The intention to live a more mindful life is continuing to grow and touch an increasing amount of people. May these tips serve to help find more peace and purpose during this time. Perhaps take 1 or 2 and try them this week.
Here are 7 key habits of highly mindful people and some tips on how to integrate these habits into one's life.
1. They Hold Thoughts Lightly
Highly mindful people consistently monitor and observe what’s going on in their minds. They pay attention to what thoughts are arising in the mind but they hold them lightly.
What does ‘holding thoughts lightly’ mean? They don’t believe their thoughts and they don’t take them all that seriously. They’re also willing to question any conditioned patterns of thought and belief that do not serve them.
Through this kind of self-observation, they are able to step back and watch the mind instead of being swept in its current. They therefore free themselves from conditioned, reactive ways of living and thinking.
Any time you watch thoughts, you are being mindful. Start listening to the voice in your head as often as you can, especially any repetititve thought patterns.
As you listen, aim to do so as an impartial witness. You’ll soon realize, “there is the voice, and here I am listening to it. I am not the mind.”
2. They Feel What They’re Feeling
Mindfulness isn’t about being perpetually happy. It’s about the complete acceptance of the present moment as it is. That means feeling what is here to be felt in this moment, without trying to resist or control it.
Even highly mindful people feel difficult emotions. They feel anger, sadness and fear sometimes, but what sets them apart is that they don’t try to avoid or deny these emotions.
They acknowledge what they’re feeling and allow it to be as it is. They know that emotions, both pleasant and unpleasant, come and go as a natural part of life.
That doesn’t mean they can’t respond to create change. In fact, they’re more able to do so.
By ‘being with’ life’s challenges in a mindful way, the highly mindful are able to remain centered and calm in the midst of it all. They’re able to respond rather than react and make wiser choices.
They also avoid excessive grasping at positive emotions. The paradox that highly mindful people understand, is that perpetually chasing positive emotions very often pushes them away and keeps us stuck in ‘doing’ mode.
They know that what makes us most fulfilled, what brings us the most peace, is actually simply being present in the moment, being with it all – the pleasant and unpleasant.
3. They Accept the Transient Nature of Things
Perhaps the most fundamental law of life is that every thing is constantly changing. Nothing is permanent.
We can listen with our ears and observe that sounds constantly arise, unfold and then disappear. We see with our eyes how over time the seasons change, how things age, and how the world continues to
Sensations, emotions and thoughts are always coming and going in awareness.
We’re born on this planet, we grow up, grow older and eventually pass away.
Highly mindful people understand, accept and contemplate the transient nature of things. Because of this, they are aware of the preciousness and sacredness of life and they savor each moment, and each day.
Because they accept what is transient, they become firmly rooted in the silent unchanging awareness that is at the core of their being; the space in which all that is transient comes and goes.
4. They Meditate
You can be mindful without meditating, but many highly mindful people have a regular practice of meditation.
Their testimonies attests to the fact that a consistent practice helps you stay awake and present during the ups and downs of daily life.
Try to maintain a daily routine of at least ten minutes (to start) a day, preferably first thing in the morning. That way, the energy of mindfulness can carry you through the rest of your day.
See my meditation class offering
5. They Do One Thing At a Time
There is a myth that multitasking makes us more productive; in reality, it drains us faster and makes us less efficient.
Studies have found that when people are dividing their attention (which is what multitasking is: flitting your attention back and forth quickly from one thing to another), it takes them 50 percent longer to accomplish a task and they’re 50 percent more likely to make errors.
The highly mindful focus on doing things just one thing at a time. They do each task with full awareness, one by one, moment by moment. They also take breaks before transitioning to another task.
It’s a more enjoyable, more efficient and more nourishing way to work and live.
Why not try this more mindful way of working as an experiment for the next week? See how it feels (and hey, let me know if you noticed anything differently).
6. They Turn Everyday Tasks Into Mindful Moments
Much of our daily life is taken up by everyday tasks such as housework, shopping, commuting, dressing and showering etc.￼
Instead of thinking of routine activities as ‘just boring chores’, highly mindful people make these tasks into mindfulness moments.
For instance, if doing the laundry, they don’t rush through it simply ‘getting it done’. Instead, they savor the moment, feeling the textures of the fabrics and perhaps noticing how fresh they smell. Even the folding becomes a sort of yoga practice, moving mindfully, attentive to each fold.
