What does having a more positive mindset mean to you? A few weeks into the year and I feel like a word that keeps circling around in my head is mindfulness. It was something that I thought about a lot in the second half of last year and I feel like it will continue to be a focus this year, especially when it comes to having a more positive outlook and inner sense of peace and calm.
What is mindfulness?
Mindfulness is the psychological process of bringing your attention to what is happening in the present moment. Not worrying about the past or the future, but being fully present in the now. The idea being that focusing on the present will bring you inner peace and calm rather than worrying about things that can’t be changed in the past, or the ‘what ifs’ of the future. This inner calm and focus takes practice and is developed through practices such as meditation and other actions/ activities, such as breathing exercises.
For me, mindfulness has come to be a daily focus, working towards healthy mental habits. On a good day, it’s a lot simpler, more of an enjoyable habit. On my bad days it’s a constructive, challenging exercise to help manage anxiety and stress. Like honing any habit it takes time and effort, but it’s something I’m making an effort to work on a little bit every day and slowly but surely these efforts are paying off and I am developing new tools to manage my anxiety and counter it in a positive way by redirecting the way I think about things (ie the ‘what ifs’ and the ‘should bes’, etc).
Mindfulness is a word I heard a lot last year, but it wasn’t something I pursued until towards the end of the year. To be honest, I sometimes had a hard time focusing and this is where a lot of my effort comes in. In order to be more positive, more mindful, I needed to turn inwards and focus, not fall into old mental patterns simply because they were my old internal go-tos.
In other words, focus on the present.
Don’t focus on things in the past you can’t change and don’t worry about the future. Easier said than done, but not impossible. By living in the moment, by being present, you can free your mind from things that are weighing you down and infuse more positivity. There are many simple things you can do each day to help create a more positive, calm mindset, and the best part is you don’t need much else outside of yourself to do so.
From chatting with others, I think mindfulness is something a lot of us are thinking about. We’re becoming more self- aware and reflective; we’re looking for ways to bring peace and calm into our lives, and for all the external things we can do, there are just as many internal things we can do as well. Enjoying a happier, calmer, more fulfilling life doesn’t depend on anyone else or our circumstances- though those things can certainly have a big influence- it depends on our outlook and how we travel through each day.
I’m no expert. I don’t have a degree in psychology and I navigate this mindful path anew every day- because what two days are the same, right?- but I can speak from my own experience and share about it here, hoping some of the simple actions and rituals I try to include in each day will be helpful to others trying to focus on the positive, seeking peace, and a more fulfilled, content life not chained by anxiety, worry and stress.
I still have bad days, bad moments, I still stumble and fall. But what I notice is that I can pick myself up a little better, combat anxiety a little easier, and focus on the positive a little faster to pull myself out of a negative thought spiral than I could before. And this is because I’ve made it a personal goal to be more mindful of where my mind is in this present moment, working to keep my mind traveling down a positive path, redirecting it when negative thoughts jump into the mix and try to take the driver’s seat.
So if being more mindful is something you’re also working towards, for whatever reason(s) you’re seeking it out- a sense of calm, better sleep, feeling more content, having a more positive outlook- etc, I hope some of the simple tools that I’ve turned to will also be helpful for you. I try to use methods that can easily be incorporated into my daily routine, but I’m also trying to put aside 5- 10 minutes each day to help focus on a more calm, positive mind space. Nothing over-the-top or fancy, just simple things that add up over time to create positive, mindful habits.
None of these ideas are necessarily groundbreaking, you’re probably familiar with some if not all of them, but the reason I’m sharing them with you is that they have been helpful for me and I have found that over time they’ve become positive triggers for me, working a little quicker, becoming more of a go-to response than that of unease and anxiety. Finding inner calm is unique for everyone, but these ideas will hopefully give you some ideas or have you reconsidering ones you’ve heard of when you hear it from someone who has herself felt overcome and trapped by anxiety and has found ways to combat it through mindful practices.
I would love to hear what you think and what methods you use to create a more positive, mindful mental space for yourself. Have you tried any of these methods? Liked or disliked them? Sharing ideas around this can be so helpful, especially when you realize you’re not alone. So here they are, my 5 favourite mindful habits.
5 Ideas to be More Mindful Every Day
Think: the smell of something baking in the oven, the scent of a loved- ones perfume/cologne, etc- smells can be comforting. Find a scent you enjoy, one that is calming and encourages you to breathe deeply. Essential oils and diffusers are a popular choice, but scented candles, room sprays, and fresh flowers are other options. Take long, slow, deep breaths, calming your mind and body from the inside out
Put aside a few minutes to quiet your mind. Even 5 minutes at the beginning or the end of the day. Think about goals, things you’re grateful for, etc. My mind tends to wander. A lot. So this is a positive, challenging exercise for me and one that I find very helpful. Ideally find a quiet spot to sit or lie down and put on some relaxing music, light a candle, and create a calming space. You can even meditate while going about your day- while making breakfast, sipping your coffee, etc, activities like this are great opportunities to focus on the moment you are in and focus/ quiet your mind without stopping what you’re doing (I find this especially helpful since my anxiety will often creep up during the day when I’ve got things to do and have to find ways to quiet my mind while carrying out my to-do list).
Find Little Rituals
Light a candle, play calming music, water plants, dig in the dirt, or find some other little ritual to help you recenter/ refocus on positive, calming thoughts. Whether you sit and really focus on the activity itself or the action of creating a more calming space helps you subconsciously calm down, seek out visual cues and actions that trigger inner warmth and joy. Really focus on the simple task at hand, noticing little details, redirecting your mind from negative thoughts to become fully present with what is right in front of you. Pay attention to your five senses and try to allow yourself to be fully present in what you’re doing.
Practice an Attitude of Gratitude
It’s a pretty safe bet there will be ups and downs with every day. Some days those highs and lows are more pronounced and others the day seems to coast along nicely. But regardless, a helpful way to bring your mind into a positive space and create a positive mental habit is to think about what you’re grateful for each day. If you prefer to start your day with this practice, great, it’s a solid way to kick off your day. But it’s also something you can do throughout the day when you need a pick-me-up or notice yourself slipping down a negative rabbit hole. I like to think about what I’m grateful for at night before bed, it helps me wind down and sends me off to sleep in a positive mind frame. I have a gratitude journal that I jot bullet- points in, thinking back over the day and pulling out all the positives. Some days I make a few simple, general notes; maybe it wasn’t such a great day, but I find something to remind me of the positives. On others I fill the page, recounting everything from the biggest to the smallest moments that filled my heart that day. A simple little ritual that has had a big impact on my overall mental state and if you haven’t tried this method I hope you do. Even if a day feels hopeless/ lost, something as basic as fresh air, a cup of hot coffee, or hearing a favourite song can be a cue for other things that happened throughout the day that made it a little better. Let the positive flood gates open!
Focus on Breathing
Probably one of the simplest, most self- contained of any mindful practices I’ve come across and found helpful. But in moments of angst and panic this can feel like a much tougher task. Try and take long, slow, cleansing breaths. In through the nose, out through the mouth. Repeat. Feel your lungs and body fill with oxygen, spreading the calm throughout. Sometimes this can help almost instantly and others it takes a longer period, but slowing and concentrating on your breathing can help create an overall feeling of calm.
As I said before, I’m no expert. Just someone looking for methods to help enjoy a more peaceful, content, joy-filled life. Through these mindful practices I am learning how to address my anxiety and stress in a much more constructive way, and breaking it down rather than having it build up and become overwhelming. There are days that are more challenging than others, but the more I work on these mindfulness techniques, the better I feel that I can bounce back.
I hope you find this post helpful. Sometimes simple is better and I am finding that these simple techniques add up to create a big difference. If you’ve tried these methods I’d love to hear if you find them helpful, or if not, what you have found that is.
Anyone else feeling the winter blues? I always get to this time of year and ask ‘is it Summer yet’? Once we get through New Years I wish we could flip a switch and bring back the warm and sunny weather, skip all the grey and rain (hey, the rain isn’t always a bad thing but we get a lot of it here and it can get to you when you haven’t seen blue sky in a few days). This time of year is hard for a lot of people, so I thought now would be a good time to think up a few ideas to try and keep everybody in high spirits. I’m sharing 5 below and would love to hear how you count down to the brighter days this time of year! View Post
I think we all have things about our bodies we don’t love, that we’d like to change, maybe try on a different version if we had a chance. Sound about right? I joke that I wish I had a smaller nose and bigger boobs. Someone got the recipe mixed up when they made me!… or so I joke. View Post
We share beautiful moments online captured in photos- the highlight reel as many call it- but much less often share the tough moments, the hard days. This blog is my outlet, so I like it to be a fun place, but I also want it to be real and honest. On some days when I post a light- hearted photo on social media, it’s because I need that outlet, that distraction. It’s not to be fake or to make things seem better than they are, it’s me trying to stay positive, lighten the day.
