If the past year has taught us anything, it’s that mind-body practices are vital during times that are, honestly, kind of a train wreck. The events of the past year have left many of us feeling more anxious and uncertain than ever before. In this post, we’ll discuss 15 things mindful people do differently and how to incorporate them into your own life so that you can begin to experience more happiness, peace, and clarity.
In these stressful times, it’s more important than ever to embrace practices that will nourish us, help us to chill out, relax, and restore balance in our lives. And to reduce our stress levels, we need to be active participants in our lives.
There are several things happy mindful people do differently that enhance their lives, according to therapists. Below are 15 things mindful people do differently that you can get started on right away.
1) Start the Day With Intention
Mindful people take the time to notice how they feel when they wake up. Instead of rushing out of bed, take the time to notice the comfort of your bed, pillow, and blankets. Notice how it feels to stretch your limbs. Connect with your breath or say a thoughtful prayer (prayer itself is a mindful activity) and appreciate the blessing of a brand new day and fresh opportunities.
2) Nourish the Body
Mindful people understand that food is fuel for their bodies. A healthy diet not only nourishes you but in many cases, can also be a form of medicine. There’s growing evidence that a healthy, balanced diet not only prevents various illnesses but can also cure them. It plays a critical role in our overall health and wellbeing.
While grocery shopping, make sure you’re making conscious food choices based on your personal needs. It’s tempting to make poor choices if you’re shopping on an empty stomach, so try to avoid it.
I’m not saying that mindful people don’t ever indulge in guilty pleasure foods. Most of us would probably agree that we all enjoy some not-so-healthy foods on occasion. And that’s ok! The difference is that a mindful person will check in with themselves – the mind, the heart, and the stomach – so they’re more aware of why they’re craving something. They’ll replace self-criticism with self-nurturing and anxiety with curiosity.
Mindful people take pauses between bites. They taste and enjoy their food. Connecting with the experience and with the people who grew the food, the people who transported the food, and those that eat alongside them. This is what makes us feel most satisfied, even when it’s a small snack or meal that normally wouldn’t satiate someone. This is the gift of mindful eating.
3) Focus on the Breath and Check-in With the Body
Whether it’s sitting in meditation or informally throughout the day, focusing on your breath is a great way to experience the present moment. Mindful people will scan their bodies throughout the day and notice their holding tension and breath.
When experiencing anxiety or a stressful situation, it can be helpful to use the S.T.O.P. method, created by Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction founder Jon Kabat-Zinn, Ph.D.
Stop whatever you’re doing and just take a pause.
Take a few deep breaths. Exhale and inhale fully and notice the space between breaths.
Observe your experience just as it is with a sense of curiosity and kindness. Notice the physical sensations that are present in your body. Notice the momentum of your mind and the quality of your thoughts. Notice any emotions or moods that are arising. You don’t need to get caught up in the stories surrounding the thoughts or emotions. Simply notice that they exist.
Proceed. Go about your day and whatever you were doing.
In this video mindfulness teacher, Rhonda Magee breaks down the S.T.O.P. practice.
Another quick but powerful practice in times of stress is to take a few deep breaths and silently say to yourself “be” on the inhale and “calm” on the exhale. It can help ground you in the present moment and keep your mind from ruminating on worries.
4) Don’t Multitask
We often think we’re being super productive by juggling multiple tasks. But it turns out that this is a misconception. We’re just switching our attention back and forth. The brain is unable to process more than one task at a time.
Multitasking ultimately makes us less productive. Furthermore, it can break your focus. Instead, focus on one activity all the way through to the end before beginning another and you may be surprised how quickly you’ll be able to accomplish your to-do list.
5) Practice Being Curious and Compassionate
Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D., author, and psychologist has this to say about practicing being curious, “One of the essential attitudes of mindfulness is beginner’s mind. This is engaging something as if for the very first time. People who practice mindfulness bring this attitude with them throughout the day. When they take a shower, they might imagine it was the first time feeling the water, smelling the soap, or watching the steam as it shifts and changes before their eyes. Novelty is one of the fastest routes to creating new neural connections.”
Being curious can also be very liberating. It opens you up to learning and keeps your mind open and fresh. It invites you to engage in everything in your life.
Mindful.org says compassion can be defined as “noticing suffering with an inclination to want to help in some way.” When we practice compassion meditation, we’re better able to empathize with others and are more inclined to help them or ourselves in times of need. This facilitates social connection, which is one of the foundations of happiness. Practicing compassion also allows for noticing difficult emotions that arise and learning to be less reactive to them.
6) Practice Self-Care
Engaging in self-care is an important practice for maintaining a healthy balance in life and a positive relationship with yourself. Mindful people regularly cultivate self-care. They notice when something is “off” or when they’re becoming stressed and can take steps to avoid burnout. Whether that means taking a few deep breaths, a quick meditation session, taking a walk, doing a yoga flow, or even sitting down to mindfully enjoy a cup of tea or coffee, people who practice mindfulness know their limits and know how to re-center themselves.
7) Practice Gratitude
Everyone experiences both positives and negatives in their lives. The normal human tendency is to focus on the negatives. However, mindful people tend to focus on the positives and express gratitude for those things.
Natalie Dattilo, Ph.D., director of psychology at the Department of Psychiatry at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, has this to say, “The easiest and most effective way to stay grateful is to attach it to things that you tend to do each day.” She suggests practicing gratitude before a meal since it’s part of your routine and part of a pleasurable activity. Another good option is to keep a gratitude journal in which you write for a short time each evening before bed. A 2019 study published in Health Psychology found that people who do this for five weeks report significant improvements in depression and anxiety.