In this way, every little act becomes a sacred ritual.
Perhaps you could choose one activity to try this out with (brushing your teeth for example) and make it your mindfulness practice. Doing this you may soon come to realize that there is no such thing as a mundane moment, only mundane states of mind.
7. They Protect and Nurture Their Minds (and Bodies)
Highly mindful people are custodians of their bodies and minds. They make a habit of listening to their bodies and minds and discerning what is nourishing and what is draining. They deliberately and actively cultivate healthy ways of being.
They also avoid unhealthy ways of being. They pay careful attention to what they consume, ensuring they eat well and get enough rest and physical activity.
They’re equally careful not to feed their minds with ‘junk food’ like excessive tv, social media, mindless gaming, violence and trash magazines.
It doesn’t mean they never indulge in a glass of wine or watch movies. It just means that they have mostly nourishing things in their lives and not too much that is draining.
They treat their minds and bodies with love and respect, knowing that being kind to themselves is a gesture of love towards all life and makes mindful living much easier.
You already know that exercise is good for your body. But did you know it’s also effective in dealing with depression, anxiety, stress, and more?
What are the mental health benefits of exercise?
Exercise is not just about aerobic capacity and muscle size. Sure, exercise can improve your physical health and your physique, trim your waistline, improve your sex life, and even addyears to your life. But that’s not what motivates most people to stay active.People who exercise regularly tend to do so because it gives them an enormous sense ofwell-being. They feel more energetic throughout the day, sleep better at night, have sharpermemories, and feel more relaxed and positive about themselves and their lives. And it’s also powerful medicine for many common mental health challenges.Regular exercise can have a profoundly positive impact on depression, anxiety, ADHD, andmore. It also relieves stress, improves memory, helps you sleep better, and boosts youroverall mood. And you don’t have to be a fitness fanatic to reap the benefits. Researchindicates that modest amounts of exercise can make a difference. No matter your age orfitness level, you can learn to use exercise as a powerful tool to feel better.
Exercise and depression
Studies show that exercise can treat mild to moderate depression as effectively asantidepressant medication—but without the side-effects, of course. As one example, a recentstudy done by the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health found that running for 15 minutes a day or walking for an hour reduces the risk of major depression by 26%. Inaddition to relieving depression symptoms, research also shows that maintaining anexercise schedule can prevent you from relapsing. Exercise is a powerful depression fighter for several reasons. Most importantly, it promotesall kinds of changes in the brain, including neural growth, reduced inflammation, and newactivity patterns that promote feelings of calm and well-being. It also releases endorphins,powerful chemicals in your brain that energize your spirits and make you feel good. Finally, exercise can also serve as a distraction, allowing you to find some quiet time to break out ofthe cycle of negative thoughts that feed depression.
Exercise and anxiety
Exercise is a natural and effective anti-anxiety treatment. It relieves tension and stress,boosts physical and mental energy, and enhances well-being through the release ofendorphins. Anything that gets you moving can help, but you’ll get a bigger benefit if youpay attention instead of zoning out.Try to notice the sensation of your feet hitting the ground, for example, or the rhythm ofyour breathing, or the feeling of the wind on your skin. By adding this mindfulnesselement—really focusing on your body and how it feels as you exercise—you’ll not onlyimprove your physical condition faster, but you may also be able to interrupt the flow ofconstant worries running through your head.
Exercise and stress
Ever noticed how your body feels when you’re under stress? Your muscles may be tense, especially in your face, neck, and shoulders, leaving you with back or neck pain, or painfulheadaches. You may feel a tightness in your chest, a pounding pulse, or muscle cramps. Youmay also experience problems such as insomnia, heartburn, stomachache, diarrhea, orfrequent urination. The worry and discomfort of all these physical symptoms can in turnlead to even more stress, creating a vicious cycle between your mind and body.Exercising is an effective way to break this cycle. As well as releasing endorphins in thebrain, physical activity helps to relax the muscles and relieve tension in the body. Since thebody and mind are so closely linked, when your body feels better so, too, will your mind.
Exercise and ADHD
Exercising regularly is one of the easiest and most effective ways to reduce the symptoms ofADHD and improve concentration, motivation, memory, and mood. Physical activityimmediately boosts the brain’s dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin levels—all of whichaffect focus and attention. In this way, exercise works in much the same way as ADHD medications such as Ritalin and Adderall.
