After my car accident, I was on a lot of heavy duty medication and I really didn’t want to stay on it indefinitely. So, I needed to find ways of dealing with my pain with as little medication as possible I was sent to a pain management specialist, went to see a “pain therapist”, and threw in some PTSD group therapy for good measure (turns out I didn’t have PTSD – I was actually experiencing side effects from the medication I was on but that’s a different blog post). I’m actually grateful for all of this because it helped me to really focus on what was most important in life and to keep my pain under control.
“When we are mindful, deeply in touch with the present moment, our understanding of what is going on deepens, and we begin to be filled with acceptance, joy, peace, and love.” – Thich Nhat Hanh
So, here are my 15 ways to live mindfully:
- Do stretches twice a day – first thing in the morning and before bed. If you can’t manage any other exercise, at least keep your body moving with gentle stretches.
- Whenever you find yourself focusing on something negative – something bad that happened in the past, the pain that you’re in, and so on – bring yourself back to the present. Focus on the sun shining on your face or how adorable your child or pet is or the bird sitting in a tree in your backyard. If you’re having trouble “getting out of your head” one method I learned was to carry a little container of whole cloves around with me. Chew on a clove during these times and believe me, you’ll find it hard NOT to be in the present!
- Get outside if you can. I can’t always go out. If my back/hip/knee is really bad and it’s icy out, it would be dangerous for me to go out. If it’s really humid out, my asthma flares up. But I can open the back door to let the dog out and stand there feeling the cold air or warm sunshine on my face, even if only for a few minutes. If I’m sick and on bedrest, I try to open the window – again even if only for a few minutes so I can breathe in some fresh air.
- Stay hydrated. Drink plenty of water each day. It really does help to keep you feeling better inside and out.
- When you have a meal, take the time to sit down and really savour it. Chew slowly, use your five senses to focus on what you’re eating. It will help you to eat only the amount that you need and help keep your digestion working properly.
- Music can be a great way to help you get through tough times or to deal with pain. Sometimes I need really quiet, gentle, instrumental music and other times, I need some metal or dance tunes to work out the stress or pain.
- You might find journalling helpful. It doesn’t work that well for me in all honesty but what does work is art instead. Drawing, painting, sculpting are all great ways to work through things and it doesn’t matter if I produce something beautiful – it’s the process that is important.
- Eat healthier. Try to stick to whole foods.
- Do some deep breathing. I have some breathing exercises that I do – it helps with the pain (kind of like Lamaze breathing when in labour) and it helps my lungs but just some simple deep breaths are good. I do this regularly along with the stretching in the morning and at bedtime. I also do it throughout the day whenever I feel I need to. If meditation works for you, you can combine the breathing with meditation or visualization exercises. I’m not that great at either one of those though.
- Be appreciative and demonstrate it every day. Keep a gratitude journal if that helps. Make a point of telling someone each day why you’re thankful for them. Instagram something that you’re thankful for every day.
- Get a good night’s sleep. It really is crucial.
- Disconnect from your electronics regularly. Try to have a set time each night and after that time, the electronics get turned off no matter what! And how about an unplugged weekend now and then?
- I mentioned slowing down when you eat. Really, it’s good to be able to just slow down in general. Do the old “stop and smell the roses” bit. Get down on the floor and play Legos with your kids. Next time your cat jumps in your lap wanting attention, stop and give it to her. Shorten and prioritize your to do list so you don’t have to rush through your day to get it all done.
- Spend some time in solitude. This is a natural for me because I love my alone time but it’s good for everyone to have some time to themselves to sit and reflect or pray or read or watch a movie and have a good cry or whatever works for you.
- Spend some time with other people. For those of us who tend to be loners, this is another important thing to do to keep our lives in balance. Don’t get TOO wrapped up in yourself or you can end up focussing on the pain and the negatives. Spend time enjoying the company of others. At the very least, it’s a great distraction, but of course, it’s so much more than that.
What helps you to live mindfully?