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The internet has been buzzing about MINDFULNESS for years. Yet many of us who want to adopt a mindful lifestyle haven’t, because we don’t know where to begin and how to sustain it without getting stressed. That’s counter-productive.
In the article The Life-changing Magic of Mindfulness and Meditation, I shared how the practice taught me to access my inherent happiness and cure my own suffering. This is something anyone can do, and it starts by working on some essential habits of self-love and self-care.
If you like what you read here, subscribe to our newsletter to receive a 12-week Mindful Living handbook. It’s a fun PDF guide to mindfulness, with simple, practical steps, journal prompts, plus pages you can write on.
Before we get to the baby steps of your path to healing and happiness, let’s first come to terms with our default mode of mindlessness and kiss it goodbye. Mindlessness sounds harsh, like acting without concern for ourselves or for others. In basic terms, it is a lack of awareness. It happens to all of us unconsciously when we do not pay focused attention on what we’re doing and go on auto-pilot.
In our pre-Covid lives, it was easy to be mindless because we were living in a fast-paced world of multitasking, compounded responsibilities, and social activities. Now that slowing down has become the new norm, we have the time to make mindful living our new way of life. Glass half full moment. According to author Jon Kabat-Zinn in his book “Mindfulness for Beginners,” mindfulness is “paying attention in a particular way, on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgmentally."
Mindfulness means fully engaging your senses in your current activity. It is monotasking at its finest. When we are mindful, we are conscious of our thinking and the impact of our behavior. We become empathetic, grateful, aware of our environment, and open to other ways of thinking. The end result is a calm state of mind and an organized life, where we are able to make sound decisions and be content in the simplicity of things.
So how do you live mindfully? Here are the first habits you can form to live a life made mindful.
taking care of your body
Sleep has turned into an unnecessary luxury for some but it is the most important in the triad of well-being (the other two being healthy eating and physical activity).
Remember the expression “sleep is for the weak”? The truth is the exact opposite. It takes discipline to go to bed at the same time every day and get eight hours of much needed sleep. Sleep is crucial in repairing our body and mind. If we deprive ourselves of sleep, there are long-term consequences on our brain and cardiac health, according to Dr. Matthew Walker, a neuroscientist and author of “Why We Sleep.”
When you are getting good sleep, it is easier for you to think clearly, be happy, and be your best self.
Evaluate your relationship with food and your junk food intake.
At the heart of healthy eating is portion control and getting a good variety of nutrients. First off, consume fruits and vegetables daily. It’s so basic, but a lot of people neglect fruits and veggies, and that often leads to nutrient deficiencies. Also try avoiding refined sugar and deep fried food on weekdays. Have them as treats at the end of the week.
One secret to maintaining those habits is how you stock your kitchen. Audit your fridge to have less junk food and more produce. Moreover, write down an actual grocery list based on what is ideal for your diet.
Find some kind of physical activity that is an enjoyable, practical, and sustainable choice for you. If you are one of those who can form the habit of doing 30-minute exercises 5 times a week, good on you! There are many at-home exercises that are freely accessible on YouTube. But if you have to be practical with your time or have mild OCD, cleaning your personal space is a great workout that gives you an inviting sanctuary you can be proud to be in. You can treat it like a mindful weekly ritual before you relax on a Saturday morning.
Another cheap fave is brisk walking while listening to music, a podcast, or an audio book. Walk to the beat of the music or take a long stroll while listening to a few chapters. This is as much multitasking as I’d recommend but I do advocate mindful walking in peace and quiet with no technology.
CALMING YOUR MIND
Tune out distractions and toxicity.
Everyday distractions and unhealthy relationships can snowball into a heavy burden on your psyche. You may not notice it right away, but these things eat up your mental and emotional bandwidth, and eventually, you could find yourself becoming short-fused, restless, depressed, or anxious all the time. If allowed to persist, their effects could ripple onto your physical health as well, like the way anxiety could raise blood pressure and gradually weaken heart muscles.
