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As I’ve mentioned before, making positive and lasting life changes pretty much comes down to one thing, and one thing only.
It’s up to you – no one else – to do this. Other people can support you along the way, but doing this one thing is completely and utterly your call.
I’m referring, of course, to the way you think.
And that’s where mindfulness and living mindfully comes in.
In fact, Sweet Clean Living would never have even come into existence had I not discovered the life-changing powers of living mindfully.
The Mindfulness Definition
If you want to start living mindfully, here’s a short, effective video explaining what mindfulness is.
The definition of mindfulness, in other words, is learning to control your mind – and more importantly, your thoughts.
Have you ever had (horrible) times when your thoughts just run away with you? And – in the best case scenario, you upset yourself with endless future possibilities. And the worst case? You end up having a full-scale anxiety attack.
Living mindfully changes all of this. Really.
It helps you stay in touch with, and rationalize your thoughts and feelings, without overthinking them. Once you’ve become a mindful ninja (I can’t think of any other way to describe how powerful and liberating an experience this was for me), you’re able to think your thoughts, and move on with your life – no more awful anxiety, or getting upset over things that have already happened, or never will. Period.
In a nutshell, living mindfully does absolute wonders for depression, anxiety – and everyday life.
The History of Mindfulness
The idea of mindfulness and living mindfully comes from a mix of religion and psychology. Each major religion – Judaism, Christianity, Islam – makes their own connections of how the mind and body influence and impact one another, but the actual practice of mindfulness comes almost directly from Hinduism and Buddhism, and the art of meditation.
For meditation practice, monks had to learn to concentrate in order to get themselves into the proper state they needed for meditation, and in doing so, freeing themselves from any thoughts. And, as I’m sure you know, that isn’t the easiest of things to do.
Although the modern practice of mindfulness isn’t extreme like that, practicing it and training yourself to ‘think mindfully’ not only controls your thoughts, but ends up teaching you how to change the way you think.
It’s a central part of clinical psychological practice, particularly in the treatment of personality disorders like bipolar, depression and anxiety. In fact, living mindfully, speaking from personal experience, is possibly one of the most effective ways to manage and lessen anxiety.
Why is Living Mindfully Important?
Think about your average, regular day. Let’s say you get up, get ready for work, leave your house, commute, get to work, eat lunch, leave work, get back to your house and go to bed. The next day, you do it all over again. Rinse and repeat.
What are you feeling during all this? What are you thinking?
What are you learning? How are you changing and improving yourself?
Did you notice how well rested you felt? Or feel that it was slightly warmer outside?
The chances are, you only noticed certain things if they were negative – you woke up feeling drained; it’s cold or raining out; someone annoyed you at work.
I’m sure you’ll agree, this is not the makings of a positive, forward-thinking and happy life. No sirree.
By focusing on the negative things – you are setting yourself up to funnel out the positive things around you, if you haven’t done so already.
But don’t take it from me – take it from Jon Kabat-Zinn, the man who brought the practices of living mindfully to the West:
How Living Mindfully Changed EVERYTHING
As I said above, living mindfully completely changed my life – in quite a few ways. Not only was I able to focus more at work, but it strengthened my relationships, and I found myself feeling happier, more positive and having a better time in general.
Gone was the Sunday night anxiety, the quick snaps to bad moods and the my general feeling of irritation and exhaustion. Just by becoming more present in the moment, and not dwelling on past experiences (as they were and are done and gone – and totally unfixable, by me, you or anyone); nor worry about the future – as it has many paths, all of which stem from…the present. I therefore learned that in order to have a better future, you have to build the foundation for that in the present.
Once I had this breakthrough, my anxiety attacks became less intense, and much less frequent. I went from having several, scale 8 or 9 anxiety attacks a day (can you even imagine the terror of living like that?!), to 1 every week or so, and then 1 maybe in 6 months. Today, it has been over a year since I had my most recent ( and very low-level) anxiety attack. And you know why?
It’s because I’m not worrying about the things which used to preoccupy my mind. Instead, I automatically look at the bigger picture, and the world outside of myself. In other words – I am living mindfully.
It’s a tiny shift in the way I think for huge changes – my life is completely different, because I am way more appreciative of everything AND I’m no longer the crippling ball of anxiety and depression that I once was – I’m free!
Your Turn: Start Living Mindfully
Just like any good skill, living mindfully takes time and dedication to develop.
Take it from me – I did it the hard way! Once I heard about mindfulness, after a LOT of online research about how to deal with anxiety attacks (like I said, they were that bad, I was willing to try anything and everything…) I bought books, listened to lectures and read up on the subject as much as possible.
Mindfulness is a skill which needs to be taught, however I didn’t have the time or money – so I did what I could – I bought books and taught myself. Nowadays, there are quite a few great-sounding online courses which are either self-guided or link you up with an online therapist. While I haven’t tried any myself, this Everyday Mindfulness Course from Open Forest has excellent reviews.
Otherwise, if you’re taking the ‘do it yourself’ book-learning route, these are the best, most useful and easy to use (especially if you’re a complete beginner, like I was!) whatever your stage of mindfulness practice:
And that’s it – your beginner’s guide to living mindfully, in a nutshell.
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Also published on Medium.