If you’re an adult, chances are that your schedule is probably crammed with a variety of obligations and challenges. From managing potentially multiple jobs to staying in touch with people and keeping other affairs in order, it can be hard to stay energized and calm.
Today, I will share my story and explain how being mindful and aware has helped me improve many aspects of my life and sleep better.
Hopefully, you will be able to take lessons from this and become mindful of, and attuned to, your surroundings, and your innermost thoughts and feelings. It costs no money, and it can lead to lifelong happiness, so what do you have to lose?
Working on Feeling Grateful
I spent around four years feeling down in the dumps at one point. I felt like I was drowning in responsibilities and problems, with no end in sight, no light at the end of the tunnel.
I talked to two of my closest friends, and through those conversations, I discovered a potential thread I could follow to find the root of my problems.
I had this way of thinking where I would focus on problems I had without acknowledging or appreciating all the positive things in my life. I would take for granted everything nice that happened to me, and often forget about those things quickly. After researching the concept of mindfulness, I decided to follow a small morning routine to help me clear my mind and feel better.
The feeling of gratitude doesn’t just instantly show up out of thin air where once there was nothing. Cultivating gratitude takes effort and patience. For me, a meditative routine did the trick, by clearing away all the white noise from my mind (which was caused by a period of anxiety and stress build-up).
Every day, I made it my goal to list a dozen or so things from the day before that made me feel good in some way.
It didn’t even have to be complicated. For example, waking up feeling well-rested is a great way to start the day, and if you can remember that feeling, you can put it on your list.
I ended up listing things like the smell of good food or coffee, pleasant interactions with neighbors, successes at work, exciting moments in various novels I liked to read, and so on. Doing this every day reminded me of all the blessings daily life bestowed upon me, and I was often in a better mood.
Dealing with Unwanted Thoughts
A huge part of why I was unhappy with my job during that period had to do with how much I felt the need to organize every second of my day.
Every night, before I’d fall asleep, I made mental notes on what I was supposed to do the next day and that kind of thinking naturally led to a lot of worrying. Thoughts like “but what if that meeting goes poorly?” often sprang to mind, and I’d spend time in bed feeling anxious instead of relaxing and sleeping.
I chose to resolve this through meditation. By focusing my mind on my breathing and repeatedly clearing my mind, I was able to slowly teach myself how to be mindful and aware of all that pent-up negativity, and let it pass through me like a dusty breeze.
Every night before sleep, after brushing my teeth and having a shower, I would sit on the edge of my bed and just take a deep, steady breath. Inhale, hold for a brief moment, exhale. I would follow the movement of my stomach and listen to the sounds of air passing through my body, picking up all the ambient sounds as well.
My refrigerator whirring in the kitchen, the bedroom fan I had purchased to help circulate air in my room, the sounds of my floorboards as my cat walked on them – I was taking in everything. Whenever a negative or otherwise compelling thought came to mind, I would train myself to let them hover briefly in my mind, before dissolving. I was aware of the thoughts, but I wasn’t pursuing them. Before long, I was able to fall asleep quicker and avoid waking up at night, which helped me feel happy and energized the following day.
Appreciating the Outside World
One of my daily habits was listening to music while on the way to work, or while doing errands that require me to leave the house. It was a way to filter out the outside world, in a way. I would just spend time in my own mind without interruption. After I had started meditating every day, I found myself examining habits like these, and looking for ways to change them or improve upon them.
My headphones broke at one point, and I initially resigned myself to skipping the whole music routine. But then, something interesting happened, and it changed my life for the better – I was becoming more and more aware of my surroundings.
The subtle sounds in my environment became much more obvious, and it felt like my senses were working above their normal capacity. I was able to hear birds chirping through the sounds of any nearby traffic, as well as nearby footsteps, the rustling of the leaves in the wind, etc.
This sensation was pleasant enough for me to incorporate it into my daily routine. To this day, whenever I go outside, I focus on all the sounds in my vicinity. Not only has it helped me remain safe near vehicles, but I now enjoy my walks and errands way more than I did with my old headphones and the songs in my smartphone.
It wasn’t just limited to sounds, either. The simple majesty of a healthy tree or some pigeons feasting on breadcrumbs was more visually appealing to me after I had done meditation. By being aware of my surroundings, I was able to realize how beautiful the area surrounding my house really was, and it inspired me to take walks in all the city’s parks. At some point, I started taking nature photos to preserve those enjoyable moments and help me appreciate what I have in life.
Disconnecting from the System
It’s the era of the smartphone, and many of us tie a lot of our daily habits to using these convenient devices [see this article on PASTE for more on this]. However, being too absorbed in various screens is never a good thing. I was having a period with frequent annoying headaches, and I wasn’t sure where they were coming from.
The above mentioned experience with my headphones led me to an interesting idea – I started leaving my phone at home while getting groceries and turning it off while visiting friends.
Aside from its alarm clock functionality and emergency calls, I had stopped using the smartphone almost entirely.
All of a sudden, those headaches became less frequent, and I was able to go to sleep even easier than before [it’s since been shown that cellphones cause insomnia].
Being able to resist the siren call of social media and the internet at large helped me enjoy things in the here and now, in the real world. I started reading books more actively again and writing down various unconnected thoughts and experiences in a journal. I took more of an interest in cooking, which helped me eat healthily and enjoy myself more. I made many improvements to my life, and all of them came from my decision to avoid staring at my smartphone all day.
Mindfulness at Work
My job at the time involved a crowded office space, where people were constantly trying to help each other out and get reorganized, so it was quite messy. I had to answer to two bosses and deal with a dozen or so coworkers, which took a toll on my patience. A huge part of my daily stress and anxiety came from this environment, so I knew I had to find a solution.
Once I started meditating and practicing mindfulness, the solution found me instead. All I had to do was apply those same methods to the workplace – by being aware of my coworkers’ needs and where all the worries were coming from, I was able to retain a clear and focused mind, which helped me work with people more efficiently.
Mindfulness is a magical thing.
By meditating and relaxing every day, you can achieve a state of heightened awareness, as your negativity and worrisome thoughts drift away, like pieces of wood in a river, never to be seen again. \
Mindfulness helped me appreciate the good things in life and seek fulfillment, so it can certainly help you do the same.
Good luck on your personal journey, my friends!
Selena Thomas is a content writer who loves sharing tips on healthy lifestyles. A writer by day and a reader by night, she’s fond of writing articles that can help people in improving both physical and mental health. Also, she loves traveling and inspires people on her blogs.