8 Steps to Mindfulness

I thought i'd write up a quick guide on mindfulness. This means being in the moment, not stressing about the past or future, and having complete awareness of the NOW.

monk

 

1. Breathe

This one is pretty simple and you all know how to do it. Don't you? Actually most of us don't breathe the right way, as funny as that sounds. We take shallow breaths with our chest. This doesn't give us a lot of oxygen.

The best way is to breathe deeply your nose and expand your stomach out as far as you can. This stretches your diaphragm and allows your lungs to fill completely with air. Hold it for a second and slowly exhale through your mouth.

Try this and you'll feel a rush in your head and body. I get a sense of presence and calmness when I do it.

Wim Hoff, the 'Ice Man', who has multiple world records in demonstrating his ability to withstand sub zero temperatures has a great explanation of his breathing technique here on Joe Rogan's podcast starting at 6:30. He credits most of his success to this.

 

2. Practice Gratitude

Write or say 3 things that you are grateful for every morning. This has a lot to do with framing, which basically means how you look at things. You can choose to dwell on what problems you have in your life, or you can focus on all the blessings and abundance you have. I'll do this right now off the top of my head, I am grateful to have my brother who at the moment is healthy and doing well, to be able to afford an apartment and food every month, and to live in a time where you can literally learn anything you want and become whoever you want.

 

3. Meditate or Pray

Either one works, whether you believe in a higher power or not. Studies such as this show that meditation and prayer activate the same areas of the brain and release feel-good/love chemicals. They are both shown to raise focus and concentration. Speaking anecdotally, I always feel calm, relaxed, and at peace after meditation.

 

4. The Observation Game

Most of you have done this as kids if you've ever played punch buggy. Pick a color, pattern, or anything else and look for it everywhere, you'll be shocked at how much more you'll notice. Try to find everything that's white in the room you're in. Next time you're in public try to spot everyone with freckles, or everyone wearing boots. This is a great mental exercise to do when you're bored to increase awareness.

 

5. Put yourself in someone else's shoes

A mental exercise that helps understanding people and resolving conflict. Imagine what it would be like to be someone else. Think of someone you know right now. Try to think about what their day is like...

 what are their goals?

What are they thinking?

What do they want out of life?

What do they think of you?

Why do they dress the way they do?

Why do they act the way they do?

It's best to use this when dealing with conflict. Understanding why someone is mean or rude is really helpful in wanting to punch them in the face less.

 

6. Go into Nature

Whether it's sitting on the beach, camping, hiking, swimming in a spring, or just lying out looking at the stars, there is a very strong rejuvenating factor in being outside. I think it has something to do with how insignificant it makes you feel. We all too often get wrapped up in our own little worlds that we forget that we're a part of a much bigger world. Our life isn't the center of the universe. Nature doesn't give a damn if you get fired from your job or your spouse cheats on you, a mountain's still going to keep on being a mountain.

 

7. Be Physical

Some of the problems with meditation and mindfulness is that it expects to separate yourself from the outside world. We are also physical beings, and in order to be truly mindful we should interact with our environment. For me this means going to the gym and pushing myself to the point of complete exhaustion. I leave with the reassurance of my mind being the master of my body. Going outside could be a part of this as well, and so can any sport or physical activity, football, dancing, having sex, surfing, and yoga are all great ways to be physical.

 

8. Create Art

This can mean painting or drawing, but if you're not a good painter you can do something else. Write your thoughts in a journal, build your own website or business, transform ingredients into a tasty meal, the options are infinite. What matters is that you're in the zone, you're in a state of flow, where everything else in the world could go out the window, but you're still focused on this task 100%. At the same time, it's not mentally taxing, but pleasurable to enact. You're in your element, and at the end you'll have something of value that you made yourself.