If you live your life in a distracted, busy, and overwhelmed state of crossing things off a to do list, a mindfulness practice is going to change your life. This article is all about how to live in the present moment, how to develop a mindfulness practice, how to be happier and more joyful in your day to day life, how to be more mindful, how to stay present, and how to get started with mindfulness as a way of living.
One day last year I was on the playroom floor with my kids (ages 5 and 2) and they were showing me their latest creations. Lego was scattered across the white shag rug in every direction. Little People were strewn across each corner of the room. Wooden blocks and magnetic blocks and alphabet blocks were stacked one on top of the other. Glitter and other craft supplies littered the floor.
Two wonderful little people had just spent a morning exploring, imagining, and creating –the room reflected an amazing environment in which they were free to do what lit their hearts on fire.
But all I could see was a giant mess. So while I sat there on the playroom floor, I could focus on nothing but the disaster around me which I would have to add to my already very long to do list for the day.
I was so caught up in my thoughts that I almost didn’t notice my kids repeating the same sentence to me over and over and over again… “do you like it mum? mum? do you like it? mummy! do you like it?”
Back then (and sometimes still now) their questions had been met from me with a mediocre “mmhmm” while I barely glanced at their latest masterpiece and instead thought of the business, or the company coming later in the week, or what’s for supper tonight, or an upcoming coaching call.
And that’s when I realized that mindfulness wasn’t something I could add to my to do list to achieve for the day, but a practice that I would need to focus on every minute of every day in order to find the balance I was looking for in life.
Mindfulness has become a buzzword on social media. The latest trend to hop onto. The shiniest new goal to add to your list. But mindfulness cannot be achieved… It can only be practiced every single day until it is ingrained in your way of being. It is not a one time check it off the list kind of thing.
What is mindfulness exactly?
Mindfulness is a state of focusing your attention on the moment you’re in right now. It’s about keeping your thoughts focused on what you’re presently experiencing and accepting the moment for what it is, without judging it or trying to change it. It’s the ability to feel emotions that come up and absorb any experience you find yourself in.
Mindfulness is about being all in.
Why should I make mindfulness a priority?
In a world full of distraction, mindfulness is the key to slowing down time and improving your mental health.
If you’ve been feeling overwhelmed, stressed, and pulled in a thousand directions, committing to a mindfulness practice may just be what you need in order to enjoy your day to day life more fully,
Spending too much time and energy thinking of the future, planning, worrying, problem solving, organizing, and achieving can be draining. Plus, always thinking ahead is what makes the days fly by too quickly.
Mindfulness is a way for you to engage with your life the way it is RIGHT NOW and avoid having time pass you by.
Whereas once mindfulness appeared to be a bit of a ‘woo woo’ practice, it is currently being studied through numerous clinical trials and the results are astounding. Mindfulness has been proven to help combat anxiety, depression, stress, and insomnia. But for me, the biggest impact mindfulness has made is on my happiness.
In this article, I want to share how I made the internal shift from a life fueled by busyness and anxiety to a life full of being present and engaged with my kiddos and happy with whatever the day brings.
Here are 9 ways to be more mindful and live in the present moment.
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Learn to recognize when you are not being mindful
The first step to solving your problem is recognizing that it exists.
You may want to improve your ability to stay mindful in the present moment, but in order to do that you have to be able to catch yourself when you are NOT mindful.
This can look like a number of different things for different people. For me, my chest feels heavy and my breathing is shallow. Symptoms of anxiety take over and my thoughts race around in circles. And I’m usually multitasking.
Whenever you notice yourself not being mindful, make a mental note. Then return to the moment.
Explore all of your senses
The best way to focus on the present moment is by deploying all of your senses to soaking up your current environment.
- Smell… what does your environment smell like?
- Touch… what does your environment feel like?
- See… what are the visual qualities of your environment?
- Taste… what do you taste in your environment?
- Hear… what sounds can you make out in your environment?
Whenever I notice mindfulness slip out of my grasp, I always come back to my senses. I literally go through each sense, one by one, and soak it all in.
I find this to be a very helpful strategy to deploy when I’m doing mundane tasks during which I’m prone to being distracted.
If I’m doing the dishes, I genuinely focus on appreciating the feeling of the water on my skin, the smell of the soap, the taste of the meal I just finished, the look of the bubbles washing over the my hand, the sound of the water coming out of the tap.
There’s nothing miraculous about this per se… the miracle occurs when we make a habit of turning our thoughts off and letting our minds rest. When you’re focused on the activity you’re doing, you give your brain a natural pause before it returns to firing on all cylinders. If you are always thinking about something, your mind doesn’t get a break.
