So what is mindful living? How do you "mindfully live"? Here's how I see it, how it has helped me, and how you can help yourself.
Have you ever caught yourself saying things like:
“If I don’t have enough time to do it all, is it even worth it?”
“If I can’t afford organic, is it even worth it?”
“If I don’t like tofu, is it even worth it?”
Can you imagine if we thought about everything we do in a day with that ‘all or nothing’ mindset? Feeling the need to do everything ‘perfectly’ all the time? Even if it isn’t actually important?
If this sounds like you, you are not alone! However, I encourage you to let go of those limiting beliefs. Give yourself space and grace to be interested in having a better mindset.
Know that perfection is not the goal.
There is no such thing as ‘perfection’. There is only doing the best you can, when you can.
Everything that you can do counts and is always worth it—even if it’s not perfect!
Your way of eating and general mindset about taking care of yourself is included in that.
Changing the food I eat and lifestyle I live has continued to help me deal with my grief process and depression.
While eating whole, plant foods has allowed my brain to function better, mindful living has also created positive changes in my overall outlook on life.
Mindful living is the conscious choice to be interested in having a better mindset.
Before practicing mindful living, I was quite literally addicted to stress. I was so dependent on negative energy to propel me through my day. Between work, school, sports, a social life, extra curriculars, etc., I would always have way too much on my to-do list. I would push myself relentlessly until everything was perfectly checked off.
I was living in this cycle all throughout high school, college, and my first few years in the “real” working world. It became part of me, my subconscious, and my daily routine.
When my mom died, it only got worse. While this negative cycle continued, mornings became (and still are sometimes) the worst times of the day for me. After a few months of diving deep into my pain and letting myself feel all of my emotions, I began to notice some things about myself.
I realized how some mornings I would wake up and not feel as bad as I would on other days. I also realized that instead of deciding to act on those lighter feelings, I would scroll through pictures, videos, and posts of my mom or about my mom to ultimately trigger that stressed, scared, and low feeling.
Whenever my roommates would ask how my day was going, I would only talk about the laundry list of negative things that happened, were happening, or about to happen. Looking back, venting about the worst part of my day was my way of recreating those low emotions. I rarely talked about the positive, nor did I ever think about the positive moments from my day.
“So many of us are addicted to the story of our suffering, with our bodies dependent on our own internal stress responses. Part of our healing is releasing the emotional & physical payoffs we get from victim consciousness.”
- Dr. Nicole LePera
My mindfulness journey began once I realized how reliant I was on a stressful, perfectionism mindset.
Once realizing this, I learned that I had to reconstruct the way I chose to react to most situations. For me, I was focusing on those moments that would subconsciously trigger those uncomfortable feelings in order to get through it.
In the beginning, when I would feel those feelings coming, I would catch myself and switch the negative thought to something positive, something I was grateful for, something that was funny, or anything along those lines.
I also began to consciously manage my stress through: practicing whole food plant based eating, staying hydrated, meditation/ breathing techniques, journaling, setting boundaries (within relationships and my to do list), singing or playing music, practicing gentle movement of any kind, and doing hands on activities like gardening, cooking, walking outside, being in nature, or cleaning.
This mindful living toolkit I created, did not happen overnight. It has been a gradual process of exploring myself, and finding what works best for my truest self by simply taking it day by day.
The only person who truly knows how you feel and what you are going through is you.
So being there for yourself, no matter what, is crucial. After all, you cannot help to fill anyone else's cup if your cup is empty.
I still have those moments, days, or even a couple of days, where I wake up and don’t feel my best. But now, I can acknowledge when it is happening and be aware of when I’m in a low place or in a place of feeling anxious, overwhelmed, deeply sad, etc. I then make a conscious choice to do something different.
Even if it’s only one thing, I choose to make a shift towards a better mindset.
“It is not uncommon for people to spend their whole life waiting to start living.”
Choosing to change and not fall into your old cycles is one of the most healing and empowering things you can do for your mental health.
We have a choice to surrender to familiar feelings or we can choose to feel different. Even if it feels like we don't. A deep breathing exercise, a snack, some gentle movement, or even a thought in another direction often times does wonders. It’s as simple and as challenging as that. But we must do the work to create a habit.
That constant commitment to take a few moments out of your day to show up for and take care of yourself, is where long lasting changes take place. Keeping simple promises to yourself, like choosing to have a better mindset, builds trust with yourself.
I want to empower you to create a life outside of survival mode.
Some of you reading this may have been in survival for quite some time. Some of us were born into this mode. Your priorities may have been to stay alive or to stay sane. Your situation may still be the same or it may be different, but your priorities can change if you want them to.
Keep in mind that where your focus goes, your energy flows.
Today you can begin healing.
You can develop new thoughts.
You can unlearn your trauma responses.
You can create a future that is different from yesterday and today.
And ultimately - You Can Grow.
Maybe it wasn’t possible then, but you can do it now!
Remember the best practice, is the one you’ll actually do.
“Nobody ever talks about this part… You know, the part where you’re no longer a caterpillar and not yet a butterfly. You don’t know who you are and you don’t know where you’re going. All you know is that every fiber in your being is calling for transformation. For disruption. For a revolution of the spirit. So surrender. Breakdown. This is not the death of you. This is the dying of who you once were. This is your rebirth, darling. And these are called “growing pains”.
— Alexis Rakun
As I mentioned earlier, my wellness/mindful living toolkit has taken some time to develop and is ever changing depending on my current life situations.
Here is what my most recent self check in looks like.
It helps me whenever I'm in need to do something for myself or am looking for a change of pace in my day. I like to refer to this list and think to myself "What can I do for myself right now that I will thank myself for later?" and go from there.