Mindfulness is an important part of our happiness journey. Not only does it help us to focus on what’s going on around us, but through exercise it can encourage us to listen to our body. Other than meditation, when was the last time you focused on how your body feels? Usually this only happens when we’re in pain and the pain is drawing attention to what our body is saying to us. But it’s equally important to listen to our body when we’re feeling pain-free and complete.
Exercise presents a great opportunity to practice being mindful and embrace the moment. Many of us have an exercise regime in order to keep up our positive physical health, many of us don’t exercise at all because we have a belief that exercise isn’t for us. So in either case the act of exercising never becomes synonymous with really being in the present moment but rather a means to an end or something we want to avoid.
However, mindfulness helps us connect with our bodies in the present moment when we exercise because exercise creates physical changes we can pay attention to. Sports like running and swimming are good for focusing on the breath because you’re more aware of it than usual. Your movements are more exaggerated which gives another important focal point for the mind.
Even when we’re struggling with exercise and want the session to be over we can realise that experiencing these thoughts and these hard moments and knowing it will pass is what mindfulness is all about. It can make you realise that you should make the most of this present moment which is the basis of meditation – to observe your thoughts rather than get overwhelmed by them and focus on the breath or the sensations and movements of the body.
Of course, by doing this you are actually training your mind to cope better with every day life and anything that it throws at you allowing you to be more open-minded about what you can achieve. Being more mindful during exercise, for example, allows you to think more about how far to push your body and know when to ease up helping you experience exercise in a more fun and rewarding way.
I do a lot of swimming and I find swimming length after length gives me a wonderful opportunity to focus on the movements of my whole body and the feel of the water flowing past me. I also find that by doing this, I naturally start feeling gratitude that my body is capable of making these movements over and over again and that I’m able to easily enjoy each moment.
So don’t always think of exercise as a means to an end. All forms of exercise will keep a healthy, happy mind and body but take it a step further and really embrace the present moment whether you’re really feeling the flow or finding it a struggle. Focus your mind on the breath and the movements to really take full advantage of your exercise experience 🙂
There’s immense power in writing things down. It’s very easy to think about our hopes and dreams, or positive and negative emotions but in the act of writing them down, our brain is forced to process the feelings more intentionally. It’s this process that can generate a type of therapy or create a sense of excitement within us that helps towards that all-important happiness.
There are several ways the power of writing things down can increase our happiness.
Keeping a Gratitude Journal – The combination of writing and feeling gratitude is extremely powerful. The act of doing this allows us to think back through our day in a positive way. Our brains are wired to look for the negative in order to survive and keep us safe so we need to make that extra effort to think about the positive aspects. Physically writing our blessings down means you’re able to look back over what you’ve written and further make you realise the wonderful things currently in your life. So each night write out the best thing that happened to you that day (even if it’s as simple as a free coffee or a smile from a stranger!) and then list out 10 more things you were grateful for happening. Keep this up and you will feel it getting easier and easier to find things to be grateful for 🙂
Lists – We can often feel overwhelmed with the amount of things we need to do each day so writing these tasks down is a wonderful way of organising them in our mind. Crossing each one off helps the feeling of productivity and raises your feel-good worthy vibes.
Writing Out Affirmations – Each morning get out a pen and paper and write out a few meaningful affirmations and use them as your mantras throughout the day: I am worthy, I am loved, I am a successful person, I am capable of anything! Keep them in your wallet, write them on your mirror, or stick them on a post-it note to act as reminders. Take the time to really think about what you need to hear from yourself – it may feel corny as you write them out, but they feed you that little bit of positive reinforcement throughout your day and slowly creates a more positive mindset from within rather than validation from other people.
Keep a Daily Journal – You might associate journals with teenage girls but journal-keeping has come a long way since the 80s! Writing down how you feel is a good therapy session. If it’s negative it can help get it in the open because physically writing it out and re-reading can give you further perspective on the subject. It allows you to really reflect on why you feel that way and find a way to change it. You can also just use a journal to set out your positive intentions for the day and helps keep tabs on your productivity keeping you aligned with your daily, weekly, monthly and yearly goals. I personally use The Daily Greatness Journal but even just getting a plain notebook and doing it ad hoc is still very powerful.
Writing things down helps with awareness. Most of the time we’re on autopilot and don’t structure our daily routines. This means we aren’t always being mindful of how we live our lives. By writing things down, we can start to understand how we think, why we think the things we do, challenge these perspectives, know ourselves better and see the world in a more positive light. So get out that pen and paper and harness the power of writing things out 🙂
There’s a lot that man’s best friend can teach us. Not only are they loyal companions but they have the ability to be mindful in the moment. This means less overthinking, less negative emotions and more appreciation for the world around them.
Here are 10 things we can learn from our canine companions!
- Enjoy the Present Moment. Dog’s are simple creatures which is probably the main secret to living a happy life. They’re able to focus on one thing at a time and enjoy it whether it’s a nap, eating their dinner or their morning walk. They can go from sleeping one minute to barking at the postman the next showing the ability to let go and move on from each moment and being present in each one of them.
- Don’t Hold Grudges and Love Unconditionally. As humans, it’s easy to hold grudges and judge others for their actions but this only comes from our fragile ego. Dogs, however, even when they’re left for a few hours, don’t hold it against you. Instead they’re more focused on being happy to be reunited with wagging tail and nothing but love.
- Celebrate Success. Acknowledging our successes is really important to leading a happy life and dogs do this all the time. Doing what their owner tells them to and getting a treat for it is their way of celebrating a positive success.
- Be Excited About the Little Things As Much As The Big Things. A walk, a new person, a bit of chicken, seeing you come home, a different smell – it’s an endless attitude of gratitude in a dog’s mind. Being thankful and finding the wonder in the small things is what happiness is all about.
- Trust. Dogs put their entire trust and faith in us to look after them and they do it with endless love. There’s no doubt or judgement in our capabilities which is something many of us struggle to do with each other. Having a little more faith in others builds a better connection and less resentment in relationships.
- They Show Themselves Compassion. When dogs are tired they’ll sleep. This may seem obvious but how many of us will work ourselves to exhaustion not looking after our health and minds. Dogs know what’s best for them and they do it because they instinctively rarely go against their needs for optimum survival.
- Don’t Judge Others. It doesn’t matter who you are, what your skin colour is, your religion or what job you have (unless maybe you’re a vet!) a dog doesn’t care or judge. They see everyone as the same. Dogs feed off peoples’ energy just like us but humans sometimes let preconceived ideas get in the way too. We all need to be more like a dog and be more accepting.
- Mindfulness. Dogs are so in tune to everything around them whether it’s a leaf falling or a squirrel running across the garden. They are aware and mindful of what’s going on and usually without the overthinking and hundreds of distractions we have. Mindfulness is another important key to being present in the moment and appreciating one thing at a time.
- They Enjoy The Journey. We’ve all been told happiness is the journey not the destination and dogs are a great example of this. They don’t tell themselves that they’ll be happy once they get to the park. They are enjoying the car ride there, the getting ready to go, the anticipation of knowing the park will eventually turn up. They enjoy each moment right up until they see that park through the car window. This is what a happy life is all about.
- Don’t Take Things So Seriously. Dogs live like every day is their last. They will have fun, spend hours playing with a stick or an old tennis ball – they aren’t worrying about what they’ll be doing tomorrow. Fun is the aim of their life.
We can’t all live a dog’s life but we can learn from how they choose to perceive the world around them and inject more of these principles into our attitude and daily habits. Next time you see a dog, let it be a reminder to you to be more like them!