3 ways to be mindful without meditating

coffee meditation

Guest article by Kristen Truempy

When people hear mindfulness, they usually think about meditation. But meditation is not the only way to become mindful. Actually, almost anything you enjoy is perfectly suited to improve your mindfulness.

Before we start, let’s look at what we mean by mindfulness: the ability to direct our attention and to experience what is going on in the present moment. Being present in the moment increases the quality of the experience we are having, so it’s not just about future benefits. It’s about letting the present truly touch you.

1. Writing

When I started writing short stories, I suddenly became much more aware of my surroundings. I left the house each day and experienced something new: a glittering piece of plastic or a whiff of earthy river that I had passed by for years and years. My writing friends forced me to take notice and use these details in my stories.

When you write, the character you’re describing does not just drive a car but actually drives a frog-green Mini because it’s an ice-breaker with the ladies. Details matter – without the lost glove on the street or the smeared coffee cup, readers are less willing to enter your fictional dream because it just doesn’t seem real enough. So if you’re interested in writing, that can be a great way to hone your powers of observation and mindful recording of what’s going on. 

2. Photography

Photography deepened my mindfulness by teaching me to pay attention to the quality of light, where it’s coming from, and how lines are everywhere, from actual lines at pedestrian crossings to the ones our eyes perceive when we see a few lampposts in a row.

My point is that the ability to work on our attention can be practiced when we’re doing things we enjoy and are motivated to learn anyway. If you don’t like meditation for some reason, it doesn’t mean that the benefits of mindfulness have to elude you forever. You can enter mindfulness through any activity you enjoy.

3. Sports

Games like soccer are another wonderful way of practicing mindfulness. You pay attention to people’s strengths and weaknesses because you want to beat them. “That guy is a fast runner, but can’t stop a ball well enough to hold on to it.” This very ability to notice small things about our fellow human beings is a great way to train your attention. If you can do it on the soccer field, you can do it in daily life.

Writing, photography, and sports are only three possibilities to train mindfulness without meditation. Can you think of any others?

Why would you care about such things? Because even one tiny moment, devoid of anything loud and exciting, can be filled with so much happiness that you remember it forever. Even years later, you can experience profound peace in recalling the simple act of watching a waiter pick up used coffee cups with a clink or staring at a spider web full of twinkling raindrops illuminated by the sun. Meditation surely helps, but it’s not the only way to mindful living.

Photo by Flickr user { lillith } 

Kristin TruempyKristen Truempy accidentally discovered the strengths approach when she was 11 years old and captain of a girl’s soccer team. She used her skills of keen observation to discover each player’s talent, structured the practices accordingly, and a year later the team won the cup. In 2012, she had to admit to herself that this experience would not suffice to convince companies to pay her to set the strengths of their employees free, so she embarked on the adventure that is obtaining a Master of Science in Applied Positive Psychology (and recently passed). She can be found at http://strengthsphoenix.com/listen.

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4 ways to become more optimistic

mindfulness tips

Guest article by Kristen Truempy

There’s a missing link in lots of articles about optimism: they often tell us what we shouldn’t do. Don’t take things personally, compare yourself to others who are better off, or pay attention to negative news or people.

All of this is true and valuable, but the brain does not like space. Once we make some headspace by clearing out the negativity, it needs to fill in the gaps.

So it’s not enough to stop doing something. For everything that you stop or avoid, it’s best if you replace that activity with something that is truly interesting or fun to you. Otherwise, as you sit miserably by yourself instead of joining in the gossip at work, you won’t last for long. If you just stop watching TV but then stare at the pile of dirty dishes, chances are the TV will be on again soon.

Instead, we have to fill up our brain with the equivalent of healthy veggies and fruits. Here are some suggestions:

1. Set your homepage to something inspirational so that you get to see positive articles at least once a day without having to think about it. Chances are you will get interested and start reading more positive articles and fewer negative ones.

2. Customize your Facebook or Twitter stream. If one of your acquaintances is constantly posting the slogans of the political party you hate and it bums you out every time you see it, why not do something about it? Remove them or at least adjust the settings so you don’t have to see their updates all the time.

Maybe someone is always posting memorable quotes or images that lift you up? Make sure to configure your settings so you see most of that person’s updates. You only have to do this a couple of times and from then on, your feed will automatically become a more positive place to hang out. Also make sure to connect with more like-minded people. Joining Facebook groups or setting up Twitter lists is a great way to do this.

These two strategies require very little effort and will put positivity right in front of your nose. The next two strategies are for those of you who would like to spend even more time thinking about things you find interesting and enjoy.

3. Try audiobooks and podcasts. Are you still listening to the radio even though you don’t really like what’s on it? You just prefer to listen to something instead of silence? Switch to audiobooks or podcasts instead. Podcasts are audio files you can download and subscribe to for free and listen to anywhere on your phone. They are a great way to be entertained or educated about something that is interesting to you. This can be your substitute for the negativity, that something to fill your headspace – and make you much less tempted to fall back into old habits.

4. Develop a skill you enjoy. Learning something interesting gives your brain a healthy obsession. It will also automatically change the way you perceive the world. You will become a connoisseur instead of just a judge, who boxes everything into “like” and “don’t like.” Once you learn to pay attention to how websites are designed or really good pictures are taken, for example, you will appreciate the efforts of others, even if you don’t always resonate with the topics they cover or their passions.

The suggestions above sound simple and maybe small. But every moment you spend thinking about something interesting or positive is a moment you are not thinking pessimistically. And from emotion research, we know that positive emotions don’t just feel nice; they build resources for the future as well. As you add more and more small positive moments to your day, the good feelings they create, the knowledge you gain, and the relationships you build and deepen will all contribute to a more friendly climate in your brain.

Photo by Flickr user Ali Karimian

Kristin TruempyKristen Truempy accidentally discovered the strengths approach when she was 11 years old and captain of a girl’s soccer team. She used her skills of keen observation to discover each player’s talent, structured the practices accordingly, and a year later the team won the cup. In 2012, she had to admit to herself that this experience would not suffice to convince companies to pay her to set the strengths of their employees free, so she embarked on the adventure that is obtaining a Master of Science in Applied Positive Psychology (and recently passed). She can be found at http://strengthsphoenix.com/listen.