Try reducing unnecessary distractions such as social media, app notifications, work calls after-hours, and endless TV shows. You can start with small adjustments, like limiting your social media scrolling time and deleting apps on your devices that you haven’t really needed for weeks.
Now, some heavy lifting: look out for persistent toxicity in your relationships, whether with a partner, a friend, or even a family member. If you find that your connection with them is harmful to your mental or physical health, it may be time to begin extricating yourself from the relationship. This will be tough. Seek the help of a counselor or even just a friend, and practice setting your boundaries (saying no to what’s harmful for you).
Connect with nature.
Have you ever felt better after getting off your phone for a little while? Disconnecting to reconnect with nature is a key aspect of mindful living. It means putting down your electronic devices and being present in a natural environment.
Studies show that immersing yourself in nature improves your overall health especially when exposed to green surroundings. It is said to improve sleep, energy levels, immune function, cardiovascular and metabolic health, and overall happiness.
When you can, go out among trees and go barefoot on grass, rocks, sand or soil. Plant a garden -- even just on your windowsill. Encourage the kids in your family to play outdoors, and join them!
Journaling is a free and easy way to unburden your thoughts, reflect on your days, clear your head, and know yourself better.
Forget the notion that only heartbroken teenagers write in a diary. Journaling is for anyone of any age and gender. What to write about? Anything goes! You can freely scribble thoughts as they come to you, or write in themes like “Things I’m Thankful For” and “What I Learned Today.” You can even doodle instead of writing, if that helps you express yourself.
Journal at your own pace, at your own discretion. There is no pressure to monitor your thoughts or police your grammar or handwriting.
The act of jotting things down on a notebook is itself a mindful activity. You are focused and being honest with yourself. Do this regularly and you’ll feel your mind getting clearer and better at processing thoughts.
Meditation is the cheapest anti-anxiety medicine that helps you make better decisions and has a side effect of happiness.
For 5-10 minutes a day, sit comfortably in a quiet corner and maintain a straight but relaxed spine. Close your eyes and breathe 6 seconds in and 6 seconds out. If you get distracted, acknowledge the thoughts that come in, then gently bring your attention back to your breath and the blank screen in your mind. Try this first thing in the morning, before starting your work day, or in between activities.
Not just the cure for those pandemic feels, this easy practice lowers your heart rate when you’re anxious, helps you focus and retain information and creates the mindful habit of pausing before reacting. That’s a pretty good deal for a few minutes of rest.
REFINING YOUR HABITS
Declutter and organize.
Mess = stress. Various studies have demonstrated that cluttered, disorganized environments can raise our stress hormones and impact many things like sleep, our ability to focus, and our likelihood for depression. That’s why on your way to a mindful life, you’ll want to organize your home and work spaces, and get into the habit of tidiness.
Don’t pressure yourself to rearrange everything in one go. Instead, do one organizing project at a time: maybe your kitchen cabinets this weekend, then your closet the next.
You can then maintain the tidiness of your space with smaller habits like “clean as you go” and “micro-decluttering” (spending only 5 minutes at a time to clear up your desk, counter, floor, etc).
Build your capsule wardrobe.
“Fast fashion” has become a damaging way of dressing ourselves. It’s when clothing manufacturers produce items on a massive scale using cheap, unsustainable materials and unethical labor practices. These producers are fueled by consumers who keep buying brand-new clothing every season and mindlessly discarding items that are no longer trendy.
To break your dependence on fast fashion, I highly recommend creating a capsule wardrobe. It’s a curated selection of essential clothes that can be worn in many ways. A typical capsule wardrobe has some basic pieces in neutral colors, a few key stylish pieces in accent colors, and maybe a couple of “special occasion” and seasonal items. From there, you can mix and match your pieces.
Auditing what you own and purging what you don’t need is a great way to start a collection of high-quality timeless pieces that will not go out of style. Look around for pre-loved listings before buying brand new!
We’ll give you a more detailed step-by-step guide to create your capsule wardrobe in Week 9 of our Mindful Living Handbook. Sign up to our newsletter!
Track your income and expenses.
