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Things Mindful People Do Every Day

The following is my version of a post my brother sent to me recently about Mindfulness, originally posted on The Huffington Post and adapted by me:

Here are things mindful people actually do every day to stay calm, centered and attentive to the present moment.

They take walks.

"In our culture of overwork, burnout, and exhaustion, in which we're connected and distracted 24/7 from most things that are truly important in our lives, how do we tap into our creativity, our wisdom, our capacity for wonder, our well-being and our ability to connect with what we really value?" Arianna Huffington asked in a 2013 HuffPost blog post.

Her answer: Solvitur ambulando, which is Latin for "it is solved by walking." Mindful people know that simply going for a walk can be excellent way to calm the mind, gain new perspective and facilitate greater awareness. And it's Free!

They turn daily tasks into mindful moments.

Mindfulness isn't just something you practice during a 10-minute morning meditation session. It can be incorporated throughout your everyday life by simply paying a little more attention to your daily activities as you're performing them.

As the meditation app Headspace puts it:
"Mindfulness starts to get really interesting when we can start to integrate it into everyday life. Remember, mindfulness means to be present, in the moment. And if you can do it sitting on a chair, then why not while out shopping, drinking a cup of tea, eating your food, holding the baby, working at the computer or having a chat with a friend? All of these are opportunities to apply mindfulness, to be aware, to stay in the present moment."

They create.

Mindfulness and creativity go hand-in-hand: Mindfulness practice boosts creative thinking, while engaging, challenging creative work can get you into a flow state of heightened awareness and consciousness.

Many great artists, thinkers, writers and other creative workers -- from David Lynch to Mario Batali to Sandra Oh -- have said that meditation helps them to access their most creative state of mind. 
If you want to become more mindful but are struggling with a silent meditation practice, try engaging in your favorite creative practice, whether it's baking, doodling, or singing in the shower, and see how your thoughts quiet down as you get into a state of flow.

They pay attention to their breathing.

Our breath is a barometer for our overall physical and mental state -- and it's also the foundation of mindfulness. As mindful people know, calming the breath is the key to calming the mind.

Meditation master Thich Nhat Hahn describes the most foundational and most effective mindfulness practice, mindful breathing, in Shambhala Sun:

"So the object of your mindfulness is your breath, and you just focus your attention on it. Breathing in, this is my in-breath. Breathing out, this is my out-breath. When you do that, the mental discourse will stop. You don’t think anymore. You don’t have to make an effort to stop your thinking; you bring your attention to your in-breath and the mental discourse just stops. That is the miracle of the practice. You don’t think of the past anymore. You don’t think of the future. You don’t think of your projects, because you are focusing your attention, your mindfulness, on your breath."  (See my own page on Mindfulness for more about breathing)

They unitask.

Multitasking is the enemy of focus -- many of us spend our days in a state of divided attention and near-constant multitasking, and it keeps us from truly living in the present. 

Studies have found that when people are interrupted and dividing their attention, it takes them 50 percent longer to accomplish a task and they're 50 percent more likely to make errors.

"Rather than divide our attention, it is far more effective to take frequent breaks between intervals of sustained, one-pointed attention," 

Real Happiness at Work author Sharon Salzberg writes in a Huffington Post blog. "Debunking the myth of multitasking, we become much better at what we do and increase the chance of being able to remember the details of work we have done in the past."

The mindful way, Salzberg suggests, is to focus on one task completely for a given period of time, and then take a break before continuing or moving on to another task.

They know when NOT to check their phones (or play on Ipad's, computers, etc).

Mindful people have a healthy relationship with their mobile devices and know when to use them and when to turn them off or leave them alone. 

This might mean making a point never to start or end the day checking email or maybe even keeping their smartphones in a separate room while they're sleeping, or choosing to unplug on Saturdays or every time they go on vacation. Especially important, not using phones, checking texts or playing games when you really should be listening and chatting to the other people in the room who came to see you!

One unfortunate by-product of tech addition and too much screen time is that it keeps us from truly connecting with others -- as HopeLab CEO Pat Christen described her own aha moment, "I realized several years ago that I had stopped looking in my children's eyes. And it was shocking to me."

Those who mindfully interact with others look up from their screens and into the eyes of whomever they're interacting with, and in doing so, develop and maintain stronger connections in all their relationships.

