Stop Wasting Away Your Life: A Case for Mindful Living

I was complaining to my co-workers over lunch about the terrible crowds at Trader Joe’s and how people have to get in line as soon as they walk through the door because the line wraps around all the food isles. One of my co-workers mentioned that he usually shops while in line to move things quicker and then burst into laugher from the look of horror on my face.

All my life, and definitely more now, I’ve enjoyed my time at the supermarket. I like to stroll down the isles and get a good look at all my options, read all the labels, check the prices, etc. Some might think this is a waste of time but for me its me time. It’s time I dedicate to myself to make sure I am making healthy choices and focus on buying quality. You could say I am a mindful shopper.

The utility of “mindfulness” goes well beyond our grocery needs; it’s something that I try to incorporate into my daily life. To be mindful is to pay attention; to be mindful is to live with intentionality. That is the goal— to pay attention and live with intentionality.

But I already have some much on my mind…

Exactly! Our minds are so distracted by the chatter of our thoughts, that we often find ourselves going through the motions without even realizing that life is just passing us by. Most of use are running a marathon on the loop of death; we think “when this happens, I’ll be happy,” then it happens and we aren’t happy, “when I get this, I’ll be happy,” then you get that and you still aren’t happy. We are constantly running in this loop, day in and day out, with no end in sight.

Breaking this cycle takes the realization that 1. the journey is more important than the destination, and 2. every moment counts. Once I realized that I was chasing thin air, I was finally able to open my eyes and take a good look around. What was the state of my life? Was I living the life I wanted? Was I happy? Asking myself the hard questions helped me put things into perspective.

I’ve heard there are two types of happiness: the happiness that comes from looking back at your life and feeling satisfied with how things turned out, and the everyday happiness you feel when you wake up in the morning and go out your day. By helping me find joy in even the most mundane things (like grocery shopping), and helping me take pleasure in living out my day to day life, mindfulness is helping me find happiness now and in the future.

5 Things I do Mindfully

I’d like to think I do everything mindfully, but let’s face it, no one is perfect. Here are 5 areas that I’ve been actively working on (I also talk about different ways of being mindful in my post, The Art of Mindfulness).

  1. Shopping — Cutting down on excessive consumerism is something I’ve been working on for years, but still continue to struggle with. Being mindful of what I buy and taking into consideration what I actually need verse what seems cool or what has been continuously advertised to me, has been a huge help in this.
  1. Self-care — Again something I’ve been working on for a long time. I’m a firm believer that your physical appearance is a major indicator of your health, both mentally and physically. Things like acne, split ends, beer bellies, baggy eyes or all physical signs that hint to poor eating habits, lack of skincare, lack of sleep, etc. Making the effort to listen to my body and what it needs has made a significant improvement in my overall health and self-esteem.
  1. Eating — Piggybacking off number 2, paying attention to what our bodies need, especially when it comes to food is both difficult and rewarding. For me, this means, being mindful of when I’m hungry vs. thirty, when I’m hungry vs. just bored, when I’m hungry vs. the food looks really good. It’s also about portion control and listening to my body when it’s full. Most importantly, it’s about actually enjoying what you eat vs. mindlessly gobbling it down.
  2. Listening & Processing — Now piggybacking off number 2 & 3, listening is such an important skill! After reading Dan Harris’ book, 10% Happier, I realized that many of my conversation are reactive instead of responsive. It’s not that I am picking fights with all my friends, rather that I find I tend to react to the first thing someone says and already have a response before the other person even finishes the sentence, causing me to half listen to the rest of whatever they were saying. I’ve made it a point to listen to everything the person has to say and process it before I formulate a response.
  3. Bedtime Routine — As I get older I realize how important sleep is. While I’d never had issues falling asleep, I also never had issues if I didn’t get enough sleep or quality sleep. The toll of subpar sleep or lack of sleep is more noticeable as time passes. These days I am mindful of my sleep patterns and mindful of my bedtime routine, making sure that I am unwinding as the time gets closer to bedtime.

The Bottom Line

When you go through life on autopilot, you look back and see everything blurred or hazy. You might miss out on important moments thinking that whatever you are doing instead was more important. In general, I’ve been more aware of my day to day actions, decisions, and impact. I’ve also focused on unlearning bad habits such as multi-tasking, which is less effective and efficient than focusing your time and energy on one task at a time (Seriously! Read more in this Forbes article, “Why Multitasking Doesn’t Work). And because I take time to think about what I am doing, purchasing, supporting, putting my energy into, I find that I make healthier decisions, ultimately leading to a happier, healthier me.

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