It’s mid-year, and that means only one thing: it’s summer time.
Summer is a time to slow down, to disconnect, to spend more time in nature and mindfulness is the perfect companion for that. Mindfulness also helps you soaking in those summer vibes and savouring every moment. Moreover, it increases your joy, memory, peace and it decreases levels of stress, burnout and even depression.
This summer, whether you are on a holiday or not, try to include some mindfulness into your days. You’ll notice how slowing down improves your wellbeing and how you’ll be able to enjoy more and worry less.
Mindfulness is all about being present in this moment, being non-judgemental, compassionate and taking it slow. So don’t force yourself or worry too much about doing it right, because then, you’re missing the point. Remember kindness is a key component of mindfulness: kindness to others, but to start with: yourself!
Here are some easy and effortless ways to incorporate mindfulness into your sweet summer days:
1. Create a summer routine
What I’ve loved during this summer so far, is having my go-to new summer routine. Routines & rituals change throughout the seasons, depending on what season you are in – depending on your inner weather.
Maybe your summer routine is spending some time staring at the blue sky, sipping your coffee in the morning, taking your time to prepare breakfast and do a meditation or read a few pages. Or, maybe your routine involves some morning stretches and a freshly made smoothie.
How to create your routine
Ask yourself: what do you need in the morning, noon and/or evening? How can you honour yourself and nourish your mind, body and soul throughout the day? When are you willing and able to make time for you? Write a list of things you love to do to take care of yourself, or that might help you wake up, or fall asleep, and then slowly, incorporate them into your day.
How my routine looks like
My routine looks like this: a morning meditation, followed by my skin care routine, a morning coffee and a nourishing breakfast with fresh fruits. In the afternoon, I do my second meditation of the day, just before dinner time, to let go of the day and start fresh. Then, in the evening, I do some gentle, relaxing stretches and I fall asleep to… yes, you guessed it, a sleeping meditation! This routine nourishes me and it feels so good to honour myself three times a day.
2. Slow down
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: slow. down. Relax. Unclench your jaw, your eyebrows, relax your belly. You’re okay.
Nature does not hurry and yet everything is accomplished. Notice the difference between hurrying or rushing through your day versus taking the time.
I love to compare it with a hotel breakfast. Everyone loves a hotel breakfast, right? You wake up, get ready, go to the restaurant and a lovely buffet awaits you. You sit down, have your breakfast, enjoy the morning and it feels so good. Why? Because you take your time and prioritise having breakfast. You don’t multitask, you solo task. And that’s practising mindfulness, too.
How to slow down
Whether you’re on vacation or not, try to slow down just a little bit. You can do this by taking a break, taking some deep breaths (we tend to hold our breath when we’re too focus or rushing) or even do some stretches. Or simply, witness. You don’t have to do so much all the time. It’s okay to just be.
The benefits of doing nothing
The act of doing nothing has proven to be beneficial for our health, especially for our brain. It eliminates distractions and boosts your creativity. That’s why you have those brilliant ideas in the shower, during a meditation or right before going to bed: it’s a time and place where all the distractions fade away and you “empty.” your mind.
I love to describe journalling as: moving thoughts rom your mind onto paper. It allows you to let go of things, but also to get more clarity. Whenever I feel overwhelmed, unsure or like my mind is foggy, I do a free-flow session (writing down everything that comes into my mind) for about 15 minutes and I feel much better.
The benefits of journalling
Journalling has a lot of benefits, ranging from improving your mood, to helping you recognise patterns, set goals, identify negative thoughts, and increase positive self-talk.
If I were to ask you: who is the person you talk to the most? You would probably answer: a spouse, parent, sibling, friend,… but actually, it’s you. You are the person you talk the most with – in your mind.
Journalling brings you closer to yourself. It’s like having a conversation with yourself, as you often do in your mind, but only on paper. This allows you to receive more clarity and awareness about what’s on your mind.
What to journal about
Journalling can look like writing down how your day was, writing down 10 things you are grateful for (highly recommend doing this in the morning or whenever you feel a bit off) or writing down what you want to achieve, do or feel on the day/week/month (setting an intention).
If you are on a trip, you can document and savour the highlights by journalling about them. It will make you feel more appreciative about it, as you reflect back on them, your gratitude levels increase, which increase your “happiness hormones“! You can also write a love letter to yourself, saying how much you love and appreciate yourself, to get through summer blues after a trip or at any given time you feel a bit challenged.
4. Use your senses
To bring yourself back into this very moment, try this exercise:
name 5 things you can see
name 4 things you can feel
name 3 things you can hear
name 2 things you can smell
name 1 thing you can taste
Your senses bring you right back into this moment. And that leads you right to a moment of innerpeace. It is sometimes challenging to describe mindfulness, so I encourage you to use your senses next time you are drinking, eating, walking, listening, or during any time of the day you remember to be mindful.
You will notice it automatically calms you mind, as you only focus on what you’re sensing in that moment. There is no space for thinking about the future or the past. And, as numerous studies have proven, time spent in the present moment is time spent in a calm, peaceful and happy state.
How a vacation makes you happier
What does this have to do with vacation? Novelty (experience something new) has proven to increase your brain health. Being in a new environment, our brain automatically takes in all this new information – a new scenery, environment, culture, maybe a few words in a new language -, allowing us to learn new things, which our brains absolutely love.