8) Pause Before Responding
Mindful people tend to pause when faced with difficult situations, thoughts, or emotions. Rather than automatically reacting to something, a pause can facilitate space around a difficult event or emotion, allowing you to choose a helpful response. We can step out of our habitual reactive patterns and choose to respond more consciously in challenging situations.
Consistent mindfulness meditation practice allows for better emotion regulation. Research suggests that mindfulness meditation is associated with increases in gray matter concentration in the brain regions involved in emotion regulation and the learning and memory process, self-perception, and self-referential processing.
9) Understand and Accept That All Things Come and Go
Nothing in this life is permanent. Through practicing mindfulness, we begin to understand that no matter how good or bad a particular moment or event may be, it is only temporary. Through this understanding, we’re able to enjoy and savor this precious life. And it lends hope to the dark and painful moments.
Just listen to any parent when they reflect on the time with their growing children. Likely you’ll hear, “It goes by so fast.” And it does. By being present we can show up more fully in our lives, for the ones we love, and for ourselves in the good times and bad.
10) Observe Thoughts and Hold Space for Emotions
Being mindful is about paying attention in a particular way. We learn to be present with an attitude of openness, kindness, and curiosity. Sometimes, though, our attention causes tension. Mindful people are aware that tension increases when they hold onto a negative or stressful thought because we’re basically setting off our sympathetic nervous system, which triggers the fight-or-flight response and the release of the stress chemicals cortisol and adrenaline. They can then choose to refocus their attention without judging or condemning themselves for having had the negative thought in the first place.
When experiencing strong or difficult emotions, mindful people don’t get so wrapped up in those feelings. Instead, they’re able to hold them gently, with tenderness, openness, and compassion. Perhaps even learning from them.
The same goes for positive thoughts and emotions. We know all things come and go. So when a mindful person experiences these good moments, they hold them lightly, being grateful for them.
I hope this list of things mindful people do differently will serve you in your mindfulness journey.
Since Spring is a time of renewal and rebirth, I felt it’s the perfect time to update the original list to 15 things mindful people do differently. These habits below are essential to living a happy mindful life, including how to be mindful of others.
11) Accept Imperfections
Most people are well aware of their faults and imperfections and this can often lead to an onslaught of constant self-judgment. One of the benefits of mindfulness practice is that we begin to see that we are not the only ones who are imperfect in this world. We begin to accept ourselves just as we are- imperfect beings.
When you practice being mindful, the imperfections that you were once hyper-focused on will become less of a struggle and you’ll be able to recognize them for what they are- our common humanity. It may not happen immediately, but mindfulness leads us in that direction.
12) Practice Forgiveness
Life can be filled with all kinds of challenges and obstacles. People don’t always treat us kindly or with respect. And sometimes we don’t treat others with kindness and respect. None of us is gonna get everything right all of the time. People make mistakes. Personally, what I love about practicing mindfulness is that it’s been very helpful for letting go of scorekeeping and grudges. It’s also helped me to reconcile and forgive myself for my own past mistakes and missteps.
When it comes to practicing mindfulness, it’s important to keep this forgiveness habit in mind. Because the truth of the matter is that you might not always feel like sitting down to practice, you may doubt the process, or feel restless. This might lead you to feel like you’re “failing” at being mindful. Which isn’t true. Instead of condemning or judging yourself in those moments, allow them to become opportunities to learn how to deal with obstacles and challenges. Approaching challenges in this way can teach us what we need in those moments and inspire us to begin again. Forgive and begin again.
13) Welcome Vulnerability
Many times our natural response to vulnerability is to resist or reject it within ourselves and with others. For many of us, we’ve been taught to be vulnerable means that we are weak. However, those who practice mindfulness often find that by embracing vulnerability we develop courage, we learn to trust, and we experience a deeper connection to the world around us. The reason being, it takes courage to be vulnerable, but when we allow ourselves to be vulnerable we begin to trust ourselves and others, which fosters connection. Someone who practices mindfulness also becomes better able to determine when and where it’s safe to be vulnerable with others.
14) Actively Listen
The average person listens to respond. It happens to all of us. Someone is telling you a story or personal experience and instead of really listening, you’re thinking of what you’re going to say next. Mindful people listen to what is being said. They’re also listening to what isn’t being said and the person’s body language. For example, if a friend says they’re ok but their body language is tense or their tone is telling you that they are not ok, a mindful person is likely to pick up on these cues. A mindful person also understands that not everything needs a response (see #8). Sometimes just letting a person know that they’ve been heard is enough. One way to do this is to mirror what was said back to the person, ensuring you heard and understand what the other person has said.
15) Know When To Disconnect
Mindful people know when to disconnect from the news, social media, etc. When you’re always watching the news or checking your news feed on social media, this can cause negative emotions to arise. And the weight of all that negativity can drain your energy and make you anxious and stressed out. Mindful people might be more discerning about what they watch, how often they check their newsfeed and may decide to log off of their devices at a certain time each evening. They’re better about avoiding checking for updates impulsively or mindlessly scrolling through the phone. Instead, they may choose to spend time with the family, engage in self-care practices, or read before bed.
Another awesome way to disconnect is to get outdoors! Happy mindful people know there are so many benefits and it’s an easy way to practice being mindful. Observe and immerse yourself in the sights, sounds, and smells of nature. Feel the breeze on your skin. Notice how being outside affects your mind and body.
This list of 15 things mindful people do differently may seem a little overwhelming if you’re new to mindfulness. You may be wondering how to get started. Begin where you are, my friend. There’s no need to overcomplicate it. Start with one of the above mindful habits and go from there, with kindness and compassion for yourself and the journey.
Do you identify with these 15 things mindful people do differently? Or is mindfulness new to you? Let me know in the comments below!