Once upon a time, my daily life was filled with mind-numbing tasks that I completed like a zombie.
I’d wake up to go to the office and barely have the energy to get out of the door. When my day was going well, one thing after another would happen: I’d bang my knee getting dressed and my car wouldn’t start. The stress added up and weighed me down every day.
Hours would pass before I could sleep, and then I’d wake up with a racing mind. Even when I tried to slow down or take a daycation, the stress would creep its way back into my life. The day I started to practice mindfulness, my entire life shifted—what really mattered in my life was given my full attention, and my worries began to dissipate as I dealt with them from a more aware perspective.
What Mindfulness Is Not
Mindfulness isn’t a reset button as much as I wished I could hit that button. The snooze button worked for a little while, but everyone wanted something from me when I wanted to be left alone.
No matter how hard I worked, I always worried about my success on projects. I despised faking smiles and telling lies when people asked how I was doing. All this stress does is distract you from being aware of what’s going on within yourself right now.
Mindfulness isn’t some watered down version of meditation where you chant mantras and take a certain number of breaths. It’s about taking notice and being here, in the now.
What Mindfulness Really Means
I’d heard all about how I needed to “be in the now,” and it does sound like a pitch to sign up for twenty classes of yoga on a special deal. Go ahead and take a second to roll your eyes, and I’ll tell you what mindfulness is really about for me.
Mindfulness is about waking up refreshed and open. Instead of mentally checking over my to-do list, I feel how comfortable my bed is and how energized my body feels after actually getting a decent night’s sleep. I listen to my heart, my breathing and even the sounds of construction outside my bedroom—the sounds of a new day starting. I frown at the banging of a hammer and stretch with a smile, open to receiving each moment to follow from a clear-headed space.
Instead of feeling behind, my sense of ease continues with me into the rest of the day. Mindfulness allows me to be responsive and observant of a moment as it happens, rather than making a stressful idea into a reality. Being mindful is a way of living.
How Being Mindful Affects My Everyday Life
Being mindful doesn’t take this huge effort, and it won’t take up your time. You don’t force yourself to think positively and criticize yourself when you don’t. You will worry, but as mindfulness becomes a part of your daily life, you’ll find that old stresses affect you less.
Most of the time, I don’t even notice when I am being mindful. I started bringing mindfulness into my daily rituals used to unwind and connect to myself. I began with Wednesdays, that “Yay! I’m halfway through!” day.
I’d go to a coffee shop with a big window and look out to the street.
Being somewhere else and allowing myself get lost was helpful, but stress would still find me.
That’s because I wasn’t experiencing the flow of what I was feeling in the moment.
I decided to sit down with my coffee, and for five minutes, focus on the birds outside eating the bread crumbs that a man was dropping.
The birds fought over the crumbs, but each bird had a piece before he left.
I found myself laughing and almost crying, because that felt like the day I had.
That day at work, I was so worried over having certain needs met and meeting the needs of others, that I scurried when everything was going to turn out okay, anyway.
Those silly birds, that fought over bread crumbs, flocked together no matter what.
From there on, I decided to choose one thing to observe within that weekly coffee break: from the people in cars driving home to my breathing.
Mindfulness was brought intentionally into other daily rituals. For example, when getting dressed in the morning, I take in everything possible: the cool air on my wet skin after a shower or the feel of fabric soft on my skin.
Mindfulness sneaked its way into my morning drive to work and in evenings when I walk the dog. Instead of cursing at stopped traffic, I notice my breathing, and calmly call in late if that’s going to be the case.
Instead of rushing the dog along on his walk, we take in the evening air.
I’ve noticed the seasons changing in more detail. I have let go of stress and recognize what is outside of my control.
Stress can be addictive. Maybe you work in a stressful environment like I did and want to shift your perspective by being more mindful. Maybe life feels too mundane or routine. All of that was true for me, but bringing mindfulness into my daily life became the day I started living.
Kacey Mya Bradley is a lifestyle blogger for The Drifter Collective. Her love for the world around her is portrayed through her visually pleasing, culturally embracing and inspiring posts. She writes an eclectic lifestyle blog that expresses various forms of style through the influence of culture and the world around us. You can also find her on Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram.