Simple Habits of Mindful People You Can Adopt Today
Here’s what you’ll be like with higher awareness.
“Don’t worry about whether you are making progress or not. Just keep your attention on the Self twenty-four hours a day. Meditation is not something that should be done in a particular position at a particular time. It is an awareness and an attitude that must persist through the day.” — Annamalai Swami
“What is awareness? What does it mean to be mindful?”
These are two of the biggest questions on my mind these days.
If you’ve ever come across my work, you know I talk a lot about mindfulness and meditation. When I started on my own journey of meditation, it was quite dry, if I may.
Meaning, yes, I was regular with meditation every day. Sometimes, I even did it twice a day.
But those effects seem to waver off when I entered my normal life back. Any sort of joy, calmness, and peace I felt was gone one hour after I got off the cushion.
Something was wrong, and I was looking for ways to fix it.
That’s when I realized that mindfulness is* not just about the practice. It’s about cultivating that intense state of awareness in *everything you do.
But this raised another question — “Is that intense state of awareness possible for normal people like me. Is it not reserved for monks and yogis?”
The answer, to my surprise, was yes. There’s no reason why, with the right effort, you cannot experience the same level of awareness.
In fact, a growing body of research already suggests that people who handle challenges with grace and ease use mindfulness as their main tool.
The reason I, and many others, may think that it’s not for them, is that they don’t know what mindfulness actually means.
According to Mayo Clinic, mindfulness is “the act of being intensely aware of what you’re sensing and feeling at every moment — without interpretation or judgment.”
This means, that mindfulness is not only a practice of sitting cross-legged for hours on end. No, it’s much more than that. It’s a set of practices and routines that help you be more aware throughout the day and as a result, cope up with stress, manage your emotions, and increase focus.
The famous statistic as noted by Tim Ferris in [Tools of Titans](https://www.amazon.com/Tools-Titans-Billionaires-World-Class-Performers/dp/1328683788) proves this — more than 80% of the successful people in every field have some form of mindfulness practice in their day.
Now that you know what it means, here are some traits of mindful people that I’ve observed and try to emulate in my life.
They Don’t Identify With Their Thoughts
Paramahansa Yogananda, the great 20th-century yoga master who taught in the west said,
“Thoughts are universally rooted, not individually rooted.”
Believe it or not, you receive a thought on the basis of your level of consciousness.
The more egoic your consciousness is, the more you’ll have thoughts of taking advantage of others, protecting yourself, controlling others, and so on.
Most people, when they receive such thoughts, act on them. But those who are mindful know that every thought is not to be acted upon.
They hold their thoughts lightly. By being a silent observer of their thoughts, they get curious about them. Thus, they’re able to see conditioned patterns of thought and belief that do not serve them.
It’s like sitting on the footpath, watching the vehicles move in every which way instead of getting caught up in the flow. By doing this, they can eventually free themselves from the reactive processes of the mind — which in itself is a huge accomplishment.
We all have this “voice in our heads.” Start by listening to that voice with detachment. Soon, you’ll realize that you’re not the voice. You’re the observer. You’re not the mind, you’re just listening to it.
This is how you manage emotions, impulses, and act in a higher fashion.
They Introspect and Ask Questions
“Many people suffer from the fear of finding oneself alone, and so they don’t find themselves at all.” — Rollo May
Once you’re mindful of your thoughts and feelings, you can be curious about them.
Being curious is not possible for the person who is caught up in the flow of the thoughts themselves. It’s only possible when you rise above the traffic and see from a distance.
Your thoughts contain the key to your growth. Your mind has all the sources of habits and mannerisms that you wish to remove.
Most people are not able to change themselves because they’re not aware of their own flaws. Once you’re aware of your own thoughts, you can reason through them to convince yourself how ridiculous they often are. Remember, awareness precedes progress.
Awareness is what stops rumination which leads you down into a negative spiral. And putting an end to such rumination is crucial for your happiness.
They Protect Their Attention
“Where your attention goes, your time goes” — Idowu Koyenikan
Behind every app you use, hundreds and thousands of engineers are sitting every day, trying to figure out how to capture your attention better.
They give you push notifications, updates, emails, and anything they need to get your attention at all costs.
Simply put, the world is at war for your attention which is the new currency.
Mindful people know that if they don’t set limits on their attention, they will lose this precious resource.
So how can you protect your attention? Start with the elephant in the room — your devices:
**Unfollow **accounts that you think are making your sad, revengeful, angry, or lonely. These posts and accounts are carefully engineered to promote sensational content. Protect yourself from the algorithms by setting consumption boundaries.
