Kerry Song is a writer and producer with a background in economics and finance. Her passion is to create meaningful content that engages and empowers the audience to become more mindful and more compassionate with themselves and with others.
The new brand of mindfulness
6 ways to be mindful in the modern world
Have you had any experience with Eastern philosophy? Or have you ever been to a yoga class? Actually, have you ever just browsed through Instagram? Then chances are you’ve heard the word “mindful,” perhaps many times. It’s use has grown tremendously over the past decade, with a sharper increase starting about 4-5 years ago. But what exactly does it mean to be mindful?
Like many definitions, it all depends on who you ask. For some, it’s about living in a meditative state, that is, one that is thoughtful and calm. For others, it’s more about being present and not judging others in the world around you. But the common thread that runs through every definition is that mindfulness is an ideology.
For me, the importance is about putting that ideology into action, and doing so in a way that is practical. Because ethos and ideology are the perfect backdrop to living in a beautiful state, but if you don’t have conventional ways to apply it to everyday life, then it’s all for naught.
So what is the conventional wisdom for practicing mindfulness? How do you apply it to everyday life? Try asking yourself these simple questions, and you’ll begin to see how making such small shifts in your life can lead to big results:
WHAT’S IN YOUR MEDICINE CABINET?
Open your medicine cabinet and take a look at the products you use on a daily basis. Do you know what their ingredient list is? Do you know where they come from or how they were made?
It’s easy to shop blindly – to purchase a product based on the prominence of the brand or the appeal of the label. But so many of the sprays, makeup, gels, lotions and formulas we are putting on our bodies on a regular basis may actually be doing more harm than good.
Toxins and chemicals are a big part of the problem. From parabens to phthalates and aluminum, the chemicals used in a number of common health products are leeching into our bodies and wreaking havoc. Know what is in your shampoo. Find out what your shower gel and shaving cream are made out of. That lotion you use to moisturize – does it have any harmful chemicals? What about your deodorant, or your lipstick or aftershave?
You can also be mindful by asking what went into developing the product you are using. Sadly, despite the big steps we’ve made in the past 20 years to reduce animal-testing, an inhumane practice that perpetuates suffering, a number of companies still use it. I, personally, do not want to purchase a product that in any way supports this cruelty. I want to live in a world that chooses compassion and kindness over anything else. So I choose brands that are in alignment with those values as well. You can find out which companies do not use animal testing here.
WHERE DOES YOUR FOOD COME FROM?
This part of mindfulness isn’t about restriction or reduction. And it’s not about saying “be mindful of that piece of cake you are eating, ask yourself if you are really hungry or are trying to comfort yourself.” While I can appreciate the ideology behind that, sometimes you just want to indulge. Everything in moderation, right?
This is about knowing what is in your food and where it comes from. Are you eating processed food loaded with additives and preservatives? Or are you nourishing your body with whole foods that are truly clean? Are you buying organic and local? Or are your foods treated with pesticides?
Make it a point to read the ingredients label and take note of what you are putting into your body. This will make you more in-tuned with your habits and patterns, and help you make better decisions when it comes to how you fuel and energize your body.
WHAT DOES YOUR BODY NEED?
Exercise should be a vital part of your day, even if only for 20 minutes. It not only has a number of well-known physical benefits, it can also enhance your mental and emotional state. But being mindful doesn’t mean pushing yourself to go all-out on the treadmill, or pressuring yourself to bike 50 miles when you are exhausted. It means paying attention to your body and asking yourself what you really need.
When I need to energize myself, I opt for a brisk run outside. If cardio sounds like too much for my body that day, but I still have energy, I’ll choose a challenging yoga class. Or when I’m feeling a little more subdued, and my body is asking for a recovery day, I’ll take a walk. Then there are still some other days where stress and restlessness beg to be released with a really intense cardio session.
Being mindful isn’t about forcing yourself to work out every day. It’s about taking note of how your body feels and giving it what it needs. Make it a point to assess your physical state every morning. Not only will you become more in tune with your needs, you will be able to take care of yourself in an entirely new way.
HOW DO YOU FEED YOUR MIND?
Do you get news updates on your phone? How often do you stream live news coverage on your computer? Does morning and evening news bookend your day?
While it’s important to be aware of what’s happening in the world around you, it’s also important to be mindful of what type of news you are consuming. Odds are, the news you are reading and listening to revolves around death, destruction and devastation. After all, there’s a phrase about the news – “if it bleeds, it leads.” Because bad news sells.
But it’s important to take note of what this constant exposure to violence and negativity is doing to your mental and emotional state.
British psychologist, Dr. Graham Davey, told the Huffington Post that exposure to negative and violent media could actually have long-lasting psychological effects. In fact, Davey maintains that “viewing negative news means that you’re likely to see your own personal worries as more threatening and severe, and when you do start worrying about them, you’re more likely to find your worry difficult to control and more distressing than it would normally be.”
Tony tells us to constantly strive to feed our minds. He tells us that every single day, we must stand guard at the doors to our mind and take a proactive approach to what we allow in.
What’s wrong is always available, but so is what’s right – educational podcasts, biographies of great men and women, personal development programs. Every opportunity you have, whether it’s in the car on the way to work, or unplugging 30 minutes before sleep, opt to feed your mind with something that empowers, educates and enlightens. You will be amazed at what a difference it can make in the long run.
ARE YOU BEING COMPASSIONATE WITH YOURSELF?
Be gentle with yourself.
There are enough external forces in the world that are simply out of our control. And there is enough negativity to overcome without bringing it on ourselves. Yet so many of us are our own worst critics. We see flaws when we look in the mirror. We beat ourselves up for not having accomplished enough. We get down on ourselves for not performing as well as we believe we should have.
But by focusing on the negative we only exacerbate the problem. And by compounding the issue at hand, we disempower ourselves. Take note of what you say to yourself when you look in the mirror. Take a moment to reflect on how hard you are on yourself. And when you find yourself becoming your own worst enemy, stop, and make the mental shift. Immediately change your words, thoughts and patterns into something positive and empowering. By finding a new direction that is more productive, you will find new opportunities for growth.
Take care of yourself. Be gentle, with your words, your thoughts and your actions.
IS IT LOVE OR EGO?
Throughout the day, be mindful of where your thoughts, feelings, words and actions are coming from. Ask yourself, is this coming from my ego? That is, my need to be special, better and unique? Or is it coming from a place of love? If it is coming from a place of love, then this is your authentic self.
Is it love, or is it ego? This question can be applied for everything from why you want to pursue a certain goal, to how you react when your partner does something you don’t agree with. Either way, it will help you shed the layers that mask your authentic self, and help you understand who you truly are on a more intimate level.
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