They say that the small things in life are the ones that matter the most. The small things could be interpreted as enjoying an afternoon spent in good company, listening to a song and losing yourself in the music, laughing until your belly hurts, smelling a bouquet of flowers, etc. And you may find it cliché, but these tiny little moments are really the most important ones. Why? Because during these moments you are 100% there, you’re not thinking about the past or worrying about the future, you live that moment to the fullest, and that’s what mindfulness is all about.
I used to be an alcoholic and drug addict, and my idea of living life to the fullest was passing out in the bathroom floor three times a week. As an addict, you never really live in the moment. You’re always thinking about your next hit or your next drink, while life passes by without you even noticing it.
When I started my drug addiction rehab discovered mindfulness. I realized how much I had missed out on by letting alcohol and drugs be the center of my life. Mindfulness can be defined as “the basic human ability to be fully present, aware of where we are and what we’re doing, and not overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around us” (1).
Slowly, I began incorporating mindfulness into my life, through simple practices like yoga and meditation. It helped me in ways you wouldn’t believe. I started feeling less stressed, less overwhelmed and more cheerful. I also felt more active and i noticed myself being kinder to strangers. It helped me through the hardest parts of recovery and it has helped me stay sober throughout the years.
Becoming a mindful person isn’t difficult at all, and it has the potential of changing your life for the better. Here are 5 simple ways in which you can easily incorporate mindfulness into your life.
A very easy first step to becoming mindful is paying attention to the things you do in your routine that you would normally do in autopilot. For example, pay attention to each step as you make your breakfast. Then, pay attention at how your senses react when you eat it. How it smells, how it tastes, what it looks like, how different parts of your body feel like when you eat it.
Try doing this exercise with a different part of your routine everyday, from taking a shower to walking your dog or riding the subway to work, and little by little it will become natural for you to stay focused on the moment rather than worrying about something else.
This exercise is very simple but it can be very effective in helping you calm down and relax. It consists only in identifying your in-breaths and out-breaths. When you breathe in, consciously recognize it as your in-breath, do the same when you breathe out. Say to yourself “this is an in-breath; this is an out-breath”.
Conscious or controlled breathing can reduce stress, increase alertness and boost your immune system, and it’s so easy to do! You can find many other different breathing exercises online which you can practice for a couple of minutes in the morning and night, or whenever you’re feeling anxious.
Meditation can be frustrating for some people at first -at least it was for me-. We are used to thinking about a thousand things at the same time; even when we’re having a conversation with someone or watching a movie our mind is somewhere else, so training it to be 100% at one place can be difficult.
Don’t be discouraged if you’re not able to stop your mind from wandering about, it happens even to the most experienced in the art of meditation. Guided meditations, which you can find online, are a great tool to help you stay focused through your meditation, especially as a beginner.
It’s easy for us to pass judgement on ourselves. We do it all the time, and most of the time we don’t even realize it. For me it was a daily practice. I used to be really hard on myself for my addiction and my past, for all the harm I had caused myself and my family.
Judging yourself because of your mistakes is natural and, as I said before, it’s almost involuntary. What mindfulness is about is recognizing these self-judgements, considering them, and then letting them go as easily as they came. It isn’t as simple as it sounds, but with practice, just like anything, it becomes easier.
Mindfulness is something that can only be achieved through practice, and this means taking the time and space to practice it every single day. The discipline you learn by practicing mindfulness everyday will then translate to other aspects of your life. For example, making myself meditate every morning even when I wanted to stay in bed helped me resist other temptations while in recovery.
I have been sober for almost a decade now, and I can honestly say that mindfulness has been a determining factor in my sobriety. Being able to live in the moment without being overwhelmed all the time, learning to calm myself down whenever I feel anxious, learning to forgive myself and becoming disciplined are things that have helped me -and still help me- stay sober and healthy. Incorporate these small tips into your life, and you will see the positive changes soon after.
Do you have any questions about mindfulness? If you’d like to add or suggest something, please leave a comment below.