Living mindfully means more than meditating, being calm all the time, or having no stress (that’s impossible and not the goal). Mindful living means making conscious choices instead of living on automatic pilot. It means living our truth, and getting closer to ourselves. I’d like to share with you some powerful lessons that I came across this week. These lessons reminded me that mindfulness and its benefits are so much more than less anxiety, more peace, better sleep,…🤍
1. From rushing to stopping & making conscious choices
Living mindfully means living in this moment. It means to get out of the spiral of rushing through our morning, day, week, month and whole life. It means slowing down and coming back to this very moment.
So, why it is so important to get out of the automatic pilote mode?
When we are in automatic pilot mode, it feels like we are on a treadmill, always going, not stopping for a moment, and doing most of our life automatically – without thinking.
This is not a bad thing of course. I love that I am able to walk without thinking, get in a car and drive without thinking about every little action, and other automatised things in our lives we’ve grown customed to.
It’s about the moments we do want to be present in, the actions we do want to experience, and our lives we don’t want to miss out on. It’s about being able to press pause, and stop rushing through life for a moment. When we are not thinking, our actions flow automatically. When we are present, we can make our own decisions & act accordingly.
A great example is when you are having an argument. Most of us answer without listening. We talk fast, to answer the other person, but actually we have not really listened to them or we have not really thought about what we want to say. We automatically say something back, out of anger, frustration, or whatever is driving you at that moment. When we are mindful – present – we have the chance to pause, to not be lead by our emotions, and in that pause we have the chance to consciously respond.
That’s where the power of mindfulness lies in: conscious choices.
I learned this in handling my anxiety – it started with noticing I was beginning to feel anxious: I noticed my thoughts going in a spiral about a possible outcome about the future, I noticed my palms getting sweaty and my stomach turning around, and I also noticed I was sitting in a bus, totally at peace, undisturbed, and that this anxiety/negative stress was not necessary right now.
So after becoming aware of it, I consciously chose to guide my attention back to my breath – through counting my breaths and taking long, deep breaths. This allows my nervous system to calm down, and guide my mind and body back into this moment, away from the what-if scenarios in my mind.
2. From complaining to giving thanks & having enough
We live in a society that runs fast, as we discussed previously, We are constantly pushed to get a new phone, new car, new clothes, to always get more and more. It makes us feeling like we never have enough. When is it enough? When will we be fulfilled? The thrill of getting the newest phone only lasts a bit. it does not last forever. It fades, and then we satisfy ourselves with something else, and so it goes on and on.
Our society is often making us compare ourselves to others. Our judgmental minds then step in and does not really help us – we are our own worst critics. This amplifies the feeling of not being good enough, not having enough, not doing enough,…
How can mindfulness stop us from the treadmill or wanting more and allow us to appreciate what we have?
By showing gratitude, and focusing on all the things we can be grateful for and say thanks for, we shift our minds from lack to abundance. We go from not having x to I am grateful that I have x.
A process called neuroplasticity shows that the neural networks in our brains are able to change through growth and reorganisation (Wikipedia). In simple terms, we can re-write our brains by training it. How? By shifting our thoughts and mindset.
This is what happens when we practice gratitude. We are training our brain to recognise the good in a situation, to recognise the opportunity, to recognise what we do already have, instead of focusing on what’s lacking.
And there is only one way to practice gratitude: in this very moment. We cannot be grateful while being sad. We cannot experience any other emotion while being grateful, that’s the power and beauty of it. Where gratitude exists, the present moment is used to its fullest: to recognise our blessings.
Start with thinking about 1-3 things you can be grateful for when you wake up or go to sleep. Proceed by writing a gratitude list daily. You’ll notice the more you do this, the more things pop up which you can say thanks for. You don’t have to lok far for it: the simple fact that you are alive, reading this, and breathing, are things we often take for granted and is something you can definitely say thanks for.
3. From waiting on something to happen in order to be happy to living in joy right now
We are always thinking about the next big thing – the next day, the next presentation, the next gratification, the next trigger that gives us that hit of dopamine.
We have this picture in our minds of how things will go, and we keep telling us : I’ll be happy then. I’ll be happy when I make it through the end of the week and head into the weekend. But why can’t we be happy at the beginning of the week, or int he middle? Why do we feel the need to get through something in order to finally feel happy?
These boosts, these sort-lasting hits of dopamine we get through instant gratification are way different than the long-lasting joy we can access right now.
When we get back to this moment, we can let go of the worrying, the fantasising,
How can mindfulness help us access longlasting, inner joy in this moment instead of waiting for it to happen?
Simply guiding our attention to our breath, our surroundings can bring us back to this moment. When we are in this moment, we realise we have all that we need, right here, right now.
When we pay attention to our reality right now, we realise how wonderful it is and then, joy comes from within. Live like this everyday, and you’ll start to build up your inner “ball of joy”. That feeling of appreciation will get easier to access.
Train your mind to see the wonders of life in this very moment. Instead of looking for contentment in the future, trying to chase something that will never fill up the cravings, stop. Stop and feel the joy of this very moment.
How? By practising mindfulness. By paying attention: to the little things, to the big things, to the running water when you shower, to nature, to the clouds, to fresh air, to your bed, to every new morning you get to experience.
Simply guide your attention to the here and now. And you’ll notice that you’ll start to see your worries in your mind as what they try are: just thoughts. Not the truth.