The human brain is a most amazing thing. When we focus, set out to do something and take action, our brains can lead us to accomplish amazing feats—finishing a marathon, losing weight, taking a risk at a new career, to name just a few. On the flip side, our minds can also be our biggest enemy, and if we don’t acknowledge the power of our thoughts, we may fall short of our potential in all avenues of life.
It can be a constant challenge to find balance and achieve mindfulness. It is a journey of growth, introspection and change. But this process can be so fulfilling if we take the time to invest in our mindsets and ourselves. This stuff is heavy lifting—meaningful change won’t happen overnight. In fact, it’s much like training for any other physical feat—you have to train consistently. Here are SIX questions worth asking yourself as you work toward achieving mindfulness.
1. AM I PRESENT?
Literally, be in the moment. When you are participating in an activity or event, be there and no where else. Turn off your phone, disconnect from cyberspace, and experience what is going on in that very moment. Keep your mind centered, and if it starts to wander, bring it back to the present moment. If you are always on to the next thing, how will you ever enjoy the now? Make a conscious decision to unplug from electronics. This can be a difficult task, as the culture we are in is literally connected all of the time. You might even consider turning your phone to airplane mode so that your time isn’t interrupted by phone calls and text messages. There are so many distractions crying for our attention constantly, that we can easily miss out on what matters most, and that is this moment. Challenge yourself to be present, now, and every moment from here on.
2. WILL THIS MATTER IN A YEAR FROM NOW?
From daily decisions like what to eat or what to wear to larger decisions like taking a new job or moving, here is a great question to ask yourself: Will this matter in a year from now? Often, you will find the answer is no. The energy spent struggling or worrying about a decision can be put to better use. Spending time worrying about things that don’t really matter can become a habit. If you aren’t mindful of the time you spend worrying, you may lose out on the things, situations and people that really do matter now. Once you take a minute to step back, regain perspective and realize the insignificance or significance of a given situation, it can often alleviate the stress associated with it.
3. DOES THIS MAKE ME HAPPY?
This is one of the most important questions you can ask yourself about any situation in life. If the answer is no, change your situation. We sometimes go through life “hoping” to find happiness instead of creating our own happiness. We wait for the right job, the right relationship, and the right income—whatever it may be. We wait until we get “there.” But there is no such thing—we only have right now where we are. We have right now to be happy. This is kind of hard to embrace, if mentally we aren’t in that space, because it means we need to take ownership of our own happiness. Once this happens, no person, no job, no thing can take away your happiness. You own it.
4. DO I KNOW WHAT I AM THINKING IS TRUE?
In an effort to alleviate any stress or anxiety regarding a thought, ask yourself: “Do I know this is true?” Many of our greatest struggles stem from the fallacies we convince ourselves are true. We spend a lot of time being critical and doubting ourselves. Again, all of this in our minds, but we have no evidence to prove it. We over think a conversation, we associate meaning to objective situations, we assume without having proof. This creates stress, anxiety and fear—none of which are necessary. The next time you catch yourself worrying about a situation, a thought, a text or whatever—ask yourself, “Is what I am thinking true?”
5. WHAT IS THE WORST POSSIBLE THING THAT CAN HAPPEN?
This is also known as “positive pessimism”. Here’s an example: If you’re in a miserable work environment or relationship, but can’t see how you can possibly leave, it can be helpful to ask yourself: What is the worst possible thing that can happen?” Would you be worse off staying in your situation or making a change? Often, we put pressure on ourselves to fix everything, alone, and just suffer through it. But life is too short for that. Why would we want to willingly choose to simply “get through” anything? We aren’t promised tomorrow—we only have today. No matter how difficult a situation may seem, ask yourself, “What is the worst possible thing that can happen?” Go there and then ask yourself “ Would I be okay?” You will be.
Take the time to answer these questions and see if they help bring you closer to living a more mindful live. Control your thoughts don’t let them control you.
6. WHAT IS HAPPENING TO MY BREATH AT THIS MOMENT?
Notice if it has become shallow or uneven, or if you have been holding your breath. Bring mindfulness to your breath and just follow it without trying to change it. Mindfulness of the breath will lead to it becoming more relaxed. A calm breath leads to a calm mind. If you’re extremely stressed, consciously control your breathing. Start to breathe in a slow, deep, quiet, smooth fashion, from your abdomen and with a prolonged exhalation. Connect the breath and the body to help to calm yourself down. When you’re experiencing a strong physical sensation, such as pain or tension, consciously bring the relaxed breath to the site in the body where the physical tension is being felt. Breathe into and out of that specific spot. Imagine that you’re directing the breath into the area of physical discomfort. This calming attention will relax the knot of stress and lessen the pain in the area.
The breath supports every moment of mindfulness. It’s of utmost importance!