Exercise and PTSD and trauma
Evidence suggests that by really focusing on your body and how it feels as you exercise, you can actually help your nervous system become “unstuck” and begin to move out of theimmobilization stress response that characterizes PTSD or trauma. Instead of allowing yourmind to wander, pay close attention to the physical sensations in your joints and muscles,even your insides as your body moves. Exercises that involve cross movement and that engage both arms and legs—such as walking (especially in sand), running, swimming,weight training, or dancing—are some of your best choices. Outdoor activities like hiking, sailing, mountain biking, rock climbing, whitewater rafting, and skiing (downhill and cross-country) have also been shown to reduce the symptoms ofPTSD.
Other mental and emotional benefits of exercise
•Sharper memory and thinking. The same endorphins that make you feel better also helpp | 4you concentrate and feel mentally sharp for tasks at hand. Exercise also stimulates thegrowth of new brain cells and helps prevent age-related decline.
• Higher self-esteem. Regular activity is an investment in your mind, body, and soul. When it becomes habit, it can foster your sense of self-worth and make you feel strong andpowerful. You’ll feel better about your appearance and, by meeting even small exercisegoals, you’ll feel a sense of achievement.
• Better sleep. Even short bursts of exercise in the morning or afternoon can help regulateyour sleep patterns. If you prefer to exercise at night, relaxing exercises such as yoga orgentle stretching can help promote sleep.
• More energy. Increasing your heart rate several times a week will give you more get-up-and-go. Start off with just a few minutes of exercise per day, and increase your workout asyou feel more energized.Stronger resilience. When faced with mental or emotional challenges in life, exercise canhelp you cope in a healthy way, instead of resorting to alcohol, drugs, or other negativebehaviors that ultimately only make your symptoms worse.
Regular exercise can also help boost your immune system and reduce the impact of stress.
Reaping the mental health benefits of exercise is easier than you think
Wondering just how much activity will give you a mental health boost?
It’s probably not as much as you think. You don’t need to devote hours out of your busy day to train, sweat buckets, or run mile after mile. You can reap all the physical and mentalhealth benefits of exercise with 30-minutes of moderate exercise five times a week. Two 15-minute or even three 10-minute exercise sessions can also work just as well. Even a little bit of activity is better than nothing If that still seems intimidating, don’t despair. Even just a few minutes of physical activity are better than none at all. If you don’t have time for 15 or 30 minutes of exercise, or if your body tells you to take a break after 5 or 10 minutes, for example, that’s okay, too. Start with 5- or 10-minute sessions and slowly increase your time. The more you exercise, the more energy you’ll have, so eventually you’ll feel ready for a little more. The key is to commit to some moderate physical activity—however little—on most days. As exercising becomes habit, you can slowly add extra minutes or try different types of activities. If you keep at it,the benefits of exercise will begin to pay off.
Research shows that moderate levels of exercise are best for most people. Moderate means:That you breathe a little heavier than normal, but are not out of breath. For example,
1. You should be able to chat with your walking partner, but not easily sing a song.
2. That your body feels warmer as you move, but not overheated or very sweaty.
Overcoming mental health obstacles to exercise
So now you know that exercise will help you feel much better and that it doesn’t take asmuch effort as you might have thought. But taking that first step is still easier said than done.
Exercise obstacles are very real—particularly when you’re also struggling with mental health. Here are some common barriers and how you can get past them.
• Feeling exhausted. When you’re tired or stressed, it feels like working out will just make it worse. But the truth is that physical activity is a powerful energizer. Studies show that regular exercise can dramatically reduce fatigue and increase your energy levels. If you are really feeling tired, promise yourself a 5-minute walk. Chances are, you’ll be able to go five more minutes.
• Feeling overwhelmed. When you’re stressed or depressed, the thought of adding anotherobligation can seem overwhelming. Working out just doesn’t seem doable. If you have children, managing childcare while you exercise can be a big hurdle. Just remember that physical activity helps us do everything else better. If you begin thinking of physical activity as a priority, you will soon find ways to fit small amounts into a busy schedule.
•Feeling hopeless. Even if you’re starting at “ground zero,” you can still workout.
•Exercise helps you get in shape. If you have no experience exercising, start slow with low-impactmovement a few minutes each day.
