How to Start Living More Intentionally and Mindfully
We are not meant to be race cars.
Ever feel like your life is a huge Nascar Race?
When we're very young, we are so good at just living in the moment. We only think of and focus on the toys in front of us. We don't worry about what is to happen in a week or in a year.
Then we hit our teenage years, and we start yearning to grow up and become adults. We crave having our own independence. We hold feelings of rebellion as we desire to be in control of our own lives.
As adults we desperately want to return to the simplicity of childhood. We take one second to breathe, and realize that a whole year, or ten years, has passed. Why does time go by so much faster when we're older?
Well because we cram so much into a week, a day, five minutes that we don't even get the chance to really enjoy what is happening. Our minds are constantly in overdrive, and our schedules are go-go-go all hours we're awake.
We need to slow down. Take more time to savor and enjoy the moments. Make time for reflection, and for extracting the lessons from the day, our experiences, and also our mistakes. We need space to really cherish and love our lives.
I really struggled the year I turned thirty. I would sit and look back over ten years prior and feel frustrated. I had had so many experiences, yet I felt I had accomplished nothing. I didn't look back and think of moments of joy. I was blocked. Everything in those ten years had been such a blur.
That was also the year that my grandmother had become ill. Later that year, two weeks before my thirtieth birthday she passed. It hit me like a boulder.
There was one last piece of advice that she had given me that I had to sit with for quite a while. Not because I didn't agree, but because I didn't know how to follow it.
She said to me, "Stop worrying about everything, and just do your best every day. Everything will work out."
The next five years weren't much easier. Actually they got a bit harder in many ways. I just kept plugging along, doing the best I could to hold on.
The year after my grandmother passed, my grandfather passed away—two weeks before my thirty-first birthday... that was hard.
The following year, we discovered my dad had a brain tumor. Continuing over the next five years, I experienced great heartache, painful moments of growth, and a lot of burnout. Last December I finally broke. I came to a standstill, emotionally, mentally, and physically. I was empty, I had nothing left to give. I had completely depleted my energy and my flame extinguished.
This was the biggest turning point ever in my life.
Through recovery I found faith again. I started to deeply love myself and developed forgiveness for myself. I started setting the boundaries that were necessary for my survival, my quality of life, and that would give me the opportunity to thrive. I allowed myself to grow through the mud. I shed things, people, and beliefs.
Most of all I learned how to pause. I started breathing again. I took time to rest.
Living a mindful and intentional life is not an easy habit to switch to. Especially in today's day and age. Everyday I feel as if I'm fighting against the current. But it's worth it. And swimming against the current is making me stronger. Every day I get stronger, I feel healthier and I feel happier.
Living in the moment allows us to enjoy the moment more.
So how do we switch from a busy, busy lifestyle to a slower, simpler life? In small steps.
I'm an A-type personality. I always have a million ideas buzzing in my head that I want to put into action, and I want to put them into action right away. That's not realistic. So I'm training myself to be patient.
- Keep an "ideas and thoughts notebook" with you always (or if you prefer digital, I find Evernote super helpful). Brain dump several times throughout the day. This will put it in a space that you can come back to later. Don't try and process everything in one moment.
- Journal every night. Take this time to slow down your mind. Work through any lingering emotions or thoughts. When you journal, do it in a quiet place. Turn the TV off. No multitasking during mindful journaling time.
- Force yourself to do one thing at a time. Scheduling out my tasks or using the time-blocking method helps me do this. When my mind starts to wander to another task, I remind myself that I will get to it when it's time. If you focus on one task at a time, in turn you will actually be more productive, because you will complete the task more efficiently.
- At least once a week, make some time just to lounge and veg out. This is your decompressing time. You need this.
- When you're spending time with family or friends, put your phone away. Turn off your media notifications, and tuck it in your bag or keep it in your pocket. This keeps the distractions down so you can enjoy quality time with your family and friends.
It will take some time to break the go-go-go habits. It'll probably take me a few years to get it down, but it's worth it. I don't want to look back when I'm older and have missed out on enjoying my life.
This year I'll turn thirty five. This year the advice my grandmother gave me five years ago makes sense. I understand how I am going to take the advice and put it into action now.