With everything happening in the world, it is easy to feel your mind spinning in thoughts. Stress is all around us, affecting our friends, family, neighbors — and ourselves. But there is good news. We can take steps to release stress and bring mindfulness into our lives so we can feel more calm, happy, and balanced, even today.
Here are five great tips for staying mindful throughout the day:
1. Notice How Your Body Feels
Bring your focus into your body. Feel the sensations coursing through you as you scan from your head, all the way down, and then back up again. Do you feel tingles in your fingertips or at the top of your head? Is there pain or tension in your knees or jaw? What else do you feel? Our body is made of atoms, which have sensations constantly coursing through them. It is wonderfully beneficial to pay attention to these sensations, because it brings your mind into the present moment. Once you’ve done this, wiggle your toes, stretch your fingers, and close your eyes. As you do each of these activities, enjoy living in the moment, rather than letting thoughts drift to past regrets or future fears.
2. Appreciate Everyday Beauty
Wherever you are, choose to shift your focus to something beautiful in your environment. If you’re inside, open your awareness to a tree outside your window or flowers in a neighbor’s yard. Or, bring your attention to a painting or photo in your room. When was the last time you really looked at this?
If you’re outside, look up. Do you see a grand tree near you or a beautiful balcony on a building nearby? If you look down, does the pavement have a little bit of sparkle to it? Wherever you are, there is a way to appreciate your environment, rather than letting thoughts dominate your mind. These actions build gratitude and appreciation for the beauty around you.
3. Reach Out to Old Connections
It is incredibly fulfilling to reach out to someone you haven’t spoken with in a long time whose name brings a smile to your face. Think of a wonderful high school teacher or mentor from years ago, or a friend from summer camp or school. No matter how long it’s been, reach out and send a note via text, email, WhatsApp, Facebook, or whatever is best for you. Tell them you’re thinking of them, and then add something specific about them so they know this is a personal note.
This may feel like a nice thing to do for them, but it’s also healing for you! We are social creatures, and this connection is incredibly important to our happiness. Try and do this regularly. Find the rhythm that works for you, and enjoy how it feels to reconnect with someone you adore! This small gesture will remind you to live in gratitude, even when life feels challenging.
4. Give a Little
Even if you don’t have much extra money right now, it feels empowering and positive to support people in need or a cause that you believe in. Even giving a dollar or two to a purpose you are passionate about (or more if you are able) will help. Donating to charities, arts groups, or community projects boosts your positivity, helping you feel connected to a larger community of people who love supporting the same group.
Starting each day with meditation (perhaps after an espresso, as I do!) is an extremely effective way to stay mindful throughout the day. You can meditate for one minute, five minutes, or as long as you are able. If you don’t already have a practice, here is a simple technique to try:
Sit calmly on a chair or couch and close your eyes, or look with a soft gaze two to three feet ahead of you. Place your attention on the sensations of the breath, specifically as the breath comes in and out of your nostrils. What do you feel? If your mind wanders, let that thought float away like a cloud, and gently return your focus to the breath.
My company, The Path, runs a meditation teacher training program, and we have our students meditate for 25 minutes a day. If you can work up to this, you will notice profound change in your life and more stillness in your mind. But even one minute of meditation will flood your body with a feeling of calm and slow the thoughts in your mind. You will feel more relaxed, open, and joyous.
Bonus Tip: Forgiveness
Try forgiving someone in your life. Authentically. When we hold onto anger, it affects only us – not the person with whom we are angry.
You can choose to forgive someone for something big or small. Holocaust survivor and author Eva Mozes Kor once wrote, “Anger and hate are seeds that germinate war. Forgiveness is a seed for peace. It is the ultimate act of self-healing.”
Forgiveness is in our power. It is our freedom. Try this and see how it feels.