For as long as I can remember, I believed that what gave me my edge was a fierce drive to succeed and that I was never satisfied with the status quo.
So when I first heard about mindfulness and meditation, I was not only skeptical of its benefits, I also feared that if it worked, I would lose my edge.
Are they crazy? How the heck am I supposed to find the time to just sit there?
You see, I was one of those people who was constantly on the lookout for what was next. Never experiencing and appreciating what I had in the present moment, because I was always looking for the next goal, idea or place that would increase my status.
I never realized how much damage this constant longing for more was doing to me…and I certainty didn’t have any clue that by using mindfulness as an operating system for my life I could drastically decrease my anxiety, while at the same time increase my focus and creativity.
Mindfulness as an Operating System
I am happy to say that I was dead wrong about mindfulness. Since I started utilizing mindfulness as an operating system, rather than just an app or a feature, my life has changed in a myriad of ways:
- I’ve eliminated a host of limiting beliefs that kept me from being happy
- I’ve worked through my career struggles and left an unsatisfying job for a more fulfilling path
- I’ve lost 10 lbs by simply being aware while I am eating
- My daily anxiety has dropped 80% (Based on daily tracking)
- I moved to a city that brought my family more energy and life
- I’ve sold a business and started a new one
- I’ve improved my sleep dramatically
- And most importantly, I have developed a deeper sense of self-awareness which has provide more depth, happiness, and fulfillment in every day life.
This list may seem to good to be true, but looking back on my journey, all of these events only started to occur once I fully committed to trying to be as present to my life as possible in every moment.
Most moments I fail. But when I don’t, and I open myself up too what is, right here in this moment, I am met by a deep sense of belonging and fulfillment that can give even the most mundane activities depth.
If you are anything like me, you may still be pretty skeptical about the benefits of mindfulness in your everyday life. Well, the science is in.
Everywhere from Harvard to Stanford to Johns Hopkins there are studies coming out about the benefits of mindfulness and meditation. And these benefits are not just for people who are dealing with mental illness, they can be realized by anyone, especially high performers and people who work in stressful environments.
When I first heard about mindfulness, I laughed at the idea because I was under the assumption that it required an elimination of thought. However, once I gave it a try, I realized that mindfulness is NOT an elimination of thoughts, it is an act of purposefully being aware of them.
Mindfulness, like any from of exercise, requires repetition to master it. There are many ways to get the necessary reps. You do not need to develop a meditation practice or sign up for a yoga class to build a mindfulness operating system.
1. Change your phone background.
The average person will spend 4 years of their life looking down at their phone. In the everyday busyness of our life it can seem like there is barely time to breathe. By simply changing my background to an image of the word breathe, I am constantly reminded to take a deep breath and be present to my life.
2. Set reminders on your phone.
Leverage technology to deliver intermittent awareness prompts. This is fun and even a bit counterintuitive. We’ve seen so much about how technology is making us less mindful. Well, by getting a bit creative, we can actually harness it to train our brains to become more mindful and aware.
3. ‘With gratitude’ email signature.
I send hundreds of emails each week. A task that used to seem about as mindless as a task can be. However, I found that by being mindful about my sign-off and typing ‘With Gratitude’ at the bottom of every email has been a mini-meditation for me as it allows me to step back for 2-seconds and be intentional before hitting send.
4. When eating, just eat; when drinking, just drink.
I’m gonna be honest here, I don’t practice this as much as I should. But it’s a good example of how you can take something you already do every day, and use it as a meditation. Simply commit to doing nothing but eating or drinking, once a day. No Instagram. No texting. No talking.
Even if you only do this for a small portion of your meal or for a single glass of wine, you will start to notice a sense of depth to your life.
5. Just three breaths.
If you are moving too fast and feel out of control, take three deep breaths. It will remind you to slow down and enjoy the simple moments of life.
Breathe, and be present, for this moment is all you will ever have. The future will never come. The past is just a memory. The present is all there is. Remind yourself of this and experience this moment, for it is fleeting and there are few left to waste.
6. Look at the rooftops.
This is a tip I learned from James Altucher. It is so simple but so profound.
The rooftops are where the architects are able to showcase their creativity and artistic touch. Try looking up every now and again. You may be shocked at how much you normally gloss over.
7. This person could die tonight.
This may sound a bit dark and extreme, but it is a great way to bring yourself into the moment and really engage with the person you are with. Imagine never being able to talk with them again. How much deeper would you listen? What would you notice? Would you rush to move on to the next thing or would you take the time to fully be with them?
The key to developing appreciation daily is to focus on being aware of the smaller things in life that you would miss if they were gone. This is a very powerful practice that has been utilized by the Stoics, Billionaires, and monks to help them appreciate life and reduce anxiety. Dr. Emmons, a gratitude researcher, confirms that practicing gratitude daily can reduce anxiety and depression.
Try saying out loud right now one thing that you are grateful for. Your shoes. Your beating heart. Your phone. Anything that you would miss if you no longer had it.
9. Mindful driving.
How many times have you driven somewhere only to realize that you don’t remember any of the drive? I have more times than I care to admit. This is the definition of mindless activity. And it is also very dangerous.
The next time you get in the drivers seat try to notice the feeling of your hands on the steering wheel and the pressure on the bottom of your foot as it touches the gas. Use the lights of the cars in front of you as reminders to be present.
Not only will this bring you into the present moment, it will make the road a much safer place if we can all learn to be more mindful.
I resonate with what a wise man named Buddy the Elf said, “smiling is my favorite.”
It is cliché, but then who cares. It is so true. In fact, even faking or forcing a smile reduces stress and makes you happier.
It is the easiest way to find a sense of presence. Whether you are smiling to yourself or to another person it does not matter. Show the world your pearly whites!