Do you ever arrive at work and realize you can’t remember much about how you got there?
Do you start eating a meal, only to look down and see you’ve finished all of a sudden?
If you said “yes”, don’t worry there isn’t something wrong with you, as such. These examples and others like it are perfectly normal.
They are examples of “mindlessness”, or in other words “autopilot”. It happens to us all when we do the same things over and over. We store the memories and actions in our long term memory, and it becomes ‘‘second nature’’.
We form subconscious habits, and our minds and bodies drift out of a state of attention, and into a state of inattention.
It basically means we are not entirely present in our own lives. Most of the time this will not cause a problem. However, it can be become a huge and costly problem also.
The consequence of this can mean that we are not aware of what is going on around us. We can miss out on some important things, such as what our friends and families are doing, signs from our own bodies, and much more.
If you are spending a lot of time in this autopilot mindset, you are acting more on reacting to events and less on being proactive. These reactions can cause you to tense up, panic, and fall into depression.
Why You Should Practice Being Mindful
If you find yourself spending too long in autopilot, or with a sense that you are not being fully aware – practicing being mindful can help.
Practicing mindfulness means you are paying more attention to what is going on around you. We all have the ability to be more mindful, but it takes some practice and deliberate actions. It’s about being aware of the moment, thinking about the present.
Being mindful means being aware of what is going on around you, and within you. However we see and experience life, however we choose to act, being mindful means we are experiencing everything in the present moment.
So you can look at it as being more mindful, is to be more in the present. All we need to do is pay attention to the present moment, allowing ourselves to live in the moment and experience it.
So how do we become more aware? How do we heighten our senses and be more aware of each and every moment as we live it?
We can practice being more mindful. This is something we can all do, and something I will explain in more detail, and how you can do this yourself.
How to Practice Being Mindful
We can all practice being mindful, it takes time and concentration. You will need to start incorporating little reminders into your day to think about being mindful. Kind of like nudges to remind you to think about what you’re doing.
Make the Effort to Be Mindful
As often as you can, think about being more mindful. Think about what is going on around you, what you can see, smell, and sense. See for yourself what it’s like to pay attention to the now.
Take time to think about what you’re feeling. What’s in your heart, body, and mind? Take a minute or two to breathe slowly, concentrating on each breath and making a mental note of what you are feeling.
In the middle of a task that’s taking a while, like a meeting, or a long drive, take a few deep breaths and become aware of what’s going on around you. Additionally, before or after you are going to do a task you can also do this.
Use Breathing as a Trigger
As mentioned above, using controlled breathing is a great way to bring yourself into the present moment. The sensation of breathing can help you laser in on focus. You need to practice feeling the the breath as it goes in, and out.
After you have become used to breathing and feeling more aware, you can start to use include other sensations. You will learn to be more aware of your hearing, seeing, touching, smelling, tasting, and your thinking.
Just keep taking the time to practice focusing in on these experiences, and your awareness will improve. It will become a lot more fluid, and eventually you will be lead by your awareness, you will not need to think about it.
Tips to Help Being More Mindful
At no point have I said here that this will be easy and happen in a few days. Expect your mind to wander off in all kinds of directions at first. The reason I call it practice is because it’s exactly that, practice.
Don’t be too hard on yourself either. If you feel like you’re still cruising around in auto-pilot after a few days stick with it, it will come in time. You should feel a greater sense of relaxation too, and welcome side-effect to being mindful.
Hopefully I have explained how to be more mindful in life in ways that are easy to understand.
It takes time, as I said many times. Be careful not to push yourself too hard or expect too much at first. Tapping into your subconscious is a gradual process, but it will happen.
Experiencing life in a more aware state is a more fulfilling and wonderful experience. It’s like taking the driving seat and being aware of every little thing you pass by.
If anyone has any experience with improving their awareness and becoming more mindful, feel free to share your experiences here.
Phil lives in England, UK, and has around 20 years experience as a professional life, career and executive coach. He started this blog to help others find and define their own self development journey. Blogging about a wide range of topics to help facilitate a better future.