Mindfulness is the state of being conscious of oneself and one’s surroundings. It is what connects people to themselves, their thoughts, emotions and sensations, and also what makes them socially aware. It is a set of skills to learn, develop and practice every day, and that enables us to live every moment to the fullest.
Mindful people manage to slow down their perception of time, making them live longer days and eventually a longer life. How do they do that? By adopting these 10 habits.
1. They pay attention to their environment
Mindful people notice the environment they are in and pay attention to what is going on. They are in the present. They actively use all their senses to observe people, the space, the light, the colors or how the floor or the chair feel like. They also notice how the environment makes them feel like: is it friendly? new? unknown?
Where to start: when I am in a mindful moment, I always picture myself pressing the “pause” button on the remote control. This metaphor helps me a lot to take a step back. When I do that, it feels like the world stops moving, like in a movie, and I can take as much time as I want or need to look around me.
2. They breathe deeply
Mindful people take deep breaths during the day. They focus on the air coming in and out of their lungs, for several minutes, several times per day. Mindful people do that when they need to be grounded again, after they notice a strong emotion, or just to pause for a moment and connect with their body.
Where to start: counting your breath is a great way to start. You can count each breath to 10, then come back to 1 and start over again, several times in a row: breathe in (1), breathe out (2), breathe in (3), etc.
3. They practice active listening
Mindful people are not doing all the talking and they are aware that most conversations tend to be two monologues rather than an exchange. They tend to read the room and the people around them (cf. habit #1) before saying anything. One of the way they do that is through active listening. They listen for the words and the tone of voice others are using, and they also listen with their eyes, reading the body language. All that is data they process in order to adjust their response: for instance, if you read that people are bored, you will adapt your answer and likely not talk for 15 minutes non-stop.
Where to start: next time you are in a meeting or in a conversation, think about collecting data through listening before deciding how you are going to participate in this.
Related article: The only tips you’ll need to develop your active listening skills
4. They meditate
Mindful people practice meditation on a regular basis. Now, it doesn’t mean we are all monks, or we go to a holistic center for a half-day unguided meditation. It means we find time throughout the day to sit or lay down in a quiet space, to reset our mind. In only 10 minutes a day for a few weeks you too can learn how to meditate. Check my article below to know some cool and easy techniques.
Where to start: the app Headspace has a 10-day free trial and a 40% discount on yearly subscriptions as I write this article. You can also find free guided meditations on Youtube.
Related article: 3 easy meditation techniques you can use every day
5. They check in with themselves
It is a habit learned from meditation that mindful people apply every day, several times per day. Mindful people know what is going on inside of them. They are able to note feelings as they appear, label them, and as a result take a decision on how to better deal with them. They don’t let emotions control them because they are self-aware.
Beginner’s tip: build in your self-awareness by reflecting on the patterns that you apply. Are there situations that always trigger a strong response in your body? If so, explore how it feels and label it so you can do that more quickly next time it appears.
6. They show compassion for others and for themselves
Mindful people are aware and understand that emotions are inherent part of ourselves, even strong and negative ones. They embrace how imperfect they are, and that makes them more accepting of others. By actively listening (habit #3) they stop thinking just about themselves and they start building a social awareness too. They acknowledge who they have in front of them, and they respect the boundaries, limits, strengths and weaknesses of other human beings. They accept those the way they want theirs to be accepted.
Beginner’s tip: the same way people don’t know everything that is going on in your life, remember that you don’t know everything that is going on in theirs either. Don’t be too fast at judging people for what they say or do. Instead, assume positive intent, listen, and be open.
7. They always learn
Be open. That’s how the last habit ended, and that’s how this one begins. Only for this one, mindful people open themselves to what they don’t know. In a way, they extend their self-compassion and kindness to accept that they don’t know everything, and that’s okay. They are curious though. They read, they explore, they debate, they listen (you can’t do mindfulness without the listening part, I’m afraid). It doesn’t have to be a formal education. Thanks to their awareness of the present, mindful people are able to learn from what looks insignificant to others.
Where to start: set the intention to learn something new today. Tonight, before falling asleep, reflect on what you have learned that you didn’t know this morning.
Related article: Embrace your ignorance
8. They have mantras or mottos
This is one of the habits that had the most impact on me. Mindful people have go-to mantras and/or mottos that help them stay focused. A mantra can be a word or a sound. For example, we all know the mantra om chanted in yoga sessions, and which is usually seen as a cliché of anything zen and calm. Om is actually a very powerful sound when pronounced correctly: when you chant A-U-M instead of plain “om”, you notice the vibrations of the sound which can relax your mind (see mindbodygreen for more on om).
On the other hand, mottos are short sentences that encapsulate a belief. I personally prefer these to sounds because I am a literal person. I do have a few mottos I already shared on the blog, where I also briefly explained how they stuck to my mind.
Where to start: start with a short sentence that resonates with you. Is there a situation or feeling you find yourself struggling with? What affirmation would help you soothe it?
9. They don’t multitask
Mindful people know that they need to slow down in order to pay attention to more things. It’s like the speed of a car: you enjoy the landscapes less if you pass through them very fast. It doesn’t mean they are less productive, quite the opposite. They just organise their day in a way that allows them as much as possible to execute one task at a time. Mindful people are aware that interruptions, distractions and switching back and forth from one assignment to another increase the time spent on each, and also decrease the quality of the work done.
Where to start: whenever possible, block time in your calendar to work on specific tasks. At work, go to a quiet space or a meeting room to finish something. At home, leave your phone out of reach and out of sight.
10. They align head, heart and gut
Last but not least, mindful people align their thinking, their feeling and their intuition, giving them a sense of consistency and stability. They achieve this by checking in with themselves (#5), breathing in deeply (#2), actively listening to themselves (#3) and through meditation (#4). With this habit though, mindful people pay attention to what they think (the head), what they feel (the heart), and what’s their intuition about it (the gut). When all three are aligned, there is no internal conflict, the person is being authentic.
Where to start: a good way to start is actually paying attention to situations where something feels wrong or off, but you can’t quite say what or why exactly. This feeling is your intuition, your gut, telling you something. Explore the situation rationally, solely based on facts and evidence, then move to how it makes you feel.
Related article: How to listen to your head, your heart and your gut