7 Reasons to Include Mindfulness in Your Daily Routine

Launch yourself on every wave, find your eternity in each moment

What do Paul McCartney, George Lucas, Jennifer Lopez and Bill Gates all have in common? They all practice mindfulness daily. It’s no news, mindfulness is a growing phenomenon around the world, but for good reason. The data is in: meditation can actually help the brain stay younger. More than that, practicing mindfulness and becoming more present has a whole string of positive side effects.

Mindfulness is a way to stay calm and aware, acknowledge and accept our true feelings, notice our thoughts, and the sensations in our body. When I am being mindful, I am able to listen to my intuition more and act accordingly. The more I speculate and worry, the more anxiety I feel. When we get trapped in making plans without executing them, or fail to embrace spontaneity, we can often wind up strung out and miserable if we fail to reach our goals. And having unfulfilled dreams is one of the main catalysts for unnecessary anxiety and depression.

This is what happens when we obsess with the future, or mourn our past failures—we become torn between two intangible points in time: one that is written, and one that is unknowable.

Henry David Thoreau said …

“You must live in the present, launch yourself on every wave, find your eternity in each moment.”

I especially like the line, “find your eternity in each moment.” It really paints an image of a deep sea of mindfulness. When we become fully aware of the now, our focus changes. We become more connected to the world around us, more present in our lives, with people, and are able to engage in activities and projects that we might normally postpone.

But Henry David Thoreau doesn’t stop there, he points out that by getting stuck in too much planning we jeopardise the moment:

“Fools stand on their island of opportunities and look toward another land. There is no other land; there is no other life but this.”

When we become more mindful positive things can happen

  1. We become better listeners. When we listen with awareness (what is called active listening) we actually engage with people in a more collaborative way (great for team work), as apposed to listening with preconceived judgement. When we fail to engage in active listening we risk making unfair comparisons, or create unrealistic expectations. Worst of all, we can miss out on important details that may benefit us.
  2. We have less time to overanalyse. There is a real power in being more spontaneous with our decision making. Our brains make decisions faster than we realise, and unless it’s a big life decision, like buying a new home or getting married, it’s often best to avoid too much over-analysing, as this can lead to procrastination and indecisiveness. Some of the best decisions are made in that “gut moment.”
  3. We act before self-sabotaging. Everyone has an inner critic – that little voice inside your head that tells you what, why, who and how on a daily basis. Some people call it “head trash.” Sometimes the inner critic does a pretty good job at protecting us from perilous situations, yet most of the time it is a major hindrance in our lives – creating resistance where there should be risk taking, fear when there should be courage. If you have a particularly toxic inner critic (or what psychologists call the “punitive parent”) it can be extremely detrimental to your self esteem, and can trigger depression and anxiety. And while mindfulness will not eradicate the inner critic, it can allow you to be more aware of it by monitoring your thoughts and reactions.
  4. We are more creative. Creativity isn’t so much about the plotting or planning, but the doing. When you create spontaneously you allow your unconscious mind to light the way. Carl Jung called this ‘The Psychology of the Transference.’ He believed that the act of creating unconsciously allows a person to heal trauma, from wounded archetype to healer. Furthermore, spontaneous art, such as painting or free writing, can act as a mirror for repressed emotions such as shame, anger, or grief, etc, and can actually improve mental health, as it releases dopamine and helps focus and calm the mind, much like meditation.
  5. We ruminate less. The more connected to the moment we are, the less opportunities we have to ruminate. The problem with replaying, or reliving, the past over and over is that a: it never changes the reality of what happened, and b: we can become stuck in painful memories, and even the good ones can be painful if we’ve lost someone. Staying present means we must contemplate what’s happening now, instead of what has been.
  6. We slow down to smell the flowers. There are some beautiful descriptions in Henry David Thorea‘s Walden, where he describes the intimacy he feels with the natural world. When we allow ourselves to be more present, we notice the finer details in life. We might hear the sound of crickets chirping, whereas before we were too busy to notice. In this way, we appreciate nature more.
  7. We can push through out fears. When we use mindfulness we are able to see our fears for what they are. It’s a bit like holding a photograph up to a magnifying glass – we are able to see it in more detail, and to learn that most of our fears are irrational and have nothing to do with our present self, our now self.

“This is a delicious evening, when the whole body is one sense, and imbibes delight through every pore. I go and come with a strange liberty in Nature, a part of herself.” – Henry David Thoreau

We live in a world full of constant information, and it’s no wonder we feel overloaded. That ol’ saying, “Keeping Up with the Joneses” no longer holds any meaning, because for most of us it’s simply impossible to keep up. And yet so many of us try, and often succumb to anxiety in our age of online approval – a phenomenon that social media companies have taken full advantage of. But true self development doesn’t come from Twitter or Facebook, or seeking external attention — it comes from quieting your mind amidst a sea of noise. It comes from knowing you’re OK, and that what you’re doing is enough. It is why so many people return to books such as Walden by Henry David Thoreau, because deep down we actually want more peace, and to feel more connected with this moment in time, and the natural world around us.

The aim for me is to be able to find contentment in my life, no matter what unfinished projects or obstacles lie ahead. When I really stop to be present: when I listen, feel, and embrace the moment, there is a true sense of peace, and like nature, it doesn’t need to be explained or analysed. It just is