Practicing Mindfulness outside of Meditation

Buddhist monks do not only swear on meditation, but they also bring mindfulness into their daily cleaning tasks. By putting all energy into these tasks, they are completed more efficiently, while also creating a relaxing state of mind.
Picture source: https://tricycle.org/trikedaily/meditation-chogyam-trungpa/

One key aspect that really helped my mental health was being mindful, which I first started practicing through meditation and Wim Hof breathing. I feel like mindfulness is often talked about nowadays, but always in the context of mindfulness meditation – While that is a key to become more mindful in general, I feel like there are many activities we do on the daily, where we can continue training a mindful mind. So, here are some activities I started completing with my full attention to the process. After all, mindfulness is simply the act of being present in the moment 🙂

Exercise

Do you run with music or do you focus on the experience?
Picture source: https://www.runnersworld.com/training/a28555402/fixing-your-running-form/

I used to distract myself when exercising by listening to up-beat music or distracting podcasts, so that I don’t have to focus on the physical and mental difficulty of the task. But in terms of improving your fitness levels and exercise mindset, it is really helpful to focus on what exactly you are experiencing while e.g. going for a run – What is your breathing rhythm like? How do you automatically move your arms? When do your feet touch the ground? By bringing your attention to your current state, you become much more aware of how exercise affects you and your body!

Painting

Maybe Bob’s calm mind is due to him being fully present while painting? If you don’t paint, you can practice mindfulness while consciously listening to him beating the devil out of his brushes instead.
Picture source: https://www.artsy.net/article/artsy-editorial-bob-ross-everyones-favorite-art-teacher

Another hobby of mine that I used to take as an opportunity to do while listening to music. Nowadays, however, I find there is nothing more relaxing than listening to brush strokes on a canvas and watching your painting take form. Maybe Bob Ross manifested this fascination of mine 🙂

Eating

If this is what you look like when eating, but you are fond of becoming more mindful, this is your chance to change a habit! Just put that phone down, it’s not too difficult 😛
Picture source: https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2019/may/06/table-for-one-how-eating-alone-changing-our-diets

Nowadays it seems quite common that people are either on their phones or watch TV while eating. I find that to be a pretty unhealthy habit, and if you manage to solely focus on the eating experience, you are not just helping your physical health but are also training your meditative mind! I know it sounds silly, but give it a try 🙂 Realising how many distractions influence our mind is the first step to simply being.

Pretty much any activity really

Wherever you are, be there totally

Eckhart Tolle

Well, to conclude – Anything you do can be done mindfully. And why would you want to do that? Because your brain is like a muscle, and the more mindfulness you practice during simple daily activities or hobbies, the easier it gets to be mindful when you become anxious. Even something like brushing your teeth or doing the dishes, doing it while being fully present in the moment does not only help better completion of the task, but also shapes your mind.

When bringing mindfulness into your daily life, it will become much easier to meditate over time. While I think meditation itself is great, if you keep dwelling and pondering while completing simple tasks, your continuously wandering mind might become unhelpful to your mental health. So, I encourage to take off those headphones, put your phone down and simply listen and feel. And if your mind wanders – Notice and bring it back 🙂

The Importance of Self-Discipline

This past week I have tried to neglect laziness and be more productive. It is safe to say that I have been super busy, which I really enjoyed. But over the past month, I have also walked away from lazy habits by becoming more self-disciplined. I remember first hearing about the habit of discipline – It sounded daunting, something that only soldiers and strong believers show. But once I adopted a more disciplined routine, I realised it is the doorway to getting what you want in life. Here’s why:

If you live life according to immediate comfort and the avoidance of discomfort, you can never get to where you truly want to be. I found self-discipline to be the most crucial thing for my mental health, as I learned that challenges shape you and make you grow.
Picture source: https://videohive.net/item/aerial-silhouette-of-young-woman-climbing-up-to-the-top-of-a-mountain-in-front-of-the-sea-flight/23341387

It is the Key of Changing

Breaking habits is hard, so you have to change them – Replace bad old habits by doing something new to make it easier for you. For example, I used to go on my phone first thing in the morning. I now pick up my notebook instead, where I can check what I have to do, which motivates me to get out of bed. It would have been way easier and more tempting to keep checking my phone, but by using self-discipline I continually reinforced the emergence of a new habit.

