On any given day, there are so many different things to think about and manage, that it is easy to slip into stress, overwhelm, and mindlessness. In this state, it’s all about getting through and reacting instead of having a sense of ownership and deciding what needs to happen next. So, if you tried stressing about everything you do and don’t do, and it still didn’t solve your problems or made you more present to your life, here are a few things you can incorporate immediately to approach things in your life with more focus, clarity, and ease.
Setting an intention for the day ahead is one of the best things anyone can do to feel more like a participant in one’s life instead of bystander. If you are not setting intention in your life, you are guided by your automatic behaviors instead of purposefully creating the very thing you want for yourself. If despite your best efforts you keep doing things you don’t really want to be doing, or you know you are bringing yourself further away from your optimal life, it’s a sign you are pulled by automatic behaviors that keep you stuck.
Where to start?
Start with taking a few mindful minutes or as much time as you can, to intentionally think of how you want to show up in your life that day (calm, present, compassionate, curious, loving, etc.). Imagine what it would feel like if you showed up that way and what would be different.
Throughout the day you can connect with your intention and check in with yourself: Am I honoring my intention by doing what I’m doing right now and by focusing on what I’m focused on now? If the answer is “yes” – What allowed me to show up exactly how I intended to? If “no” - How can I bring myself back to my intention?
2.Spending Time Alone
Not being distracted by busyness, outside influences, or time consuming yet non-productive activities is one of the best ways to get to know oneself. If you are constantly focused on something outside of yourself, you can’t hear what is happening in your inner world and connect to what matters to you. If you haven’t practiced being alone and connected to yourself, your inclination might be to dismiss this practice as boring and futile, but this space is where you can hear yourself. If you struggle to be with yourself alone, that too is information you can use to practice curiosity and ask yourself, “why is that?”
Where to start?
Start with carving out/scheduling a specific time of the day. Notice: thoughts that are coming up, feelings that might be arising, sensations, images, and memories. If there is an area of your life in which you need clarity, a solution, or there is something you’re struggling with, you can form a question and keep coming back to it when you notice your mind wandering. Remember to not interpret or judge your experience. There is no right or wrong way to do this, so if you’re taking the time to sit with yourself and give yourself the gift of connection, you are doing it right!
Being aware of your thoughts is a skill that leads to increased self-awareness and feeling more in control of our actions as our thoughts are driving what we do. Repeated thoughts over time become deeply engrained beliefs about ourselves, other people, and the world. When you’re not aware of your thoughts, you still act on them, just without knowing. When you can become aware of your thoughts and observe them, you have more of a choice whether or not to follow them. You gain awareness that you are simply the observer of your thoughts, and whether you believe them or not, is up to you.
Where to start?
Throughout the day, notice when you have a strong emotional reaction to someone or something, or when you are struggling with something or someone. Slow down and see if you can detect the feeling underneath your reaction. Then proceed with a self-inquiry: What are the thoughts I’m having about this? What am I telling myself about this? How am I interpreting this situation? What am I making this mean? The most powerful way to do this self-inquiry is to write it down. Just keep writing everything that you are thinking until you cannot generate any specific thoughts. After you write it down, ask yourself whether what you are thinking is a fact or just an opinion/belief you established over the course of your life.
4.Nurturing Our Bodies
Taking care of our mind cannot be complete without extending the same care to our physical bodies. Oftentimes we tend to make things so complicated for ourself that we convince ourselves that being kind to our bodies has to be difficult and torturous. Many see that there are two ways when it comes to eating healthy and exercising - overindulgence or deprivation. But taking care of our physical health (the portion you CAN control) can be as simple as doing our best most of the time, not 100% of the time.
Where to start?
How are you supporting your health? Where can you make a better choice? What is getting in the way of you making a better choice? In what way is this behavior serving me?
Is this a choice I am making, an automatic reaction/response, or is it behavior I learned in the past? How is it serving me?
You can choose whether a break is a waste of time or time to refuel. Taking a mindful break is not self-indulgent. It is of utmost importance for your mental and physical health. When we don’t listen to our natural signals that it’s time for a break, we risk burnout, depletion, resentment, dissatisfaction, and an overall subpar quality of life. Many people, without thinking too much about it, mistake productivity with busyness, yet these two are very different. When you are intentional and aware of how you spend your time, you can account for your 24 hours, and naturally you will incorporate things that matter to you. When you go through the day not knowing what it is that you want to accomplish, you are more likely to waste time on things that fill the time, adding nothing to the quality of your life.
Where to start?
When you create intention and structure your day around it, you will inevitable have time for a break, because you will not be mindlessly being pulled from one thing to another. Approach breaks as a reset between activities. Know what it is that would give you a rest, and purposefully take ownership over what you want to focus on next. Notice when your energy/creativity tend to wane and see if you can structure your breaks around it. Be specific with how long you will take a break for and how you will relax. You must find what works for you. If funny animal videos relax you, do that, but decide intentionally that you are doing it to relax instead of mindlessly scrolling on social media.
What would you add to this list?
What is your must-do daily routine or something you believe is the key ingredient for an optimal lifestyle?
What are your daily must-dos that keep you energized, present, and fulfilled?
People around us are not always the most reliable source of support and insight. They might not understand our needs for change, they might know how to support us, or they might not even want to support change. At times, in attempts to appease their own discomfort they enable our (and likely their own) harmful behaviors & ways of being.
Implementing any new behaviors and experience is already challenging, but when those around you interfere in your progress because they are benefiting from your complacency, it can be much more difficult to be consistent and patient with yourself in the process.
Ways in which others show resistance.
People around you might resist the change by trying to discourage you, giving you ultimatums, being unsupportive, minimizing your desire for change and your efforts, convincing you how unnecessary change is, making fun of you, calling you selfish, trying to guilt you, making rude/insensitive comments, continuing to remark that the ‘old you’ was somehow better.
All of those things can add a layer of barrier to change, create self-doubt and shame, and then drive you to choose the same, familiar, and the known - even if it’s hurting you. But, if you find yourself waiting for other people’s permission to change your life and put yourself first, just know that you might wait forever.
You have to take care of you.
Remember that you are living your life and your life only. No matter how much we may want others to get onboard and be an endless source of support, our healing and change is always in our own hands. And while it is wonderful to have encouragement and accountability from others (and makes one’s life easier) it is not their responsibility to do anything for us. It is our responsibility to turn our desires into actions. It is our responsibility to create the desired change. It is in our power to give ourselves permission to pursue the life we long for. Others have power over us only when we let them, when we believe their words, and when we keep participating in dynamics that are hurtful to us.
What to do?
You might have to have a difficult conversation (if possible) and be curious about their resistance. You might have to distance yourself, create firmer boundaries, be assertive, seek unbiased support (therapist or a coach), or create a sustainable plan that won’t rely on their support. Be open minded without giving yourself up and losing sight of your desire to heal and grow. Be honest with yourself and always choose what is best for your wellbeing.