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Visualize a mindful version of you
I set my intention every morning.
If I want to show up as the most mindful version of myself, then I need to see it as if it’s already happened.
Take a minute or two before you start your day to picture how you want to show up. If you were the most mindful person you knew, how would you act?
Taking a few minutes to visualize what a mindful day looks like for you makes it easier to act that way when the time comes.
Remind yourself what matters most
When my mind gets carried away from the present moment, I like to remind myself what matters in this moment right now in order to bring it back.
For example, if my kids are trying to show me how they can somersault off the couch, the thing that matters most is showing them that I am there, watching, and proud.
Building a connection with my kids matters more than remembering to answer the random email that just came in and will still be there the next day.
If my husband is trying to talk to me, showing him I am listening, hearing him, and supporting him matters more than figuring out what we will eat for supper tonight.
Just come back to the thing that matters MOST right now, and give yourself permission to be fully present and immersed, instead of planning/worrying/anticipating.
A year or two ago, I could barely sit still for 3 minutes, not to mention not think a single thought for that long. Meditation was daunting, challenging, and super frustrating when I first started. But a year later I’ve gone from meditating for 3 minutes to meditating for 15 minutes and it has made a world of difference.
A successful meditation for me is equivalent to a really nice hike in the woods by yourself where you feel an amazing sense of peace. Or a really great coffee with a friend where your soul feels happy.
Sitting and focusing on nothing but your breath for 15 minutes will completely rebalance you, remove any worries, instill a deep feeling of contentedness, and help you appreciate the things that matter most in life.
Meditation is amazing.
It also gives you the practice you need to be able to still your mind later in the day when circumstances are challenging.
If you want to be able to live in the present moment, meditation must be your go to mechanism for training your brain to relax.
Set a timer
Let’s be honest, sometimes being mindful is a real challenge.
If the kids want me to help them build the 17th version of a lego spaceship in one weekend, my excitement to be in that moment is at a deficit. I’m looking for every opportunity to get out of that request, while I begrudgingly sit there and wonder how to escape.
During those times, I find it really helpful to set a timer. I will put a timer for 15 minutes on my phone during which I have to be completely immersed in the moment. It helps to know that once the timer beeps, I’ve done my duty and can move on with my life.
If you’re struggling with being mindful in a particular task, the timer will make it easier.
I also use this strategy at work when I want to distract myself but should really be focusing. I talk about it more in my time management post.
Related post: 5 Strategies For Better Time Management
If you’d like to master time management check out our e-course! It’s guaranteed to give you back 7 hours in your week!
Practice quieting the mind throughout the day
Ever notice how quickly your mind starts to race when your feet hit the floor in the morning?
By the time I brush my teeth I’ve already run through my to do list, worried about 3-4 things coming up that the day, and am on my 15th random thought of the day.
I didn’t even notice this non stop voice in my head until I read Michael Singer’s The Untethered Soul.
Pick a few random points throughout your day that you will make a conscious effort to be mindful. For me it’s brushing my teeth, showering, doing dishes, putting the house ‘to bed’, and drinking tea.
Those are 5 touch points every single day where I turn off my thoughts and just appreciate the moment I am in.
What will your 5 mindfulness touch points look like every day?
There are a lot of really great resources to get you further along your mindfulness journey.
- Michael Singer’s The Untethered Soul
- Dan Harriss’ 10% Happier
- Eckhart Tolle’s A New Earth: Awakening To Your Life’s Purpose
- The Headspace App
- Boho Beautiful’s guided meditations
These all helped me in my mindfulness journey, and I highly recommend you check them out!
Track your mindfulness
The last piece of advice I’ll give you is that, like with any good goal, you should track your mindfulness practice.
Take time at the end of each day to reflect on whether you showed up mindfully that day.
- What worked?
- What could be improved?
- What are you changing for tomorrow?
Not only will this help you remember to be more mindful, but you’ll have more success when you take the time to reflect and pivot as you go.
Mindfulness is a skill that few have the luxury of possessing these days. In an era of hyper connection and multitasking, not only are we moving a thousand miles an hour, but our minds are spinning even faster, trying to keep up with it all.
Life is so much better when we can take the time to appreciate it, and it all begins with learning to be mindful.
As you embark on your own mindfulness journey, just remember that it takes time. And it also never ends. But it gradually gets easier and I fully believe you can get there.
What’s the biggest difference you’ve noticed in your life since starting to focus on mindfulness? Let me know in the comments below!