How To Be Present in Your Life & Live With Intention
We’ve all been there.
You hit snooze or breakfast didn’t quite come out right.
You lost track of time in the morning.
You rush out the door and into your day without even thinking about how you’d like things to go?
Before you know it, something or someone has rubbed you the wrong way, and you’ve reacted automatically with frustration, impatience, or anger— in other words, you’ve found yourself acting in a way you never intended.
You don’t have to be stuck in these patterns.
Pausing to practice mindfulness for just a few minutes at different times during the day can help your days be better, more in line with how you’d like them to be.
Let’s me show you what mindfulness is, why it’s important and then use these five daily practices for bringing more mindfulness into your life.
What is Mindfulness?
It is the basic human ability to be fully present, and aware of where we are, what we’re doing, and not overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around us.
We are what we think. Plain and simple. Whatever we think will happen is what starts to appear in our lives.
Why try to be more mindful?
- Both science and experience demonstrate its positive benefits for our health, happiness, work, and relationships. Simply put, being more present and taking a moment to think before acting or speaking creates a better relationship with your world.
- It sparks innovation within the mind.
- The more open you are to learning or seeing something a new way — the more you are able to learn about the world around you.
1. Wake Up With Purpose
Live with intention.
Intention refers to the underlying motivation for everything we think, say, or do. In our brain, when we act in unintended ways, there’s a disconnect between the faster, unconscious lower brain and the slower, conscious, higher brain like the pre-frontal cortex.
The unconscious brain is in charge of most of our decision-making and behaviors. So the following practice can help you align your conscious thinking brain with the more primal parts of that drive impulse.
The practice below is best done in the morning, before you connect yourself to the day ahead.
1. Upon waking, sit in your bed or in a chair and relax. Close your eyes and connect with the sensations of your seated body. Just be.
2. Take three long, deep, breaths —breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth. Let your breath settle into a rhythm. Simply follow it in and out, notice the rise and fall of your chest and belly as you breathe.
3. Say out loud: “What is my intention today?” Use the following examples to help you answer this question. Think about what today might bring and what will happen in your world.
- How can I show up today and have an impact?
- What quality of mind do I want to strengthen and develop?
- How can I take better care of myself?
- In the face of challenge today, how might I be more compassionate to others?
- How can I feel more connected and fulfilled today?
4. Now set your intention for the day. For example, “Today, I will be kind to myself; I will be patient with others; I will give 100% at work; I will stay grounded; I will have fun; I will nourish my body,” Make and keep these intentions today.
5. As the day moves along, check-in with yourself. Take a pause, and revisit your intention. Become conscious of your intentions for each day and note how the quality of your communications, relationships, and mood shifts.
2. Enjoy Every Experience Through Your Senses
It’s easy to reduce eating to the sensation; bite, chew, swallow — repeat.
When was the last time you ate and were conscious of what you were eating? Most likely at a nice restaurant where the food awakened your senses, right?
Eating is one of the most pleasurable experiences we engage in as human beings. But doing it mindfully can turn eating into a far richer experience. Engaging the senses while eating or drinking can awaken your brain. Next time you’re enjoying your coffee, savor the smell. When you taste food, enjoy the flavors someone worked hard to put together. Let them dazzle and delight your taste buds. Eat with purpose.
3. Take a Pause and Rewire Your Brain
It’s estimated that 95% of our behavior runs on autopilot. We do, and we rarely think.
That’s because neural networks underlie all of our habits. They reduce our sensory inputs into easy shortcuts so we can function in this crazy world.
These default brain signals are like signaling superhighways, so efficient that they often cause us to relapse into old behaviors before we remember what we meant to do instead.
Mindfulness is the exact opposite of these processes; it slows the brain down. It’s about taking back control of your sensory inputs and living in the moment. Doing so takes practice, but the more you activate that slower, wiser brain, the better you become at it. When you are deliberate with your intentions, you stimulate neuroplasticity. This is where new neural pathways can be laid down, and a new way of thinking is born.
Shifting the balance to give your slow brain more power takes some work, though. Here are some ways to get started.
1. Put what you want to do in your path. Whatever you want to do, put that in your daily path. If you’re going to do yoga today, put your mat in front of your bedroom door. If you’re going to eat well, put the good food in the front of your fridge, so you see it first.
2. Create new triggers. Our brains learn fast, so you have to trick it. If you set reminders for something new, you are trying? Change the way you tell yourself to do them. Be creative. Put a sticky note somewhere one day. Then create a phone reminder one day. Next, send an email to yourself. Variety keeps the brain guessing.
3. Develop new patterns. You might come up with, “If cut off in traffic, take a deep breath,” as a way to shift into mindfulness as you are about to handle such an event. Or, “If phone rings, inhale and exhale before answering.” Be intentional with these patterns. Set them, perform them, live them.
4. Create an Active Mind and Body
Riding a bike, yoga, running in the park — what do such exercises have in common? Each can be a mindfulness practice.
Whatever the physical activity, remember that it not only invigorates every cell in your body, but it also shifts you from feeling busy and distracted to feeling healthy and capable.
Start to synchronize your body and mind as one. As you do, you will strengthen your capacity to bring all of your energy to the task at hand.
1. Be clear about your goal. As you tie your laces for your run, bring purpose to your activity by consciously envisioning how this run is going to feel. As you start running, say to yourself, “I am going to notice the sensation of the breeze, the sun, and the passing scenery.” I will see all the beauty that has been laid out in front of me.
2. Get into a rhythm. Coordinate your breath and movement. As you exercise, develop a rhythm with your body. How does your breath match your feet moving? How does your stride relate to your heartbeat? Listen to your body.
3. Challenge yourself. Try faster speed, more repetitions, or heavier weights, depending on what you are doing. Notice how alert and alive you feel when pushing yourself.
4. Cool off. Slow down your pace just before you stop exercising. Take notice of the way your body feels. Is it tired? Is it energized? Drink in your surroundings and savor the work you just did.
5. Rest. Quietly recognize the symphony of sensations flowing in and around you. Name what you feel and sense. Be witness to the way your body is alive at that very moment.
5. Get Calm, Not Crazy
Bumper-to-bumper traffic is the bane of our existence, and rude, impatient drivers trigger our “fight or flight” response.
That’s why road rage erupts, we get crazy, and act outside ourselves.
But it doesn’t have to be like that. The terrible traffic jam can provide an excellent opportunity to build your mindfulness. It can also increase your sense of connection to others, and restore some balance and perspective.
Here are the steps to take the next time you’re in traffic hell.
1. Take a deep breath. Get into your car and breathe deep. We tend to carry our day’s events into the car and take it out on one another. Stop. Breathe. Relax. Then drive. In this space lies perspective and choice.
2. What do you need? It may be at that moment that you need to feel safe, at ease, or you need some relief. Understanding what you need will bring balance.
3. Look around — Everyone else is just like You. Everyone next to you wants the same thing — to feel safe, be at ease, and be happy. You’re not the only one who hates the traffic and wants to get home. Give everyone what you just offered to yourself — say out loud: “May you be at ease, may you feel safe, may you be happy.”