The next best step is to remove all the apps you think are harmful. Social media, news apps, messaging apps, email, etc. Everyone has different requirements so be honest with yourself.
If you can’t do that, use websites and app blockers like Freedom, Cold Turkey, Self Control, and so on.
Stop paying for subscription services like Netflix if you’re wasting too much time on them.
The world is going through an attention crisis. Those who can protect their attention will accomplish so much more than those who give in to the seductive algorithms.
Here’s a complete step-by-step guide to help you do that: [How To Ruthlessly Clean Your Devices To Focus Better](https://medium.com/live-your-life-on-purpose/how-to-ruthlessly-clean-your-devices-to-focus-better-3031cdd36fca)
They Don’t Avoid Their Emotions
“Pity those who don’t feel anything at all.” — Sarah J. Maas
Mindfulness is not about feeling positive all the time. There will be moments where you feel low. And that’s okay.
What mindfulness teaches us is to accept these feelings as it is. If you wish for things to be different, you will create unnecessary stress. That means, feel what you feel in this moment without trying to resist or control it.
Most people avoid negative emotions by distracting themselves with work, TV, or some other distraction. In reality, these emotions are the pieces of information you should look out for. They tell you what’s wrong and what’s right in life.
The highest form of feeling is intuition. This is when you hear people saying “My gut says it’s right.” How do they know that? Because they’ve learned to listen to these feelings.
They know the subtle signs when things are going right or wrong.
One caveat about acceptance is this — people think of acceptance as a passive act. As if you’re just being okay with whatever is happening without the need to respond to change.
That, my friend, is cowardness, not acceptance. True acceptance is being mindful of small and large challenges that come your way. This makes you more, not less, capable of responding to them.
That’s the secret right there. This is how mindful people are able to remain calm amidst the storm. They don’t react, they act.
Finally, they also don’t cling to positive emotions. They know emotions are transient and will go soon. Where most people go wrong is in chasing these positive emotions without realizing that the act of chasing itself is pushing them away.
Mindful people are human “beings” not human “doings.” The present moment is all that is. And that’s where our happiness lies.
They Do One Thing at a Time
“Normally, we do not so much look at things as overlook them.” — Alan Watts
Multitasking is the biggest lie in the world. The word multitasking was created to describe how a computer can do different tasks together. It wasn’t made for humans.
In fact, even computers don’t multitask — they just rapidly switch from one task to the next, giving us an illusion that we’re doing two things simultaneously.
There’s one difference between computers and humans, however — computers can shift from one task to the other and not care. To them, it’s all zeros and ones.
For humans, task-switching doesn’t work that way. There’s always a residue left from the previous task that we carry on to the next one.
And so you can do two things at once for sure — theoretically. But you can’t do two things well.
Studies have shown speaking on the phone while driving reduces your attention as much as being drunk.
Mindful people detest this mode of working. They do one thing at a time, with full awareness, do it well, and then think of the next task.
Even if they’re watching a movie, they’ll not be looking at their phones when the movie gets boring. They will absorb it completely with a one-pointed focus.
Trust me, this is a much better way of living. You’ll feel much happier and calmer if you can just think about and do one thing at a time.
They Make Every Task a Mindful Endeavor
The present moment is filled with joy and happiness. If you are attentive, you will see it” — Thich Nhat Hanh
This is the answer to the dilemma I had at the start of the article. Almost none of us can afford to sit and meditate all day to remain mindful.
Thus, we have to make each and every task a mindful endeavor. Our lives have a variety of tasks — some require more mental work and some are fairly automatic.
Yet, instead of thinking of these routine, automatic activities as boring, mindful people use them as opportunities to bring their awareness to the present moment.
They don’t rush through the dishes while listening to a song or podcast in the background. They savor the moment, feel the water running through their fingers, and do their best to shine the plates.
Simple moments, like pouring coffee, brushing your teeth, or doing laundry can turn into mindful moments if you make the right effort.
There are no mundane tasks, only mundane states of mind.
All the amazing traits I mentioned above are not possible without meditation.
I know what you’re thinking — things like being mindful while folding the laundry are possible without meditation, right?
Well, again, in theory only. In reality, you need a regular practice of meditation to know what pure awareness feels like.
If I tell a hyperactive, A-type person to feel the fabric while folding the laundry, he’ll scoff at me.
You need to experience that state of awareness first-hand. Reading about it is not enough.
Once you know how blissful it feels — even for 30 seconds — you’ll be hooked for more.
The more you meditate, the more you’ll find that state of awareness spilling into your day. That’s when the magic of mindfulness starts to unfold.
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