3 Simple Habits for Daily Mindfulness

Sometimes it’s the simplest things that seem the hardest. We’re so caught up with the big, scary urgent tasks that dominate our lives that the smaller, simpler things get lost in the chaos.

But sometimes it’s precisely those smaller things, like taking a moment to take a deep breath, that can make all the difference to the how the rest of our days, and by extension the rest of our lives, pan out.

Here, Henrik Edberg from the Positivity Blog lists 3 ways he reminds himself to stay in the moment. They’re all small, simple things, but sometimes all it takes are a few extra moments of mindfulness to change your experience for the better.

Zazen Is Good For Nothing

As often as we’re reminded that meditation is a practice without any particular goal, it’s hard not to get ambitious about it. The tendency to worry about getting things wrong, or to strive to get them right, is baked deeply into our nature.

That’s why it’s so refreshing to hear this talk by Shōhaku Okumura, a Japanese Sōtō Zen priest, reminding us that Zazen (and any meditation practice) is good for nothing. Meditation practiced for a particular purpose is not meditation at all:

We usually think that this meditation practice is to attain some kind of enlightenment or awakening. But Dogen said we should just sit without any expectation. Even enlightenment.

Because [if] we practice in order to get enlightenment then that is desire. Desire, our egocentric desire, is still working there in search of truth. So from the very beginning we just, in Dogem’s expression, throw ourselves into the way, without expecting any reward.

That is what is called, just sitting.

"Meditation isn’t an escape from life. It’s an encounter with it."
A new normal

Meditative practices are entirely focused on the present moment. “The now”. But this seems a little esoteric when we’re just trying to live our lives. Especially in these uncertain times where we’re all just waiting for things to go back to the way they used to be.

But as Seth Godin points out here, the way things used to be is always changing. Normality isn’t a particular point in time. It’s just the point in time we’re used to:

We’ve got a deep-seated desire for things to go back to normal, the way we were used to.

But this, this moment of ours is now normal.

For now.

And then, there will be another normal.

When we were kids, things were a certain way. Not just the way the world was, the way we were. Now they’re different. In twenty years’ time, they’ll be different again. Which of them is normal? The only answer is now.

How To Argue With An Idiot

One of my dearest friends in the world is an idiot. She’s kind and loyal and sincere and patient, but she also has one of those minds where as soon as she’s made up her mind about something it’s impossible to change it. A vague intuition will become a belief, and a belief will harden…continue reading on Medium…
The 3 Box Productivity Method

The most important questions you can ask yourself when it comes to being productive are:

  • 1) Am I working on the right things?
  • 2) Am I being unrealistic about how much I can get done?

If you’re failing to achieve our goals, the problem usually lies in one of these two places.

This is the question which the 3 Box Method sets out to help you answer. You write a list of 3-5 priorities for the day, start with number 1, and don’t move on from it until it’s finished. If you aren’t getting through your list, you have to either remove the last item, or re-evaluate the other items on the list.

The beauty of this method is in its simplicity. There are no complex spreadsheets or accountability meetings to worry about. If you can’t complete the items which you have freely defined as priorities, then clearly something has gone wrong. I’ve been using a version of this method for many years now and can honestly say it’s an excellent tool for setting goals and getting them done.

The Ripple Effect Of Small Changes

It’s easy to think that to make a change in your life you need to make huge sweeping changes to your routine. If you want to lose weight you need to eat nothing but salads. If you want to be more spiritual you need to meditate for an hour every day. If you want to get fit you need to spend even spare moment in the gym.

More often than not, these impossible standards end up becoming reasons to give up on your goals. More importantly, they’re not necessary. Stephen Guise talks here about the power of small changes to have a big impact on our lives. And the fact that this effect works in both directions:

When you’re frustrated with an aspect of your life, your mind will probably jump to big, sweeping changes you could make to improve it. But I encourage you to look at small changes instead. They are easier to make, more likely to stick, and have a large ripple effect that can bring about the bigger change you hope for.

How Stress Affects Your Brain

We all know that stress is bad for us. It makes us feel terrible, it messes with our sleep, it affects our eating habits and digestion. In occasional bursts, stress isn’t harmful and can actually be useful, but it it becomes chronic it can alter our brains themselves.

When your brain detects a stressful situation, your HPA axis is instantly activated and releases a hormone called cortisol which primes your body for instant action.

But high levels of cortisol over long periods of time wreak on your brain. For example, chronic stress increases the activity level and number of neural connections in the amygdala, your brain’s fear centre. And as levels of cortisol rise, electric signals in your hippocampus–the part of your brain associated with learning, memories, and stress control–deteriorate.

Thankfully there are many ways to reverse the effects of cortisol the brain. As the video mentions, exercise and meditation are proven methods to restore a healthy balance within the brain. Just try not to become stressed out about your stress levels…

Mindfulness during a pandemic

For many of us, the worst of the pandemic seems to be over, but there’s still a lot of uncertainty hanging in the air. And while there’s not much any of us can do about the pandemic itself, there are things we can do to improve how we deal with the impact on our lives.

Aytekin Tank at Fast Company offers a few simple mindfulness techniques that can help us to stay calm, centred and sane during these uncertain times. It might not seem like much, but it’s these small, consistent steps that often make all the difference.