So, I've recently rediscovered mindfulness, something that was quite near and dear to me last year, my passion for it so hot it led to my blog's transition to Mindfully Brittney. In time, as I do with many things, I slipped out of my infatuation for the idea of mindfulness, and in time, Mindfully Brittney slipped alongside it, becoming just Brittney Kristina (of course, there were many other reasons for this as well). It has been quite a while since I truly practiced mindfulness. In fact, I didn't see a real need for it in my life anymore. It was as though it simply faded to the background, and I went on without it.
That is, until I became aware of my increasingly cluttered mind, which in turn impacted me negatively. Most days, I would feel terribly distracted, especially when out with friends, and I wouldn't be able to focus on what was happening or what they were saying. I just felt so busy, all of the time. I'd feel so tired and overworked at the end of a "fun" day out that I wouldn't be able to truly appreciate the day I had. And on my days off, I'd scroll on my phone, or binge YouTube, or do several spontaneous tasks rather than completing my to-do list from the night before, primarily because I felt a little brain-dead, haha. The list goes on, and on. But, what I noticed most, was my sudden lack of mindful reading. When I'd read, my phone would be nearby, and I'd tap on the screen and respond to notifications every few minutes. Or, if my phone was put up, I wasn't really reading the words on the page, but skimming them. It seemed like my mind was always crazed, always overthinking. My summer had been going by much too fast, and yet I had barely experienced any of it, truly and presently. I wanted to slow down. I needed to slow down and soak up my life for what it was.
I began by incorporating meditation into each morning. While I enjoyed it and felt calm and clear afterward, the habit never really stuck. On busy afternoons, I'd make myself sit down and meditate, but by doing this, I wasn't truly meditating, but rather completing something on a to-do list, returning to my scattered brain directly after the few moments of silence. When I was stressed, I'd deep breathe a few times, then immediately begin overthinking again.
It wasn't until I was reading Real Change: Mindfulness to Heal Ourselves and the World by Sharon Salzberg, when I changed how I was incorporating mindfulness. In Salzberg's book, she mentioned a story in which a friend was rushing out the door. Salzberg asked her friend, "Where are you rushing off to?" And the friend replied, "A yoga class." That's when Salzberg said, loosely, "Why are you rushing to go be mindful and present?"
When I read this, seemingly everything stopped. I realized I had been forcing mindfulness into my life rather than simply being present.
I then picked up Racheal Kable's book, The Mindful Kind, and read through it slowly, carefully, rediscovering what mindfulness truly is. (Racheal also has a podcast called The Mindful Kind, which I love!) I've realized that mindfulness isn't always just ten minutes of meditation squeezed into a busy day, or something silly and overused by minimalist influencers, but something that teaches us how to be present in every moment, release stress, and quiet the mind, something I was in desperate need of.
Since rediscovering mindfulness, I've had plenty of time to include some mindful activities into my days, return to my center, and lean into what makes me truly happy, being present with each task I do. While I still have a long ways to go, I feel like life has been so much less stressful and much more enjoyable in these past few weeks, now that I've been more mindful. I've learned that for me, daily, mindful reading is a necessity, and moments of quiet help me focus at work and clear the clutter so I can be more creative. In fact, I've had so many sparks of inspiration in the past few days now that my mind and schedule are much less cluttered, and I believe I can thank mindfulness for this! So, with the help of The Mindful Kind book, I thought I'd share a few things I've been doing daily to help me further rediscover mindfulness, and return to my calmer, more present self.
1. Add more transitions to your day
I've come to realize that not having transitions honestly stressed me out more than anything else. I'd return home from a long day at work, unpack my backpack, then immediately leave to go grab dinner with a friend or turn on a television show without giving my brain a chance to relax. In the mornings after a workout, I'd quickly shower, get dressed, grab a protein bar, then rush out the door for work without ever pausing or reflecting on my day so far.
