What is Mindfulness in Real Life?
It sounds great in theory, but how does mindfulness work in daily life?
A wide spotlight has been cast over the term mindfulness in recent times. Especially since the beginning of the pandemic, more people have been stumbling across – or deliberately seeking out – this method of mending our relationship with our thoughts.
More attention on mindfulness is fantastic. However, with more attention on anything comes more success stories. In mindfulness, we see story after story of life changing gains, prosperity and enlightenment. These stories begin getting embellished along re-tellings, and bedazzled for a price tag.
All too often, we are enamored with leaders of the pack and begin to strive for their lifestyle. Aspiring for hours upon hours of deep meditation. Never once breaking concentration, and becoming enlightened beyond our universe.
These success stories can be amazing motivations, however they do not always lead a fantastic example of how to implement mindfulness in daily life.
The message needs to begin with mindfulness at the core. Then we can explore what it looks like in the extreme examples often anchoring the conversation. After we grapple with the concept, we can apply it to our lives in a way that works for us.
What is Mindfulness?
Mindfulness, to me, is a practice meant to observe the relationship between ourselves, and our mind. More precisely, our mind’s content and the way it guides our daily life.
We can do this through a regular practice of examining the thoughts that arise, and the role they play in the direction of your emotions. These ‘studies’ are made actionable when we begin meditation practice, a journaling practice, regular therapy, or a combination of the three.
I have employed a semi-regular meditation practice, in which I focus on my breath and try to ‘observe’ the wanderings of my thoughts without casting judgement on them.
Each meditation can be as short as a minute, to 40 minutes sitting in semi-guided audio lessons. They can range from deeply fascinating, in which I maintain a 3rd party stance and observe the rapid movement. On the other end of that, 40 minutes can pass where I had been completely swept away in the rush of thoughts and unable to observe them.
A common misconception is that you can be “good” or “bad” at meditation. You can be neither, as both will remain concepts of your thoughts. Our anxieties can build incredible defenses against these types of practices. That is why it gets increasingly damaging when we see unrealistic examples, and try to apply it to ourselves like it should fit perfectly.
Following the Wrong Examples
Our Mindfulness in Daily Life Will Look Different Than Other’s Daily Routine
As I mentioned, our brain will put up quite a fight against mindfulness. It quite likes to be autonomous as much as possible in my case, so it had built up solid defenses. As soon as I would begin meditation, my brain would be cataloguing the different ways I could discredit it as nonsense.
What didn’t help was seeing the wrong examples. Meditation gurus who don’t understand it personally, but understand the SEO algorithms around the buzzwords. Swept up by the personalities behind the practice.
I was trying to apply the practice of gurus into my hectic life and through my brain’s barbed wire defenses. It was destined to fail.
Don’t get me wrong, the online community based around mindfulness and meditation is fantastic. There are more people every day joining the ranks, more positive examples being shown, and a wealth of valuable information at our fingertips.
We have to absorb this information deeply. Though when we turn to the application part of the process, we need to filter it through our own lifestyle goals.
Actually Applying Mindfulness in Daily Life
Implementing mindfulness in our daily life begins easy. We begin by acknowledging the role thoughts can play on emotions, and emotions can play on thoughts.
There are a lot of tools and resources for getting a foundation underneath your mindfulness practice. Paid apps are available, but they can be avoided if that is not an option. Spotify has a wide selection of guided meditations across the library. As well as a ‘Daily Wellness’ playlist to mix music in with brief mindfulness messages.
For free apps, our old friend YouTube has even more guided meditations than you can ever get through. With enough poking around, you will find a theme or channel that works well for you. Outside of YouTube, there are tons of Podcasts that explore this deeply.
The one I continue to go back to is 10% Happier with Dan Harris. I am pulled towards this one as the host, Dan Harris can lean towards a skeptical point of view while still enriching himself with the lessons. Each week there is an hour long discussion podcast on a topic around mindfulness and meditation. Additional to that are weekly short guided meditations from his guests. This podcast is accompanied by an ever growing list of other intelligent offerings.
With some quick searching, and an optimistic trial and error process, we can find the supplemental tools to help us.
But nothing is ever stopping us from just paying attention.
Start Right Now
What have you been thinking about throughout this article? Did that question make you anxious at all?
You can start this practice now. Pay attention to what your mind pays attention to, and be non-judgemental to it’s focus. You deserve kindness.