5 tips to become gradually more mindful:
Mindfulness is often talk about as something positive but difficult to attain. In simple terms, I think mindfulness is to be present in the moment, undisturbed by distractions and to be able to put one’s attention on a chosen object at will. It is a quality of sustained focus, a state of being.
Letting consciousness bloom does not have to be difficult. I believe the very first step is to consider it natural and easy, to let it happen instead of trying hard, to create space for it to emerge instead of seeking it.
Mindfulness is always here. You don’t need to find it, you just need to let it emerge. In order to do that, you need space in your mind. Imagine your mind is a glass, and mindfulness is a liquid that competes with other liquids (thoughts, and emotions) to fill up the glass.
If the glass is already full, mindfulness cannot fit in the glass.
The mind can be constantly bothered by distractions. Thoughts, emotions, physical stimuli, peoples and events are constantly competing for our attention.
The mind has difficulty stabilizing and paying sustained attention, surrounded by so much information.
The first thing you can do to let mindfulness arrise is to reduce the flow of information in your life. This will create space and eliminate distractions, allowing you to be with yourself.
1 Slowing down.
That’s right, just slowing down. Slowing down in everything we do can seem counter productive, and not intuitive. Because we are constantly running after the clock, we are more often tempted to speed up, to do more but slowing down can have multiple benefits:
>As an experiment, try to do everything more slowly, maybe just by 10%. You can start for an hour or a day, see how it feels.
Reducing your pace, requires you to pay deliberate attention to what you are doing. Doing things slowly actually forces you to focus more on the present moment and focus. You can do that with any activities, such as walking, talking, eating, breathing, working, any form of movement. There is a common fear that being slower lowers productivity, but it is not always so, as slowing down can leave room for more efficient action.
See my article on pacing: finding the switch
>Going slower also lower your cognitive load, your brain is under less stress. This create excess processing capacity. This excess processing power tend to induce more presence,
paying more attention to what is around you, making you more aware, conscious and alive.
>It can also lower emotional and physical stress. Your metabolism can slow down, having space to heal. The nervous system can balance between sympathetic and parasympathetic, as emotions become calmer and regulated.
If you can sustain a lower pace of activity for a while, you can experience how it can lead to more presence and contentment. Obviously, it is subjective and some people are naturally faster and more active that others. The idea is not to achieve a certain standard, just go a little under your maximum capacity. By also deliberately not trying to keep up or compete with others pace, you can operate from a place of wellbeing that is good for you.
2 Pause and stop.
Modern life seams to be a constant stream of activity, the completion of goals and objectives, ticks on the to do list. Even when we are ‘relaxing’, we spend time with ‘distractions’. The different medias make sure every free time is ‘filled’, not waisting a single second.
An effective way to let consciousness be there is to pause and stop between your diverse activities. Have little pauses, just like pressing the button on the remote of your life, so that the video of activities is not constantly playing.
Just by pausing for a few moments, adding a few intervals during your day, you allow yourself not to be rushed and to be with yourself.
It is in times when you truly do nothing that you can really experience yourself, your aliveness and the moment.
To pause, simply allow one or more minutes of rest or nothingness at the completion of an activity, before starting something else.
For example, you can take one minute to stop and sit in your car at the end of a drive, before you get out and vacate to other activities, like work or getting home.
Try to take a few breaths before and or after activities, like eating, taking a shower, work, or whatever else that you do.
In your work or daily tasks, maybe just take a breath when you finsih something, and let yourself enjoy. Let the realization of the completion of the task bloom.
The more you allow yourself to pause and stop, the less you will feel like you are running after the cloak. The more you let the realization that life is an endless continuation of tasks soak in. That you don’t need to run, and things are OK. The more you allow yourself to notice what your are feeling, seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, the beauty that life has to offer.
Maybe you can notice you pain and suffering to, and that’s OK. Pain is one of the reason people never stops. When there is a pause, they come to experience loss, uncertainty about life and themselves. But if this experience can be painful, it is the only way to reconcile with yourself, learning to be at ease, being your own friend, to be full instead of needing.
3 Creating rituals.
By rituals, I do not mean anything of a spiritual nature. I mean by ritual an habit that is conscious and focused. A ritual is a behavior that you do regularly, usually at the same time or at the same place, that forces you to be present.
It is a habit, but kind of opposite in its purpose. The idea in developing habits is to create automatisms in order to make a behavior easy to perform and maintain.
Forming and reinforcing habits, let you perform the behavior without even thinking about it.
On the other hand the ritual is an habitual behavior designed to bring you back to the present by forcing you to pay attention.
It can be a common activity with a twist, or a certain way of doing something.
For example you can treat any activity in a meditative way, turning it into a daily ritual.
Let’s say being mindful during your shower. Instead of being lost in thoughts while you shower, you can focus and pay attention to the physical sensations, as well as the sounds and smells present. By prioritizing your sensations over your mental activity, you become focused on what is happening right now. The experience is therefore likely to be more conscious and enjoyable.
