While the word “mindfulness” has a fairly straightforward definition, the act of mindfulness is not as easy to pursue. In my personal definition, mindfulness is the act of living in the present moment with good intentions for yourself and those around you. The good news is that anybody can try and even achieve mindfulness. It just takes time, commitment, and practice. In the last year, this type of practice has led me to a new state of mind that allows me to think more open-mindedly, understand my anxiety and my body, feel better about decisions I make, and take advantage of my time.
Some people may think you can only practice mindfulness through an activity like yoga, by being apart of a specific religious organization, or by having a lot of free time to meditate and/or pray. While these are ways for some people, these are not the only ways. Let’s make it more simple.
When I first began my practices with mindfulness, it was back in high school when I wasn’t understanding my anxiety. I was so confused about what I was thinking and feeling that I didn’t know where to start. So like what any Millennial/Gen Z does, I began Googling anxiety and how to deal with it. I soon found dozens of mindfulness apps that would help me focus on breathing before I was going to sleep at night or when I was waking up to begin my next day. Some of these apps even send me reminders on my phone multiple times a day telling me to breathe and focus on this moment right now.
It is very difficult to remind ourselves to think positively, be present, and even just to breathe. It is also difficult when we get reminders from the people around us. These mindfulness apps can be an initial guide to teach us the beginning steps of mindfulness practices and truly live in the moment. Here are the ones I currently use:
RelaxMelodies is an app I use daily. It provides different sounds like rain, waterfall, wind, and white noise, to help you fall asleep, study, or have background noise. Not only this, but it also provides meditations to help you sleep, de-stress, recharge, and dream. It also provides breathing practices you might need when you are taking a break, de-stressing, clearing your mind, or falling asleep. I personally use the app as background noise when I am falling asleep at night.
Aura is an app that also provides meditations, life coaching, stories, and music. When you open the app, it asks you how you are feeling. The topics in this app range from motivation, confidence, relationships, anxiety, and so much more. Aura also has a gratitude journal where you can reflect on your gratitude for the day and look back when needed.
Mindful is a wonderful app to help you get through the day. You can set up reminders that you will get on your phone from the app that will assist you through small breathing practices in the middle of your day. This is a great app to help you start your day by doing a breathing exercise for only one minute.
Chill is not necessarily a “mindfulness app”, but I use it as one. It’s simple. Chill provides a daily inspirational quote. In your settings, you can set the time you would like to have the app notify you with the quote. You can favorite the quotes you like so you can go back and read them. Reading these quotes truly sets an intention for my day. It is a positive thing I start my morning off by reading, and I carry it with me throughout my day.
Of course, there are thousands of books in the world about mindfulness, but there are three I hold dear to my heart. Who knows? Maybe someone reading this blog post might find these three books helpful.
Journey to the Heart by Melody Beattie is a book I believe every single person needs to read. The book is filled with daily devotions, from January 1st through December 31st, Melody wrote on a sacred journey of her own she embarked for 365 days. I started reading each day’s devotion this year on January 1st. It seriously feels like she knows what is happening in my life by how much each devotion resonates with me. I have made my brother and sister text me the devotion for that day because my copy hasn’t come in the mail yet. It’s like journaling every day, only you are reading a journal that is writing itself out to you about what you need to hear. I read the devotions every single morning. This helps me ground my self in my day and set my purpose.
The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz is another book I think everyone should read at some point. The four agreements are 1) Be impeccable with your word, 2) Don’t take anything personally, 3) Don’t make assumptions, and 4) Always do your best. I’m not going to say anything else about this book because it is a quick read, but if you practice, or are even aware of these four agreements every day then you will reach a whole new point of mindfulness beyond the baseline.
Creating True Peace by Thich Nhat Hanh is a book I am not finished with yet but have read enough to let you know that this is a gamechanger. Thich Nhat Hanh, a Zen Buddhist monk, writes about how we can use mindfulness to end violence in ourselves, the people in our circles, and in the world. He provides simple meditations to use for different violent scenarios you may encounter. This book has shed new light on my reactions to negative things and how I can do better in my present moments.
Podcasts are a newer thing for me that I am getting into. Similarly to reading, podcasts really force you to pay attention and be mindful of what is being said through the audio. I have started using podcasts, one, in particular, to wind down at the end of a day, take thirty minutes to an hour of time for myself, and practice mindfulness. I may even light candles, incents, or sage to create good energy around me.
Tara Brach is an author, podcaster, psychologist, and proponent of Buddhist meditation. If you search her name in podcasts, it should come up immediately. Her podcast was recommended to me by a good friend of mine who was experiencing a similar battle as one I was fighting through. Since I first listened to Tara’s podcast called Meditation: Living Loving Awareness, I now use her as a guide through my mindfulness, spiritual, and religious journey.
What You Can Do!
There are so many things you can do on your own, at any point in the day, to practice mindfulness and become present in your moment. You don’t always need a book, a podcast, or a person to guide you. Through this process, you are actually guiding yourself.
Redirecting your thoughts away from negativity is something I do every day more times than I can count. Whether it is a thought that pops in my head or a negative comment someone said around me, I literally say, “nope” in my head and redirect my thoughts to something that is worth taking up my time. Very simple but very effective.
Mindful eating is something I have been more aware of in the last few months. With my body being so sensitive and taking on different disorders and conditions that are out of my control to have, I realized that what I do have control over is what I put in my body. I am a firm believer that you mentally feel based off what you physical put in or give your body. Be mindful of what you feed yourself. Listen to your body and be mindful of it.
Paying close attention to your breath is something I talked about when I mentioned different mindfulness apps. You do not need an app to do this! Taking a pause in your day and breathing in for 7-10 seconds and breathing out for 7-10 seconds is something you have control over. When you realize all the things you have control over, you become more mindful of yourself and what you can do.
Try something new/change your routine! Doing the same things every day can lead you to feel stuck and unaware of yourself and your actions. Some of us need structure and balance to maintain a healthy lifestyle, but this may cause us to enter cycles that are difficult to get out of. Why do you do the same exact thing every day? Is it because you are afraid to take a step out of your comfort zone? Is it because you do the same thing that you don’t even realize you’re doing it? Book a spontaneous weekend trip. Try a different hairstyle. Rearrange your living space. Set a different daily routine for a week and notice the difference in your awareness and mindfulness of yourself.