With summer upon us, we all feel the desire to go out and enjoy life. psychotherapist and author Diane Lang suggests now is a good time to start living mindfully.
Being mindful means to wake up to everything around you and be aware of present experiences. The happiest people live in the moment, Lang says. They learn from the past, plan for the future, but enjoy the present.
We need to become aware of the mind-body connection, which allows us to know how negative emotions affect us physically. This allows us to use the connection as a warning sign when something is wrong.
“I have a lot of clients who feel their stress, anxiety, anger, etc. on their bodies before they connect to it emotionally,” Lang says.
When you live mindfully, she says, you realize everything is temporary. So even when times are tough, this too shall pass.
How can we live mindfully? Here are some steps Lang recommends:
1. Be an active listener: When someone is talking to you, stay present. Don’t think about anything else. Stay focus. Give direct eye contact. Ask questions. Summarize. Show you’re listening by the non-verbal messages with you send tiwth your eyes, hands and face.
2. Do one thing at a time: We are a society of multitaskers, but to be mindful we need to slow down, focus on the task, get totally absorbed on what we are doing, get into “flow.”
3. Simplify your life: Don’t fill your day just to be occupied. That is just being busy without purpose. Do the things you enjoy and love. Don’t waste time and energy on things that are just “fillers.”
4. Take some time each day to do nothing: “I mean nothing,” Lang says. This doesn’t mean thought time or nap time. It means just sitting and observing. Try to clear your mind completely and enjoy the silence.
5. Embrace nature: Another way to be quiet is by being surrounded by nature. Sit outside. Take a walk. Go for a swim. Lay in the sun (but wear sunscreen!).
6. Avoid judgment: That takes away from the experiences of the season. Don’t look at mindfulness as a chore. It’s just a state of being. It’s enjoying every moment. It’s being alive in every moment. It’s being fully involved in every activity and conversation.
7. Mindfulness is awareness: Be aware that every moment of your life is important, no matter how big or small.
8. Truly accept your life: Accept where you are at this moment. Be aware of your emotions. Don’t push them down or avoid them. They will eventually rear there ugly head. Accept them, feel them and then you can move forward. Don’t intellectualize or repress your feelings. If you feel what is happening, the negative feelings will pass quicker. Use your negative emotions as a teachable moment.
9. Mindfulness means self-compassion: Have a “higher talk” with yourself. Watch the tape recorder playing in your head. Change your self-talk. Use positive affirmations.
Diane Lang is a frequent guest on TV and radio and has been featured in many magazines, newspapers, and blogs and has a website, dlcounseling.com.