8 Ways to Improve your Mindfulness & Self-Awareness

mind•full•ness

{noun}
the quality or state of being conscious or aware of something. a mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness in the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and acknowledging one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations.

In a world full of noise and distractions, it is hard to be mindful. It is hard to be present.We are constantly being bombarded with information as well as social pressures to be ___ or do ___.

It is hard to be mindful in the world of smartphones, high-speed internet, and Netflix, but it is not impossible.

In this article, I’m going to give you several techniques you can use to improve your mindfulness on a daily basis. Mindfulness, like any other skill, takes practice.

1. Meditate

Meditation is perhaps the easiest and most efficient way to improve your mindfulness. Meditation allows us to learn how to be present and teaches us how to monitor our thought patterns.

I have been practicing meditation for about four months now and it has proven extremely helpful. I have found myself feeling less anxious and stressed on a day-to-day basis.

During meditation, you focus all your attention on either your breath or your bodily sensations. Doing so allows you to be completely present, rather than getting lost in thoughts about the past or future.

If you are new to meditation, I recommend checking out an app called Calm.

2. Do Nothing

A huge part of mindfulness is becoming more aware of how you think. You can do this by simply sitting down and your room and letting your mind run. It may be best to do this by staring at one spot on your wall, that way you don’t get distracted.

Take time to pay attention to your thoughts.

What are you thinking about?

Your to-do list?

What you did last night?

The more we quiet down and listen to our thoughts, the more aware we will become of them, and with awareness comes the ability to change the way we think.

3. Savor Your Food

Often when we sit down to eat we are either watching television or on our smartphones. We get so focused on what other people are doing that we don’t even take the time to really taste what we’re eating.

Next time you eat, just eat. Take time to really enjoy your food.

This is a great way to practice being present. Even more so, it will help you generate gratitude for the food you have on the table.

4. Do One Thing at a Time

To truly be present means to have our minds fully engaged in what we are doing right now. This is impossible if we are trying to do multiple things at once. In fact, the attention span of humans has become even shorter in the age of social media, according to the Telegraph.

Here are a few ways you can practice doing one thing at a time:

  • Don’t listen to music when you clean. Practice just cleaning. This will help you learn to live in the moment.
  • When you’re working, turn off your phone if possible. You don’t want to be scrolling through Twitter while you’re doing a project.
  • When you’re with a group of friends, do your best to really listen to every word they are saying. Be fully engaged in the conversation, rather than letting your mind carry you to another place.

5. Keep a Journal

Another way to become more aware of your thought parents it to keep a journal. When you journal, just put whatever is in your mind into the page. No filter.

After your finish writing, look back on what you wrote. What does it tell you about yourself? Are you thinking mostly negatively or positively?

The more self-aware we are the more mindful we can become.

6. Quite Down Your Life

Like I mentioned in the introduction, our lives are constantly becoming more complicated as we are feed more and more information.

One way to stay mindful in this era of distractions is to learn to quiet down your life. Set time aside to escape from the news and social media. Take time to go on a walk or sit outside.

Sometimes it is wise to turn off the television and music and just sit down and read a book.

When we learn to quiet down, and at times power down,  we can finally become truly present.

7. Get Out of Your Own Head

The opposite of being present is to be lost in thought. It is important that you learn to get out of your own head and live in the present moment.

You can accomplish this through meditation and through simply redirecting your attention in a given situation.

Here’s an example.

You are reading a book but you keep thinking about a test your have tomorrow. Simply and gently redirect your attention onto the book and stop thinking about the test.

This is not easy, but with practice, you can improve.

It is important that you don’t become angry with yourself during this process. Mindfulness is nothing without self-compassion. When you find yourself being distracting, gently bring yourself back to the present moment, extending loving-kindness towards yourself.

8. Don’t Let Your Thoughts Control You

For a long time, I believed that I was in control of my thoughts and that it was my responsibility to think the right way.

Now I’ve realized that thoughts, for the most part, are fluid. They are not really under our control. They come and go no matter what.

Because of this, the most important way to overcome negative thoughts is not to change the thoughts themselves, but to change the way you look at them. If you begin to realize that your thoughts are just a stream of consciousness, you can start to stop believing thoughts that prove to be untrue or not useful.

For more information on why we cannot control our own thoughts, check out this article from the Scientific American.

Closing Thoughts

The more mindful you become the easier it will be for you to be productive and happy. Living in the moment is the best way to live. If your mind is focused on the past or present, you will not be able to enjoy the beauty of now.

Now is the only thing you can change. Now is the only time that really matters.

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My Social Media Hiatus & the Importance of Being Present

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Last Friday I did something I thought I’d never do. I deleted all social media apps from my iPhone. At first, I was scared that I’d miss out on something. Our generation hates not knowing what’s going on. But I didn’t miss out. I actually enjoyed life a lot more without the interruption of social media.

I originally made the decision to quit social media for a week because I was extremely behind on school work. I had multiple large assignments due that week, some of which I hadn’t even started.

When I get stressed out I procrastinate. This particular day I was avoiding work by listening to Thomas Frank’s College Info Geek podcast. On the podcast, Thomas was interviewing Cal Newport, a published author and college professor. Newport was discussing how he balances being a professor, author, and consistent blogger.

Newport shared that he has never had a social media account, which to most of us sounds crazy. Even without marketing himself on social media he was able to build a large audience for his blog and his book.

Listening to the interview inspired me to do a little experiment: I would delete all social media applications from my iPhone and see if my productivity and happiness were influenced by it. The short answer is yes. I was extremely more productive and was able to enjoy life more without social media.

(check out the full interview with Cal Newport here)

social media add

After deleting social media I started to realize how much of a distraction it really is. I found myself picking up my phone only to realize that I had nothing to run to. I was forced to live in the present moment. To focus on what was happening in my life at that very second.

Living in the present is one of the most important things to learn if you want to live a happy and productive life. When we learn to live in the present moment we stop feeling bad about the past or worrying about the future. We learn to enjoy life just as it is and make the most of today.

Social media often takes our focus away from what we should be doing (school work, spending time with other human beings, etc.). It is probably the biggest distraction from reality in our current world.

After quitting social media, I became far more productive. I was able to get several large assignments done within a matter of days. Rather than halting my work every couple minutes to check Instagram, I worked constantly without distraction.

We spend much more time on social media than we realize. Time we could be spending doing other things. Time we could be spending on enjoying life, making ourselves better, and accomplishing our goals. If time is as valuable as we say it is, shouldn’t we be spending it doing something greater than scrolling through Facebook?

ScrrenAddict

Maybe you want to make a major change in your life. Or you want to start a new hobby or catch up on some work. I suggest deleting social media for just a few days.

What’s the worst that could happen? You might miss out on that meme your friend shared or that stupid cat video your aunt tagged you in. But you know what you won’t miss out on? Having actual fun and accomplishing actual task in the real world.