How To Get Mindful: A Guide To The Basics

ICYMI, I decided that July would be the month of Mindfulness on Gooey because it's something I'm always working to cultivate in my life. I know, I know, I'm about half-a-month late over here with the actual new content bit, but in my defense, I've actually been really focused on living mindfully – so much so that I've been prioritizing my offline life over my online one. All that said, we only have about a week and a half left to set you up for a mindful life so let's hop to it, shall we?! As the rest of the month unfolds, I'll be delivering some rad interviews with women in the mindfulness space, some How-To's on being mindful in all sorts of situations (while eating, during arguments with your S.O., while you're washing your face, etc.), plus a rundown of how I've been cultivating mindfulness for myself this month.

For now, though, let's cover the basics:

What does mindfulness mean?

Put simply, mindfulness is just paying attention. Whether it's being aware of your surroundings on a walk or practicing engaged listening to a friend who's talking, mindfulness is, at it's core, a very simple practice of living in the present moment.

Are mindfulness and meditation the same thing?

Not quite. While meditation requires a concentrated amount of time to disengage entirely from activity, mindfulness encourages you to simply be engaged throughout your normal activities. Yes, you utilize mindfulness during meditation too, but think of mindfulness as the broader umbrella that meditation falls under.

Where do I begin?

To figure out what you need help doing more mindFULLy, start by thinking about what you do mindLESSly. Do you often get in your car at work and come to half an hour later and wonder 'How the eff did I already get home?!' Are you powering through your lunch so quickly that you often can't remember if you even ate it? Do you have a habit of losing your place in a conversation and laughing when someone asks you a question? We all need this ish, folks.

Identify 2-3 situations that you usually enter mindlessly and use the practices below to get a start on being present.

How do I do it?

There are loads of ways to get the mind engaged with the present moment (this article has some great ones), but I'll give you my top three to try out for the remainder of the month.

  1. Recognize your thoughts for what they are: We've all had moments when we find ourselves lost in a thought-pattern and thus removed from whatever situation is at hand. We're driving home and, instead of watching the road, we let our minds wander to all the things we need to do when we get there. The result is usually a lot of anxiety and/or impatience and we waste the present moment worrying or irritable about something that isn't even happening yet. Instead of letting your mind spiral, practice recognizing that you're thinking. That's it. Just, "Oh hey, thought." Not "Oh no I'm thinking and ruining the present moment and why do I always do that, I'll never be good at this mindfulness thing." Nope, y'all, never that. Just a simple "Oh hey, I'm thinking right now" will do. Because, recognizing that a thought is occupying your present moment will immediately bring you back to the present.

  2. Breathe: When you feel your mind spiraling away from the present moment and towards images of the past or wants for the future, another great way to reel it in is by returning to your breath. Just take three long, deep breaths and feel them in your body. You'll feel refreshed and centered immediately.

  3. Touch something: Whenever I'm entering my anxiety spiral, I find that touching something is a great way to get present. Try rubbing the material of your shirt or walking around the room, gently caressing any and all objects, thinking about their textures, weights, and materials. This practice will ground you immediately, get you out of your headspace back and into the space you're actually in right now.

Pretty much all of my interest around mindfulness and living presently stems from The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle. If you've had a conversation with me in the past 2 years, you'd know that this is basically my holy grail of a book and reading it is probably in the top 5 most transformational things I've ever done for myself. If you really want to go deep with yourself on your mindfulness journey, do yourself a favor and buy it – you won't ever regret it.

To close, I'll leave you with one of my favorite quotes from the book which is basically my life mantra:

"Wherever you are, be there totally. If you find your here and now and intolerable and it makes you unhappy, you have three options: remove yourself from the situation, change it, or accept it totally. If you want to take responsibility from your life, you must choose one of those three options, and you must choose now. Then accept the consequences. No excuses. No negativity. No psychic pollution. Keep your inner space clear."

Wishing you a mindful month.

– Lenea Sims

P.S. Are you really not signed up for the newsletter yet?? If you aren't, you'll want to be because it's about to get a wholllleee lot better ;)

Image by Nicolette Daskalakis