Mindlessness is the opposite of mindfulness. It operates on auto-pilot and happens when you don’t think about anything. You simply go through the motions. The same routine repeats itself and mindlessly. It can happen when you drive to work and think about other things, which don’t involve the here and now. “Did I forget to sign that document? What’s for dinner?” Your thought process becomes random and unfocused on the moment. You can become unaware of your surroundings and the car collision down the road. Another mindless act is eating without thinking. When you munch on a cookie while watching your favorite k-drama, you can become mindless. You become so wrapped up in the drama with your favorite star that you don’t pay attention to what you eat and then blame yourself for gaining weight. Essentially, mindlessness leads to really bad habits.
These bad habits are learned and can lead to further mindlessness. And how did you learn these bad habits? You learn to be mindless as a child. You might have heard from your parents to “suck it up”. This message can become internalized in your brain as “don’t feel anything”. As a child, you learn from this behavior that you can shut down your feeling leading to mindlessness.
How do you turn around mindlessness? You don’t ignore your past or become preoccupied with the future. You use mindfulness by becoming self-aware of the moment. Think about the analogy of an apple. You buy an apple at a farmer’s market and you think about how the apple tree grew in a grove. You think about how it was cared for by kind farmers that watered and fertilized the trees. The seeds of the apple represent the future. But the moment, is now. This is the moment when you take a bite into the apple.
Mindfulness is being aware of the present moment. When you are mindful, you are aware of yourself and your surroundings. In fact, you are acting intentionally with a purposeful action. With mindfulness we start by understanding ourselves, our environment and how we respond to others. Mindfulness can also balance and renew your energy to follow your goals.
While meditation may be the most effective way to achieve mindfulness, there are other options you can try. Maybe you find it difficult to practice the traditional seated contemplation. Maybe you question its value. In meditation we may have upward of three hundred thoughts so it is easy to get frustrated or caught up with perfection. It’s impossible to fail at meditation. Even if you sit for a short time then you are able to carry out a mindfulness exercise. here is no right or wrong way to carry out mindfulness. There’s no special technique for mindfulness. Certainly, you can still find more happiness and peace of mind through a variety of physical and mental practices.
There are many ways that you can be mindful throughout your day without ever having to take a break from whatever it is that you’re doing. Knowing this has helped many extremely busy people to be able to get into the habit of practicing mindful activities.
One simple way to practice mindfulness is by brushing your teeth. You do this so often that you probably do it without even thinking about it. Instead of brushing your teeth on autopilot, take the time to focus on the steps involved in this routine.
Feel the bristles of the brush as they cross your teeth and tongue. Pay attention to the thickness of the toothpaste of the flavor of it. While you’re brushing your teeth, pay attention to the process and don’t let your mind think about worries or negative thoughts.
Another way that you can practice mindfulness as you go about your day is through mindful listening. So many times, there are sounds around you and yet you don’t even hear them because you’re not listening with a focus.
Wherever you are, you can take a few seconds to listen to the sounds. You might be able to hear a bird singing, the wind blowing or the distant roll of thunder. You can practice mindful listening with popular music or with instrumentals.
Hear each sound and focus on it for a few seconds while tuning out anything but the sound. Mindfulness can be practiced by focusing on breathing. It doesn’t take long and can be done any time of day and in any place.
As you breathe, focus on the breath that you’re drawing in. Then focus on the breath that you’re exhaling. Keep your mind centered on the movement of your body as you breathe in the air and release it.
Feel the air move within you and tune in to the sensation as you’re going through the exercise. You can practice mindfulness through many other activities including walking, eating, while cooking or cleaning.
Use the following tips for inner mindfulness practices:
- Slow down. Moving deliberately promotes mindfulness. Consider the purpose behind your daily activities. Take time to enjoy life instead of rushing from one activity to another.
- Focus. Give your full attention to one task at a time. Turn off your phone when you’re having dinner with your family. Listen closely to ordinary conversations and falling rain.
- Let go of judgements. Accept your thoughts, feelings, and experiences without guilt or shame. Love yourself for who you are now. Take pleasure in learning and growing. Forgive yourself and others for disappointments and mistakes.
- Live in the present. Concentrate on today rather than regretting the past or worrying about the future. Take pleasure in ordinary things like the smell of coffee or the texture of soft cotton sheets.
Download this worksheet on focusing on the present moment with key affirmations and self-reflection questions.