to be sattvic, and therefore ideal for meditative, contemplative practices.)
As the essence of mindfulness touches more and more of your lived experience, your life can’t help but be transformed. The fruits of joy, peace, and balance can’t help but grow and ripen. I’ll leave you with the beautiful words of one of my favorite mindfulness teachers, Thich Nhat Hanh:
The present moment is filled with joy and happiness. If you are attentive, you will see it.Thich Nhat Hanh, Peace Is Every Step: The Path of Mindfulness in Everyday Life
So, what do you think? Did you find some ways to get more intentional about mindful living you can realistically incorporate into your daily life? Maybe even all of them? Tell me which ones you plan to get started on in the comments section below. Or, if you’re already doing some of them, I’d love to hear how they’ve impacted your life. And if someone you know might appreciate reading this, please pass it along!
May your mindfulness journey bring you peace, joy, and life-fulfilling balance.