“Mindfulness isn’t about goals or ticking a box – mindfulness is a way of life – something to cultivate over time.”
Below I’ve written out 5 Mindfulness Hacks that I like to use informally throughout the day to help bring me back to and fully engage with the present moment.
1. WHEN YOU NOTICE YOUR MIND WANDERING – SMILE.
“A tiny bud of a smile on your lips nourishes awareness and calms you miraculously … your smile will bring happiness to you and to those around you.” – Thich Nhat Hanh
“The power of a smile to open and relax us is confirmed by modern science. The muscles used to make a smile actually send a biochemical message to our nervous system that it is safe to relax the flight, fight or freeze response.” – Tara Brach
Smile to yourself as you gently redirect your attention and return to the task at hand – whatever that may be. Smile as a way of congratulating yourself. You’ve just experienced a moment of mindfulness and that’s a great thing. This is not a moment to beat yourself up for having drifted off or getting caught up in your thoughts. That’s like beating yourself up for having flatulence. It’s a perfectly normal thing for the mind to do (and the body in the case of farting). Its important you remain kind to yourself. (PS – I hope that made you smile 😃!)
2. USE S.T.O.P. AS A WAY TO PRACTICE PAUSING INFORMALLY THROUGHOUT THE DAY.
“The sacred pause helps us reconnect with the present moment. Especially when we are caught up in striving and obsessing and leaning into the future, pausing enables us to reenter the mystery and vitality only found here and now.” – Tara Brach
STOP is an easy to remember acronym you can use at any time to help bring you back to the present moment. Its stands for:
S.top to pause for a moment – discontinuing what you are doing. Make yourself comfortable and close your eyes if it helps.
T.ake a breath. – Next take a few deep breaths. Let go as you exhale. Let go of any worries or thoughts, of any tightness in the body.
O.bserve – Now pay attention to what you are feeling as you fully inhabit the moment. What do you feel? Do you feel anxious – some resistance to stopping whatever it is you told yourself you have to do? Do you accept this moment exactly as it is?
P.roceed with whatever it is you were doing mindfully, taking that awareness with you
(There are plenty of other mantras or acronyms you could use. The important thing is to find one that you like and works for you – to help bring you back to the present moment. As another example, I also like to use the mantra, ’Smile, Breathe… Focus, Believe…’ whenever I catch myself getting caught up with my emotions or a negative train of thought.)
3. TALKING TO YOURSELF IN THE THIRD PERSON AS A WAY TO UNIDENTIFY WITH THOUGHTS AND FEELINGS.
David is feeling stressed. David is thinking lots. David is looking at his phone. Talking in this manner is a great way to help unidentify with your thoughts, feelings and emotions. To really become the observer. To see your thoughts and feelings for what they are -just thoughts and feelings – without falling into the trap of thinking you are your thoughts or feelings.
I am depressed is very different to saying I am feeling depressed or having feelings of depression. Replacing ‘I’ with your name takes this a step further. eg. David is having feelings of depression. Its a subtle but powerful shift in terminology that fundamentally changes how you relate to your feelings and thoughts.
Mark Reinecke, a professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine says, “When we put something in first person there’s a heavier [emotional] load that makes it more difficult to reason about a problem clearly. If you put the problem into the third person, it allows you to keep perspective on it and have a calmer response.”
4. Practise the engagement of flow
Give 100% attention to whatever you are doing, whenever you remember.
How do you do that?
To give you an example: Try for a few seconds, closing your eyes and imagine you have been blind your whole life – that you’ve never seen a single object in its flesh – don’t know what colour is, etc. Once you’ve spent a minute of two imaging this, open your eyes again and really look as if you’re seeing everything for the very first time.
Did you have any thoughts or was everything you looked at, if only for a second or two, completely and utterly amazing? Thats what I imagine, at least, how an enlightened person sees the world. Bringing that level of attention and awareness to absolutely everything, as if for the very first.
5. Use R.A.I.N. to deal with difficult emotions.
The acronym RAIN is an easy-to-remember tool for practicing mindfulness and compassion during difficult moments using the following four steps:
R.ecognise what is happening and label it.
A.ccept the emotion or feeling to be there as it is.
I.nvestigate it – become curious and really observe it. Ask yourself why/what triggered it? Be compassionate as you do so.
N.urture with self compassion – Remember you are not your thoughts, you are not your feelings. They are simply things you are experiencing. They will pass! Remember too that every person in the world suffers. That is part of the living experience. You are not alone.
“The business of a wise man is to be happy in whatever condition life happens to offer”