•Feeling bad about yourself. Are you your own worst critic? It’s time to try a new way of thinking about your body. No matter your weight, age or fitness level, there are others like you with the same goal of getting fit. Try surrounding yourself with people in your shoes. Take a class with people at a variety of fitness levels. Accomplishing even the smallest fitness goals will help you gain body confidence.
•Feeling pain. If you have a disability, severe weight problem, arthritis, or any injury orillness that limits your mobility, talk to your healthcare provider about ways to safely exercise. You shouldn’t ignore pain, but rather do what you can, when you can. Divide yourexercise into shorter, more frequent chunks of time if that helps, or try exercising in waterto reduce joint or muscle discomfort.
Getting started exercising when you’re anxious or depressed
Many of us find it hard enough to motivate ourselves to exercise at the best of times. When we feel depressed, anxious, stressed or have other mental or emotional problems, it can seem doubly difficult. This is especially true of depression and anxiety, which can leave you feeling trapped in a catch-22 situation. You know exercise will make you feel better, but depression has robbed you of the energy and motivation you need to work out, or your social anxiety means you can’t bear the thought of being seen at an exercise class or running through the park. So, what can you do? It’s okay to start small. In fact, it’s smart. When you’re under the cloud of an emotional disorder and haven’t exercised for a long time, setting extravagant goals like completing a marathon or working out for an hour everymorning will only leave you more despondent if you fall short. Better to set achievable goalsand build up from there. Schedule your workout at the time of day when your energy is highest That may be first thing in the morning before work or school, at lunchtime before the mid-afternoon lull hits, or for longer sessions over the weekend. If depression or anxiety has you feeling tired and unmotivated all day long, try dancing to some music or simply going for a walk. Even a short, 15-minute walk can help clear your mind, improve your mood, and boostyour energy level. As you move and start to feel a little better, you’ll experience a greatersense of control over your well-being. You may even feel energized enough to exercise morep | 8vigorously—by walking further, breaking into a run, or adding a bike ride, for example.
Other tips for staying motivated when you’re also struggling with mental health
•Focus on activities you enjoy. Any activity that gets you moving counts. That could include throwing a Frisbee with a dog or friend, walking laps of a mall window shopping, orcycling to the grocery store. If you’ve never exercised before or don’t know what you might enjoy, try a few different things. Activities such as gardening or tackling a home improvement project can be great ways to start moving more when you have a mooddisorder—as well as helping you become more active, they can also leave you with a senseof purpose and accomplishment.Be comfortable. Whatever time of day you decide to exercise, wear clothing that’s comfortable and choose a setting that you find calming or energizing. That may be a quie tcorner of your home, a scenic path, or your favorite city park.
•Reward yourself. Part of the reward of completing an activity is how much better you’llfeel afterwards, but it always helps your motivation to promise yourself an extra treat forexercising. Reward yourself with a hot bubble bath after a workout, a delicious smoothie, orwith an extra episode of your favorite TV show.
•Make exercise a social activity. Exercising with a friend or loved one, or even your kids, will not only make exercising more fun and enjoyable, it can also help motivate you to stickto a workout routine. You’ll also feel better than if you were exercising alone. In fact, whenyou’re suffering from a mood disorder such as depression, the companionship can be just asimportant as the exercise.Easy ways to move more that don’t involve a gym
Don’t have 30 minutes to dedicate to yoga or a bike ride? Don’t worry. Think about physical activity as a lifestyle rather than just a single task to check off. Look at your daily routine and consider ways to sneak in activity here, there, and everywhere.
•In and around your home.: Clean the house, wash the car, tend to the yard and garden, mow the lawn with a push mower, sweep the sidewalk or patio with a broom.
•At work and on the go.: Bike or walk to an appointment rather than drive, banish all elevators and get to know every staircase possible, briskly walk, park at the back of the lot and walk into the store or office, take a vigorous walk during your coffee break.
•With the family: Jog around the soccer field during your kid’s practice, make a neighborhood bike ride part of your weekend routine, play tag with your children in the yard, go canoeing at a lake, walk the dog in a new place.
•Just for fun: Pick fruit at an orchard, boogie to music, go to the beach or take a hike, gently stretch while watching television, organize an office bowling team, take a remote class in martial arts, dance, or yoga.
Make exercise a fun part of your everyday life You don’t have to force yourself into long, monotonous workouts to experience the many benefits of exercise.
Sources: Lawrence Robinson, Jeanne Segal, Ph.D., and Melinda Smith, M.A.