It is true that our minds can take us places, but a wandering mind can take a toll on our happiness. A Harvard study has shown we are happiest when we are more present and aware of what we are doing and of our surroundings. In other words, when we are more mindful. This article will take you through some tips to live more mindfully at work and home.
WHAT IS MINDFUL LIVING
Being mindful is essentially being more aware of what is happening around us and in our bodies. In a fast-paced society like Singapore, our minds tend to hop from one thing to another, making it difficult for us to be present in the moment.
This state of mindlessness happens more often than we know. According to Harvard researcher Matt Killingsworth, an average person’s mind is wandering 47 per cent most of the day. By embarking on mindful living, we break the state of mindlessness. We do so by being more conscious in what we are doing, being more in the moment, and being nonjudgmental.
BE MORE CONSCIOUS
Being mindful means that we should be deliberate and on purpose when doing something. Often when we are working or performing a mundane task, we switch off and just go through the motions.
We all have those moments when we travel from home to work and not remember what happened during our commute, or when we finish a bowl of chips without even realising it. Switching to ‘autopilot’ gets the work done, but studies show that we also become more prone to stress, anxiety, and negative emotions.
Instead of letting your mind go to sleep, place your attention on one thing. During meal times, for instance, we can consume our food slowly and focus on the different flavours on our taste buds, or when we are typing in the office, we can pay attention to our breathing.
BE IN THE MOMENT
The hyperconnected society we are living in today is all about being current, but ironically it makes it more difficult for us to live in the moment. With so much information presented to us, our minds tend to get tangled up in replaying the past and projecting the future. Rarely can we be fully present in the moment.
Mindful living, on the other hand, encourages us to engage in the present time, here and now. By doing so, we let go of the anxiety of having to do more or to want more. Instead we accept the present as it is.
Our daily routine can be turned into mindfulness practice. While we are waiting for our trains or buses, for example, instead of thinking about our upcoming meeting or exams, we can direct our minds to focus on the smell, sound, and sight around us. Not only will our minds feel more rested when we arrive at our destinations, we may also learn new things about our neighbourhood. An even easier way to be present in the moment is to put away our phones.
By putting away our phones during a meal with friends or loved ones, we would be able to give our full attention to the conversation and the people we are with. This practice may seem like a small gesture, but as it turns out, what makes people happy have less to do with what they are doing and more to do with whether they are fully present in the moment.
The practice to enhance our consciousness and be able to be in the moment, culminates in our ability to let go of emotions and unnecessary thoughts. This does not mean that we suppress or control our emotions and thoughts. Being mindful means being able to acknowledge those emotions and thoughts without judging or labelling them so as not to get caught up in them. As a result, we can have clearer, more focused thinking which can improve efficiency at work and at home. Mindfulness also helps to boost our confidence and emotional resilience. Keeping a journal would be helpful to our effort to be more mindful. Write down three priorities for the day. Throughout the day when we feel that our mind is getting more cluttered, we can remind ourselves of the priorities set for the day and focus on them. The journal would also come in handy when we experience strong emotions. Writing them down is a good way to acknowledge the feeling and to remind ourselves not to dwell on them. The practice to attain mindful living is closely associated with meditation. But, we do not have to master meditation to be more mindful of ourselves and our surroundings. If we put our minds to it, daily routines like waiting for the bus or eating our lunches too can be made into practices of mindful living.