10 Tips for Mindful Living

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While Eating, During Leisure Time, and More

6. While eating. Many of us eat unconsciously, shoveling food into our mouths, rarely tasting much beyond the first bite. Instead, eat slowly, tasting each bite, thinking about how the food got to the table, and appreciating how it fuels your body.

The payoff: The more aware you are about how and what you eat, the healthier your food choices become and the more relaxing mealtime will be.

7. During your leisure time. Connect with the timeless rhythms of nature. "Gardening, biking through the park, hiking -- all these things put you in harmony with the natural environment," says Sally Helgesen, author of Thriving in 24/7: Six Strategies for Taming the New World of Work (Free Press, 2001).

The payoff: The goal of mindfulness is to be fully present; it's easier to achieve this state when you're in a natural setting. To boot, being outdoors takes you away from the ticking of the clock, and the ringing of the telephone (turn your cell phone off!) -- the distractions of modern life that fragment our attention. And the serenity of nature can help you tap into your inner serenity.


8. When you experience a negative emotion or physical pain. When we feel physical or emotional pain, the instinct is to rid ourselves of it as quickly as possible, whether it's by taking aspirin for a headache or suppressing anger. However, true mindfulness doesn't discriminate -- you want to be aware and accepting of the "bad" stuff as well as the "good" stuff. The next time you feel sick or upset, allow yourself to fully feel it and accept it as your present mental or physical state.

The payoff: It's easier to work through something you're paying attention to rather than ignoring. In addition, the more comfortable you become with a sense of fear, for example, the less anxiety you'll have when it surfaces the next time.

9. While watching television. Many of us view shows mindlessly. Check your physical and emotional response as you watch: Does a news report make you anxious? Does a loud commercial make you cringe? Do you tend to watch TV only when you're tired or depressed?

The payoff: The more aware you are of your responses to television and how you "use" it, the more conscious you can be in choosing to watch programs that are relaxing and gratifying.

10. Anytime. "Practice the 'philosophy of slow,'" suggests Helgesen. For example, when cooking, choose a recipe that takes longer to prepare, like a stew.

The payoff: Doing something slowly diminishes your stress level, builds patience, helps us appreciate things that don't offer "immediate gratification," and often produces better, more satisfying results.

Being present in each moment feels counterintuitive -- we are so conditioned to review our past and plan our future. But as mindfulness expert Jon Kabat-Zinn writes, "If you want the future to be different, the only place that you can stand and work with it is here and now." In other words, bringing awareness to this moment will positively affect the next one.


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