One of the keys to mindful living is being conscious of the waste you create and throw out. Keeping track of your finances is helpful in developing a healthy relationship with money. Consequently, you can create financial freedom for yourself by saving more than you spend and investing your savings. In cultivating a lifestyle of less consumption and more simplicity, we are able to set aside money for the things that really matter and stop the habit of buying frivolously.
A basic activity you can try is creating a simple spreadsheet of your income and expenses. This way, you can easily review your spending habits and refine it for the coming months. You can sign up for our Mindful Living Handbook, where we include a sample spreadsheet and some FAQs for managing your personal finances answered by me and Mariel Bitanga of Simply Finance.
Lower your carbon footprint.
Our carbon footprint is the amount of greenhouse gases we emit into the atmosphere through fossil fuel-burning activities like driving and overusing electricity. As greenhouse gases accumulate in the atmosphere, the Earth’s climate gets warmer, causing domino effects on weather, natural habitats, food supply, health, and safety.
Mindful living includes being conscious of our footprint -- and working to reduce it. As we call for large-scale action from governments and corporations, we individuals also have the power to join the collective effort for lower emissions.
First habit to try? Unplugging. Many electrical items still consume energy even when they’re idle or on standby, so practice unplugging your TV, kitchen equipment, and laptop chargers when not in use.
Your individual footprint includes not just the electricity you use at home but also the industrial practices you support through your purchases, plus the garbage you generate that contributes to greenhouse gases.
Take for example the palm oil market. Palm oil is a common cooking ingredient, but the conventional way to produce this oil entails the burning down of forest lands to make way for palm oil farms. The carbon-releasing fires plus the loss of carbon-absorbing trees result in an incredible amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. (Not to mention the immense loss of biodiversity!)
Similarly, conventional cattle farming is carbon-intensive as well, mostly due to the large amounts of methane that livestock emit. Plus, the processing, transport, and refrigeration of meat typically uses fossil fuels, too.
Another product that’s carbon-intensive is plastic. The manufacture of plastic uses up so much fossil fuel, and plastic products often end up piling in methane-emitting landfills.
With those few examples, it’s clear that our consumer behaviors are directly tied to our carbon footprint. So try certain adjustments to your shopping habits. Eat less meat to lower demand for carbon-producing cattle farming. Choose locally made products, which are likely to make lower emissions as they require less transport. Seek out alternatives to products that are made of or packaged with plastic.
And one more thing: try driving less and walking more, especially for nearby errands. It’s healthy for the environment and for you!
Switch to sustainable products.
Remember when I talked about mindless, autopilot habits? Some common consumer behaviors are prime examples of these. It’s when we are quick to buy products we don’t need and then just toss them out. It’s when we simply pick up popular brands without considering their impact on the planet. It’s when we repeatedly buy low-quality items that fall apart easily and only end up in the landfill.
Fortunately, we have alternatives that are sustainable and accessible. Sustainable products are those that are made of renewable materials, processed minimally, packaged in recyclable or biodegradable materials, and produced through ethical labor practices. Seek out these sustainable alternatives next time you shop.
But in the first place, don’t shop unless you actually need to. Reuse and recycle items you already have at home.
Start using and reusing a cloth bag in place of plastic bags. Bring your own refillable tumbler instead of buying more drink bottles. Switch to locally farmed virgin coconut oil, instead of using carbon-intensive palm oil. Our Made Mindful Virgin Coconut Oil is produced with sustainable ideals in mind: a pure ingredient found in nature, ethically sourced from Filipino farmers, packaged in a reusable glass bottle, and mailed to you in a secure, recycled paper box.
Healthy body, serene mind, and refined everyday habits -- these are essential tenets for living a mindful life. I hope that this guide encourages you to take your first steps towards mindfulness.
In our 12-week Mindful Living Handbook, you’ll find a more thorough yet easy guide that focuses on one mindful aspect each week. Treat it like your weekly guidebook-slash-journal. You’ll have a simple, doable action plan, space to write down your adjustments and thoughts, and tons of tips for mindfulness.
Begin your mindfulness journey. Sign up with your email below. I’m so excited to share this journey with you!