I've been now making it a point to give myself space in the day to unwind from the previous task or event before moving onto the next one, including waking myself up a bit earlier, not getting lost on social media in the mornings, and giving myself at least thirty minutes to unwind before going out for dinner after work. I don't know about you, but if I never give myself a chance to breathe, my mind is always racing, and I can't truly be present in the moment. Another thing that has helped me add more transitions to my day, is the act of saying "no".
2. Say "no" to things you don't want to do/can't do
Whether I'm a people pleaser, or simply like too many things, sometimes I don't know how to say "no" to people, or even to myself. I'll be asked to hang out, and although I genuinely don't have time in the day, I do want to hang out, and I don't want to hurt the person's feelings, so I say "yes". Therefore, most of the time I end up overlapping plans, resulting in me feeling stressed, tired, and not being mindful of the task/person I'm currently with. And, I rarely end up with genuine-time with myself.
Although it's difficult, before saying "yes" to something, try asking yourself if you are in the right mental space to do it, if you even want to do it, or if you should probably just stay at home and unwind/tackle something else. Don't ever feel bad for putting yourself first sometimes (unless I suppose, you're doing it all of the time)!
Saying "no" more has been a challenge, but I've also had so much more time for myself, and therefore, I'm not tired when I'm with people, nor accidentally treating fun events like obligations. The things I want to do, I genuinely want to do, and I truly want to be there--I've also gotten to know myself more, as well as my likes, by saying "no".
3. Avoid multitasking
In The Mindful Kind, Racheal actually brings up multitasking with an example of a barista at a coffee shop. The barista spends time with each cup of coffee he makes, creating latte art and making sure each cup is delicious for the customer. This is because the barista cares about each cup of coffee he's making. However, if the barista took every order at once, or was also trying to manage the cash register, mop the floors, and think about all the problems in his life at the same time, he wouldn't be able to be fully present with the coffee, and the lattes would probably be lacking.
The same thing goes for real life, such as with friends. When you're hanging out with someone, but you're also thinking about the million tasks at hand, you cannot give your friend the attention they deserve. Or, if you overlap plans, having to leave early or show up late, you most likely won't be able to be fully present with that person. This also goes for reading--how can you read a book comfortably if you're constantly checking social media, or thinking about something else besides the book?
When you're doing any task, or even just relaxing, try to be fully there. Push the busy thoughts aside, and don't respond to intrusive ideas and actions right away. Sure, maybe someone has texted you in the last few minutes. But, you're with a friend right now, and they're what matters at this moment, not a possible text.
4. Do what you want to do, right now, without second-guessing it
Since I've been home recovering from wisdom teeth surgery, I've mostly been lounging around watching television, catching up on my reading, writing a bit, and it's been wonderful. Normally, in my busy life, I don't allow myself to simply sit and do nothing, or sometimes I do force myself to do nothing because I should be doing something else, or I need to be doing this. For instance, sometimes I don't feel like reading, but because I haven't read in two days, I'll make myself sit down and read. How silly is that?
But this past weekend, with no plans going on, nothing to do, I've been allowing myself to do what I'd like without second-guessing; I wanted to watch Alice in Wonderland (1951), and so I did; I wanted ice cream, so I ate some; I craved the act of writing a blog post, so I sat down to write one--this one.
To me, being mindful is more than just being present, meditating every now and then, but savoring all of life's moments without overthinking them, or choosing what we should be doing all of the time. Of course, now, I do need to be resting, as I'm recovering from surgery, but still. I'm learning to let myself have some fun, and lean into what I truly want to do. This way, I'm not only present in each moment, but I'm truly enjoying it and soaking it in to its entirety.
If, like me, you've rediscovered mindfulness, or just want to learn more about it, I do hope this post has helped you get started. I've come to remember that mindfulness is so much more than daily meditation and simple rituals--it's the act of living life, moment-to-moment, without overthinking or getting caught up in the busy hustle of life. Anyway, I'm thrilled to have reincorporated mindfulness back into my life, and I cannot wait to see how life improves from here. Also, read this post for more mindfulness practices to incorporate into your life.