You can practice mindfulness with any activity. You can just chose one activity daily which you will pay particular attention to. If that works, you can increase the number of activities that you perform mindfully.
Another way is to make the habit a little odd or difficult.
For example, try brushing your teeth with your opposite hand. It makes the activity harder and force you to pay attention. It’s a simple act but can be a strong reminder for being present. Doing things that are a bit odd, can instantly bring you back to the present and make you laugh.
Trying to do things with the other hand, doing a weird movement, or making a sound can be fun ways to force yourself into consciousness. You can find something that works for you.
4 Finding the flow state.
The state of flow as been described and research by the social scientist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. It is a topic with the growing interests since the popular book Flow has been released. Such state are often experienced by professional athletes and successful people and is associated with a feeling of consciousness and aliveness.
Being in a flow state is like being in the zone when performing an activity. It helps you to me more efficient, invested and focused.
In order to find flow, you need to have the right balance of engagement. You need to perform something that is not boring but not too challenging either, that you are interested with.
By being in a state of flow, you start to focus fully on what you are doing and start to forget yourself, or your ego. Because you are focused on an activity, you are not self-conscious, thoughts and emotions tend not to be distracting and/or disappear altogether.
You kind of fuse with what you are doing. The sense of time can become distorted and you can feel a sense of wellbeing and connectivity.
Flow comes with experience, and you come to know your own triggers and activities that engages you. Personally, I enjoy writing and a few hours can pass by without me realizing or having any thoughts about myself on a conscious level.
You have probably experienced it, try to think of an activity that made you feel that way.
Once you have experienced the state of flow, you can anchor this state of being by creating triggers or habits, to make it easier for it to arrise.
Music, rituals, breathing and visualisations are powerful triggers for concentration and achieving a state of flow.
5 Anchoring mindful states.
Often mindfulness and presence are triggered by something. Something happens, either in your mind, or in your environment that jolt your consciousness. It can be whatever; from a thought, a sensation, a sound, the sight of something like an image or color, an action.
When you have isolated a trigger, you can try to repeat the process, so it triggers you again and again into the same state of mind or consciousness. This is done through exposure, making sure that the trigger is present each time you are experiencing a certain state of being. Soon the trigger and the state will be linked.
You can also create triggers by repetition, without having a first occurrence. This is a little tricky as it is more difficult to identify which trigger is useful and will work with you, and what kind of state of being you are in. In the eventually that you become quite aware and present, but cannot identify what triggered this state of being, you can pick something in your environment in this moment to link this state of being to.
Here are some example of anchors:
-A color or an image, either present in your environment or in your mind.
-A sound or an alarm, I find a beeper with an odd sound that beeps at regular interval can be a useful reminder for being present.
-A action, or gesture, like walking past a certain door, wrapping your hand around a mug of tea or coffee, tying up your shoe laces or tie.
-An event, the rain falling down, the wind blowing through the trees.
-A token or object, that you hold that triggers you feeling a certain way. Like a teddy bear.
You can literally make up anything that work for you.
Extra tip: Meditate regularly.
You’ve heard it again and again, so I’ll keep it short. Meditating regularly is absolutely proven to enhance your mind in different ways.
It definitely helps to make you more present and limit mental and emotional distractions. By meditating even a few minutes everyday, you learn to pay attention to the now, through various object of attention like the breath, sounds, a candle, a mantra, or any other modality.
Even five minutes everyday is enough to get benefits.
The last thing that I want to point out is that practicing consciousness is not tiring. It can be easy to think that it is just another thing to do, that paying extra attention and regulating yourself is tiring. While it can be the case at first, it often provide you with more energy after a while. Emotions and thoughts are in fact tiring, and when one start to easily regulate oneself, more energies flows into one’s life. Mindfulness and presence become gradually easier and more beneficial.
Another thing to note, is that techniques and effects are cumulative, meaning that benefits from different practices stack on top of each other. If you use multiple techniques, you can gradually become present for most of your day, and hopefully reach a state of practical enlightenment or constant presence. Presence and mindfulness not only help you feel good and alive, it is also associated with other desirable traits such as, charisma, executive presence, empathy, listening and engaged learning.
Here is a recap of the tips:
1 Slowing down
2 Pause and stop
3 Create rituals
4 Find the flow
5 Anchor your states of consciousness
Extra tip: Meditate (even 5 min a day)
I want to challenge you to pick one of these ideas to stick with. This article will not help you if you do not take action. You might as well not have read it.
Try one of these ideas for a few weeks, maybe a month, and see if you notice any difference in your daily feeling of mindfulness and enjoyment.
Once you have tried to implement one of these tips, or for other comments or questions related to this article, or if you have any other tips that you’d like to share, please post in the comment section bellow.
All the Best