They seek out and embrace new experiences.

Openness to experience is a by-product of living mindfully, as those who prioritize presence and peace of mind tend to enjoy taking in and savoring moments of wonder and simple joy. New experiences, in turn, can help us to become more mindful.

"Adventure can naturally teach us to be here now. Really, really here," adventurer Renee Sharp writes in Mindful Magazine. "To awaken to our senses. To embrace both our pleasant and our difficult emotions. To step into the unknown. To find the balance between holding on and letting go. And learn how to smile even when the currents of fear are churning within."

They get outside.

Spending time in nature is one of the most powerful ways of giving yourself a mental reboot and reinstating a sense of ease and wonder. Research has found that being outdoors can relieve stress, while also improving energy levelsmemory and attention.

“We need the tonic of wildness," Thoreau wrote in Walden. "At the same time that we are earnest to explore and learn all things, we require that all things be mysterious and unexplorable, that land and sea be indefinitely wild, unsurveyed and unfathomed by us because unfathomable. We can never have enough of nature.”

They feel what they're feeling.

Mindfulness isn't about being happy all the time. It's about acceptance of the moment we're in and feeling whatever we feel without trying to resist or control it.

Excessive preoccupation with happiness can actually be counterproductive, leading to an unhealthy attitude towards negative emotions and experiences. 

Mindful people don't try to avoid negative emotions or always look on the bright side -- rather, accepting both positive and negative emotions and letting different feelings coexist is a key component of remaining even-keeled and coping with life's challenges in a mindful way.

As Mother Teresa put it, “Be happy in the moment, that’s enough. Each moment is all we need, not more.”

We have a natural tendency to avoid sadness and crying, for example. This stops us from getting past grief. When we see someone else crying our natural tendency is to want them to stop crying and tell them everything is going to be ok. Mindful people know that it is ok to feel what we feel and to stay with others as they feel what they feel.

(Interestingly, I think we often stop others from crying, not to make them feel better, but to make ourselves feel less uncomfortable. Good friends cry with those who cry).

They're conscious of what they put in their bodies -- and their minds.

So often, we shovel food into our mouths without paying any attention to what we're eating and whether we feel full. We ignore discomfort, hoping it will go away, even when it clearly won't. Some use alcohol, drugs, even porn, to numb what they feel.

Mindful people make a practice of listening to their bodies -- and they consciously nourish themselves with healthy foods, prepared and eaten with care. But mindfulness is all about taking your time, paying attention to the moment, focus fully on what is happening and how they physically feel.

Mindful people also pay attention to their media diets, are equally careful not to feed their minds with "junk food" like excess television, social media, mindless gaming and other psychological empty calories. (Too much time on the Internet has been linked with fewer hours of sleep per night and an increased risk of depression.

I believe that each of us know exactly what we do that is unhealthy and we do it anyway. Maybe it is time to embrace a more mindful and healthy way of living.

They remember not to take themselves so seriously.

As Arianna Huffington writes in Thrive, "Angels fly because they take themselves lightly." 

A critical factor in cultivating a mindful personality is refusing to get wrapped up and carried away by the constant tug of the emotions. If you can remember to laugh and keep an even keep through the ups and downs, then you've come a long way already in mastering the art of mindfulness.

Much of our distraction is internal -- we ruminate, worry and dwell on our problems. But those who are able to maintain a sense of humor about their own troubles are able to better cope with them. Research from the University of California Berkeley and University of Zurich found that the ability to laugh at oneself is associated with elevated mood, cheerful personality, and a sense of humor.
Laughing also brings us into the present moment in a mindful way. Joyful laughter and meditation even look similar in the brain, according to a new study from Loma Linda University.

They let their minds wander.

While mindfulness is all about focusing on the present moment, mind-wandering also serves an important psychological function, and conscientious people are able to find the happy medium between these two ways of thinking. 

It’s smart to question whether we should always be living in the moment. The latest research on imagination and creativity shows that if we're always in the moment, we're going to miss out on important connections between our own inner mind-wandering thoughts and the outside world.

Engaging in imaginative thinking and fantasizing may even make us more mindful. Research has found that those whose daydreams are most positive and most specific also score high in mindfulness.

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