It Establishes a Routine

Through this continued forcing of a simple behaviour, it slowly gets you to change your routine. It takes time, and it will be tough at times, but the more self-discipline you act out the easier it gets. For me, I started with a hobby that I enjoyed and was keen to do, such as sewing. By pushing myself to sew whenever I knew I had time to, I was able to transfer that self-discipline onto other more neglected parts of my life, such as reading non-fiction literature and revising for my driving theory test.

It gets You What You Want

You need continuous discipline to push out of your comfort zone and change. Staying in your comfort zone is what will hold you back from what you truly aspire to be or have in life, and you need to have continuous self-discipline to not crawl back into the place of never facing your fears. In order to have what you desire, you need to go through discomfort and face the challenge, which is where discipline is so crucial! Also, look at what you really want in life, so that you know where to apply your effort. I found a story that made the importance of self-discipline very understandable here: https://www.uncommon-knowledge.co.uk/self-discipline.html

It is easier to go down a hill than up, but the view is much better at the top. – Henry Ward Beecher

Two summers ago, I had no self-discipline – I was a lazy teenager and my mental state was as its worst. Even three months ago, I was longing to be this whole other person, but the combination of little self-discipline and fear of changes kept me stuck. As a result, I hid away and locked up my anger and unhappiness. But now I have learnt that changes were much needed and have made me happier than I have been in quite some time. But the only way I am getting here is by using constant self-discipline, which makes me able to look back at the end of every day and feel proud and accomplished. So go out and make your future-self proud too, you won’t regret it 🙂

How Self-Restraint is Linked to Happiness

This past week I have been focussing on cutting out gluttonous behaviour, while applying more restraint on myself. There’s a few things I have learnt from doing this, as well as from the reading I have done, so I want to emphasise how important it is to adopt temperance for a healthier and happier mind-set.

Studies have shown that self-discipline is linked to many mental benefits, including happiness (See https://bigthink.com/personal-growth/how-to-improve-self-control?rebelltitem=1#rebelltitem1 for more information)
Picture source: https://www.t-nation.com/diet-fat-loss/tip-how-to-increase-self-control

At first I thought gluttony was just about taking in excessive amounts of food and drink that you want rather than need. So I started at that, and have stopped eating out of boredom, but I also realised that taking this rule too seriously takes away the occasional delicious treat (as you really don’t need it, it just tastes nice). When researching this eating aspect more, I came across resources that proposed gluttony is also about becoming slaves to food as a substance – If we don’t have it at the right time we might get ‘hangry’, you might not know why you are having something as you ‘need it right now’, and you might be led to eating food of poor quality in high quantity.

Over time this behaviour pattern with any substance has aversive effects. Why? Dopamine is the answer!

Dopamine is the neurotransmitter that motivates to engage in pleasurable activities, such as eating, smoking, gambling, videogames, and so on. This can over time lead to addiction due to reducing the sensitivity of dopamine receptors, increasing the threshold of the pleasure experience and making us engage in a given activity more. It also leads to the reduced ability of enjoying (or getting a dopamine response from) less ‘addictive’ things in life, such as reading, hiking, crafting, exercise. We become adapted to the high and quick dopamine release when engaging in the prior mentioned activities, while behaviours that might benefit our mental and physical state become less and less desirable to engage in.

This is where self-restraint plays a powerful tool – The ability to say no to inviting pleasurable experiences does not only heighten your enjoyment when you do allow yourself to engage in those, but also makes simple things in life better. You become more grateful and accepting of the non-addictive parts of life, while giving into gluttonous behaviour reduces the enjoyment we can experience and enslaves you to the quick and high dopamine releasing activities.

This makes self-restraint a really important habit to adopt! It takes time to build habits, so don’t rush this. I recommend writing down each activity you did during the day and rating from 1-10 how much you actually enjoyed it through reflection, and how much it meant to you and your growth as a person (see my example below). Once you learn what does not matter to you and your life, cut down on those things and learn to say no, despite their temptation. Restraining yourself will be hard at first, but it will form your life around activities you find actually meaningful, rather than wasting your time.

During the day, it helps to keep note of what you have been up to and track its enjoyment and meaning, which leads you initiate positive changes.

So, remember: Practice and effort lead you to adopt habits that will easily let you say no through trained self-discipline, and ultimately you will enjoy life a lot more 🙂 During this next week, I will be focussing on being more charitable and less greedy, which is one I am excited for, as I have always favoured giving over receiving! Let’s see what that says about me…

Resources

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9pMbi7wmVmg

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gluttony

https://www.desiringgod.org/messages/americas-most-tolerated-sin