As a mom of a very rambunctious toddler, I try to remain as calm and aware as possible. I also am a mom with anxiety, which can get in the way of self-awareness. Why? Because I let my anxiety dictate how I think I should feel, as opposed to taking a breath and being conscious of what is causing me to be so anxious. It’s certainly not easy. Right now, I’m in a really good place in life, but I feel we are always in a position to better ourselves. I’m working on my anxiety and focusing on being more aware—not just for me but for my daughter.
A few months back, I came across the concept of “mindful living.” At first, I was hesitant and just brushed passed it. But after doing a little more research, I thought, “Hmm, maybe this could help me.”
Mindfulness originated from ancient eastern and Buddhist philosophy and dates back around 2500 years. It was introduced to the western world by Jon Kabat-Zinn. Mindful living is about living with more awareness in the present moment. Too often, we let life pass us by and constantly think about the past and the future.
I reached out to a certified mindful living coach, Lucy Squire of The Mindful Living Academy, to learn more about the concept. I also spent a month practicing, and here’s how it went.
What is mindful living?
“Mindful living is taking the skill of being mindful and applying it to your life—so that means you focus on the present moment, with curiosity and without judgment as much as possible,” said Squire. “That means not constantly thinking about the past or future, worrying about something on repeat, and no preconceived judgments about anything. It’s a way of approaching things mentally, but it also affects how you feel physically, emotionally, and spiritually.”
How can mindful living have an impact on your life?
As Squire explained, much of the stress and difficulty we encounter in our lives is due to not living mindfully. She explains that many of us jump ahead to disastrous possibilities and make judgments based on past experiences. Mindful living can remove that.
“When we look at what is happening right now, with curiosity and without past judgment, we find an inner sense of calm and often joy,” said Squire. “Mindful living can decrease negative overthinking, improve your working memory and attention span, can result in increased relationship satisfaction, and can help physical and mental health conditions including high blood pressure, depression, and anxiety.”
How is mindful living a good practice for parents?
Take a moment to think about what causes you stress as a parent. Common obstacles are worrying about doing things “well enough,” wishing things were different, and not having enough time, either to yourself or to do everything that needs to be done, explained Squire. To counter these thoughts, she said, “you simply focus on the moment in front of you, with your child—not worrying about what else you need to be doing, whether you should be doing it a different way, how tired you are, or how you’d rather be doing something else.”
As any mother can relate, it’s hard to predict how one day to the next will look. When you live mindfully, you can go with the flow much more, adapt, and be flexible. Squire also explained that you’d get more enjoyment out of the little moments, you’ll get more done, and you won’t get stressed by the little things.
How can someone begin mindful living?
As with anything, it’s a skill that needs practice.
“I suggest practicing in two different ways, formally and informally,” said Squire. “Formal practice is meditation. It’s a concentrated time when you practice being in the present moment with curiosity and without judgment. Informal practice is about choosing moments in life to practice that skill. And secondly, surround yourself with other people that live mindfully. If you can’t do this in person, then find accounts to follow on social media that inspire you and keep you motivated. It makes a big difference!”
What happened when I tried “mindful living” for a month
After researching the concept, I was convinced it could help with my anxiety. I thought it could help me be more aware of living in the moment. Here are the benefits I noticed after a month of mindful living.
I decided to try out mindful living after a fairly stressful period of house renovations, living in a rental, an intense heat wave, etc. I noticed how living mindfully helped me remain calm and at peace. As opposed to letting little things cause stress and anxiety, I really took a moment to stop and think, “Why should this cause more anxiety?” I took a breath and was aware of what was happening. By doing so, I realized that what in the past could have caused anxiety or stress was not that big a deal. I focused on the moment in front of me and remained aware of my actions.
Physical health benefits
By being more aware of living in the moment, I noticed I was better attuned to my body and physical health. I am an active person, which I try to maintain to help my anxiety. By living in the moment, I took note of my how my body felt. I would often let my body decide what I was going to do for the day. During my month of mindful living, on certain days when I felt a bit under the weather, I chose to slow down. I usually try to do a physical activity every day, but when I wasn’t up for it, I didn’t push myself. Doing this allowed my body to rest on days when I clearly needed it. In turn, on the following days, I felt better and ready to be more active.
I am a planner and a thinker, and I’ll be honest. I prefer a routine. As any mother can relate, it helps create more stability with a child. With mindful living, I tried not to think about what we should do tomorrow or the day after. This allowed more spontaneity, which can also be beneficial. Just yesterday, after grocery shopping, I decided not to prepare dinner. While this might not sound like a big deal, I did so because I didn’t know our plans for the evening. In fact, my family and I decided to go to an outdoor concert and afterward went for a picnic. We had a beautiful night out that wasn’t even planned.
Relationships can be a challenge, whether with a partner, family, or friends. Living more mindfully allows you to be more present in relationships and can also help with “difficult moments.” Suppose you are in the middle of a heated conversation or feel yourself getting agitated by something someone has said. By living more mindfully, you can really take note of the words they are saying. Then, you can respond in one of two ways: 1) Is this really worth getting upset over? 2) If you have reason to be upset, remain calm and aware of how you respond.
Even when it came to my relationship with my 4-year-old daughter, I found myself more relaxed. When she would have a tantrum or do something “naughty,” I would stop and think about why she was acting out. This allowed me to better understand how to respond to her.
For example, my daughter’s stroller broke at the end of our vacation. I chose to wait until we arrived home to get her a new one. Understandably, this caused some stress for my daughter during our last three days away. On the third day, she was cranky and acting out more. At first, I got upset. But when I took a moment to realize why she was so upset, I realized she shouldn’t be blamed for her actions under these circumstances.
Improved my relationship with food
It might be hard to believe, but I also found that living more mindfully allowed me to be more aware of my diet. Was I actually hungry? Was I eating out of habit? Did I really want dessert? By living mindfully, you are even aware of decisions when it comes to your diet.
Will I continue?
After a month of mindful living, I feel the benefits. I feel energized, happy, more aware of what is happening at the moment, and calmer than I had been in ages. I was also able to be more present with my daughter. For me, that makes this month-long experiment worth it. I plan to continue practicing mindful living going forward.