The world moves at a rapid pace. We’re shown advert after advert of things we ‘need’ – things that will improve our lives.
Things that, more often than not, are overpriced and unnecessary.
In recent years, what started as a whisper, something that maybe the yoga-loving hippies would do, has become commonplace for many.
The practice of mindfulness.
Like most things in life, it takes time to get good at it. Much like empathy or active listening, we all have the ability, but you need to use it daily in order for it to become second nature.
Tips for Being More Mindful
Start by focusing on being fully in the moment. Whether that’s when you’re hugging your spouse, baking rye bread from scratch or looking for your misplaced car keys, it doesn’t really matter.
The point is to be there 100%. Notice the small things: your breathing, the movement of your hands, the smell and feel of the air.
By nature, most of us have a litany of thoughts looping through our minds. When you notice that happen, make a mental note of what the judgement is about and then set it to one side.
Later on, give yourself the space and time to unpack those judgey thoughts. Consider why they came up and think about what you can do to avoid having that same ‘mix-tape’ play in the future.
Making judgements —on ourselves or others— isn’t good for us. We carry that negativity with us whether we realise it or not. It’s especially counterproductive when you’re on a mission to up your mindfulness A-game.
On the surface, practising mindfulness is fairly simple. But daily life has a habit of running away with us and before we know it, we’ve completely missed the boat. There are, however, some things you can do to avoid that happening.
The Art of Meditation
The trick with meditation is to take it in baby steps. Start with just a couple of minutes and progress from there. Sit on the floor or on a chair with your feet flat on the ground, if that’s more comfortable.
Pay attention to your body. How are your feet feeling? What are they resting on? Move up your body, focusing on each body part as you go. Pay attention to your spine, are you sitting up straight or slouching?
Consciously relax your shoulders. We often don’t realise it when our shoulders are hunched or our jaw is clenched. Make a point of relaxing both.
Allow your eyes to relax. Even if they’re closed, think about relaxing them. If you prefer to have them open, then soften your gaze so you’re not straining.
Because breathing is an automated bodily function, the vast majority of us are extremely lazy when it comes to breathing properly. In meditation, breathing is key. Make a point of inhaling and exhaling deeply and completely.
Your mind is going to wander, that’s normal. When you suddenly notice yourself thinking about Cape Town’s skyrocketing property prices or tomorrow’s weather forecast just let them float away.
(It’s not that they aren’t important, it’s just that they’re not important right now.)
After a few minutes (this will increase the longer you practise), gently open your eyes and bring yourself back into the room. Notice how you feel, are there any sensations in the body?
Sometimes, the same thoughts or feelings will arise during mediation. If that happens make a point of writing them down and working on them. Our higher selves often use these relaxed states to let us know what we need to work on, so it’s a good idea to listen and take action.
In The Home
Meditation is one way to practice mindfulness, but you can also implement it in your home. Mindfulness and minimalism go hand in hand, which makes sense when you think about it.
You’ll never find peace in a cluttered environment, no matter how hard you try.
From a decor perspective, look at the colors and styles throughout your home. The bedrooms can be tackled individually, but it can be quite calming and harmonious to keep things simple in the common living areas.
Color matters. Reds and purples can be quite jarring, while softer shades like lavender will have a more calming effect. That’s not to say your home has to be pale and pasty, mind you.
Muted and chalky tones are lovely, but there’s no harm in brightening things up with bright splashes here and there. It’s all about balance.
Rather than buying artwork and ornaments, you could get crafty (as in creative, not underhanded) with your photographs. That way, whenever you look at them you’ll remember the fun you had making them as well the memories the pictures encapsulate.
Don’t go overboard though. Overfilling your walls and shelf space causes visual distress, which is exactly what you don’t want when you’re trying to be more mindful.
Your chosen styles and colors can be as calming as possible, but if your home is full of clutter it’s not going to make any difference. Stuff has a way of infiltrating the home, so it’s important to be mindful of this.
When you have kids it’s even more challenging to keep clutter to a minimum. It can be done though. Decluttering tips, advice and courses abound on the Internet. If you feel overwhelmed by the immensity of the undertaking, just ask Google for help.
However you approach your decluttering, make sure it’s a family affair. Don’t just clean out the kids’ rooms, include them in the process. This will help them develop their own mindfulness practice.
Be open with them. Talk about what marketing is and how companies use cleverly designed adverts to convince you to buy things you don’t need or even want. Put limits on new purchases and keep gifts for special occasions only.
Along with teaching them patience, this approach will also make them appreciate new things when they get them. It’s super important to take stock of your spending habits when you’re out with your children.
What you do sets an example for them. How likely are you to buy things just for the sake of it? Make no mistake, your kids notice these things. Being mindful of your spending habits will also have a positive effect on your bank balance.
A healthier bank balance means more money for things that matter, like vacations and fun outings for the whole family. Less stuff also results in a better life balance, because you’re no longer stressed out by clutter or debt.
Remember, with each child you have, the amount of items in your home expands by 30%. By keeping that front of mind you can avoid your home turning into a clutter fest. More importantly, you and your kids will become more mindful in the process.