As 2021 came to a close and I got ready for a new year, I decided to forego making resolutions or goals and instead make a vision board that also included some key phrases. Instead of setting lofty goals for myself that I would most likely eventually give up on (and then be disappointed in myself), I made it a point to just focus on how I wanted to feel this year. I went into the vision board process with one main question for myself: What would living life as my highest self look like?
As I pieced together the vision board and wrote down the key phrases that I thought represented living life as my highest self, a lot of them had a common theme—I was yearning to be better at truly enjoying the present moment, which can also be called practicing mindfulness. Instead of focusing so much on my future (or even feeling nostalgic about the past), I decided that I wanted to do things each and every day that bring me joy. I thought about romanticizing the little things, allowing myself small luxuries in life instead of waiting for a “special moment,” leaning into manifestation and a deeper connection with the world around me, and really learning that I have power over my own mindset.
So after I had the understanding that I wanted to be more mindful this year, I had to figure out exactly how I was going to incorporate that habit into my life. I knew that doing a complete overhaul of my daily routine wasn’t realistic, so instead I decided on trying to do at least one thing every day that truly allowed me to be in the present moment. And I’ll be honest: I wasn’t great at sticking to this goal in January, but in February, I had a newfound determination to make it a priority. And now with a whole month of prioritizing mindfulness under my belt, I can honestly say that this daily habit transformed my life.
What is mindfulness?
According to mindful.org, mindfulness is defined as “The basic human ability to be fully present, aware of where we are and what we’re doing, and not overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around us. While mindfulness is something we all naturally possess, it’s more readily available to us when we practice on a daily basis.”
Another important aspect of mindfulness is the acceptance of our thoughts and feelings. Instead of trying to avoid, ignore, or change them, mindfulness means truly allowing ourselves to feel and acknowledging that there is no right or wrong way to do so. Research has shown that practicing mindfulness can increase positive emotions, reduce stress, improve sleep quality, and boost self-compassion, confidence, and creativity, among other benefits.
How it fits into my routine
Making mindfulness a daily habit is actually much easier than it may seem because when it comes down to it, it is simply prioritizing things that bring you joy. I think that I was intimidated by it at first because “practicing mindfulness” felt like this huge undertaking that required me to build a deep connection with the universe and do things like meditate for long periods of time every day.
But once I realized that I was already equipped to be practicing it and simply needed to tap into it and make it a priority, it weaved itself naturally into my routine. For me, it was less about adding something new and more about taking a different approach to how I interact with the world around me. I started to do things with intention rather than to just fill time.
Here are a few of the things that I like to do to practice daily mindfulness:
- Manifestation or gratitude journaling. Taking time to write out your thoughts, whether they are centered on practicing gratitude, manifestations, or anything else, is one of the easiest ways to connect with yourself and take inventory of how you’re really feeling.
- Do a 5-to-10-minute meditation. This is perhaps the simplest way to practice mindfulness as a daily habit. I like to cater my meditations to how I feel and what I would like to gain from them. For example, on a day I might be feeling stressed or worried about a specific problem, I will search Spotify or YouTube for an “ease meditation.”
- Read a good book. For me, choosing to read a book over watching something on TV or scrolling on my phone tends to bring me more joy in the long run. I love being able to exercise my mind while also being entertained.
- Go for a walk. A huge aspect of mindfulness is connecting to the world around you through your senses, and there’s no better way to do that than to get outside, feel sunshine and fresh air, and observe both nature and people.
- Cook a new recipe or a slightly more complex meal. Although I sometimes dread cooking myself a nice meal, I never regret it in the end. I find that trying out a slightly more complex recipe (AKA not just making something frozen from Trader Joe’s in the air fryer) is not only rewarding but also extremely meditative.
- Practice yoga. It might seem obvious, but practicing yoga is one of the most grounding activities. When I take the time–even if it’s just 10 to 20 minutes–to go to my mat and leave everything else behind for a little while, I always finish my practice feeling extremely refreshed and present.
- Spend quality time with loved ones. It took me a little while to realize that simply spending uninterrupted quality time with the people you love is an excellent way to connect yourself with the present moment. Even if your loved ones don’t live near you, taking time out of your day to call or FaceTime them really helps build deeper connections.
- Work on a hobby. As we get older, we often forget about the things that brought us joy in our childhood or teenage years: our hobbies. Whether you enjoy painting, photography, scrapbooking, sports, or anything else, taking that time to do something purely for fun is almost guaranteed to leave you feeling more fulfilled.
- Say affirmations aloud. At the beginning of my mindfulness journey, I also made myself a list of affirmations to focus on for the year. I try to read the list out loud to myself at least once per day.
- Stop to enjoy the sunrise or sunset. Nothing really snaps me into the present moment quite like a beautiful sunrise or sunset. I find them to be one of life’s greatest simple pleasures, so whenever I see a good one, I make it a point to stop for a second and really take it in.
- Take a few deep breaths or do a quick body scan. Practicing mindfulness doesn’t have to be an activity. It can be as simple as taking five deep, refreshing breaths or closing your eyes to do a quick body scan—which simply means to bring awareness to each part of your body from your toes to the top of your head.
How mindfulness has impacted my life
Although I didn’t officially challenge myself to practice mindfulness daily until last month, I feel as though I’ve been on this journey for a little while longer. Some time around last summer, I began dabbling in meditation, I gained a newfound love of walking, and I started to do things with more intention and joy. I was going through a bit of a personal rough patch, and then suddenly something clicked for me: I realized that I, alone, have the power over my own mindset and energy. I have the ability to choose how I react to things that happen to me, and I can decide for myself whether or not I allow situations or people to affect me.
Once I had that understanding, greater contentment and connection followed. Of course, I still have my rough days, but I now am able to feel more at peace and live with more ease. And over the course of the past month, as I’ve incorporated more and more mindfulness into my daily routine, I feel more present, more grateful, and generally happier.
And don’t get me wrong: I’m not always “living in the present moment” and spending all of my time doing the things on the list above. I love a good four-hour TikTok scroll as much as the next gal, and there are days when I simply don’t have the energy to go for a walk or do some yoga. But I’ve learned that it’s all about the small things, and those little habits that might seem meaningless actually do have the power to transform your life.