It’s not very often I sit down to write a post and struggle to find words, I’m a pretty open book and they usually come easy. But this post is different. It’s different from anything I have posted before because it’s not coming from me, it’s coming from Will. I’ve opened up about some of the personal struggles I faced in the past year (you can see those posts here and here), but I didn’t share the whole story- some of the things that happen behind the scenes with our family as a whole- because it wasn’t mine to tell. It was Will’s. And I respected his privacy because that’s what he wanted and deserved. But after the amazing experience and response I had after sharing about my own challenges, I thought it may have the same positive impact for Will and those who read his words, and I asked if he might be interested in sharing part of himself here.
At first he was hesitant, unsure if it was something he was comfortable with, and understandably so. But after talking things through, he ultimately decided that he’d give it a try; to open up and talk about some things aren’t easy to address. And to his credit, I think this is challenging for guys more than for women, they tend not to talk as openly about things they deal with, so I admire, respect, and appreciate his willingness to put this out into the world, in the hopes that others may read it- men and women- and be able to relate, and maybe even find comfort in it.
For him, I hope he knows the impact that sharing can have, that every conversation we start is another voice added to the collective mix, and that it might be as helpful to him- cleansing even- as it hopefully will be to those who read this and struggle with similar things. This is about being honest and real online and in life, about trying to advocate that no matter what you face, no matter how overwhelming it can feel, you are not alone. This is Will’s story to share, and I cannot thank him enough for letting me help put it out into the world. Life is messy, it’s far from perfect, but it’s not without it’s beauty; sometimes you just have to fight a little harder for those beautiful moments or make them happen for yourself. I’m proud to call this man my husband, and you’ll see why. Behind his cheeky smile is a man who loves his family unconditionally, puts himself last, and has a strength found from navigating some interesting challenges. We wrote this post together and I think it’s about as honest it gets. So here we go…
You can’t tell by looking at me, but I struggle daily with some health- related challenges that have affected me for more than a decade. I’m going to be 31 this year and have dealt with many of these things for half of my life. This isn’t about wanting attention, or wanting a pity party. As a guy, the last thing you want to do is draw attention to these things and open up about them, but I also know the overwhelming feeling of isolation all too well- that feeling that no- one else understands- and facing that alone is not healthy.
I have lived with depression and anxiety since my mid teens, and have in recent years lived with chronic pain including myofacial disorder (this causes the body to feel pain unrelated from anything affecting it at the time- also known as referred pain- when you can experience pain for no apparent reason). It can feel like a vicious circle sometimes: the pain can trigger the anxiety and bring on depression and vice versa, my body responds before I have time to stop it. Going through life with these things isn’t easy. It’s changed every aspect of me. It’s changed my outlook on life- it tends to now be more dark and pessimistic; it makes me feel angry for what I’ve been faced with- and I have to work against this to stay positive. But as much as it can be challenging, I’ve also a learnt a lot from what I’ve experienced.
I don’t talk a lot about it with people because I feel judged, like it’s used against me. As hard as some people try to understand, there’s no way for them to. And I think as a guy you get treated differently because we’re expected to be tough and strong- to ‘man up’ and not talk about it. Women tend to talk more, and get sympathy and compassion. Let’s be honest, guys don’t usually talk much anyways, especially when it comes to problems. And obviously you’re not going to get support if you don’t talk about it, and that’s where it can be challenging as a man living in pain. But that’s why it’s important to talk about it.
Sometimes I feel like these issues have robbed me of who I should be. I feel like the real me is locked away and the key has been tossed. I’m not able to do as much as I want; I’m limited. Time is limited. Energy is limited. It’s hard to feel understood; getting love, support, and understanding is difficult because it’s something you can’t see. These things have made me more reclusive and anti social simply because it’s hard for people to understand. People often can’t tell I’m having a bad day; somedays it’s obvious by the look on my face, or maybe with how I carry myself. But on many days I hide it well- because I want to be strong for my family, and I hate thinking of this as my identity. But that doesn’t mean on those days I’m not suffering or in pain; it can make you feel isolated and alone. Like a prisoner trapped in your own body. I feel like I’ve lost sense of who I am, I don’t know who Will is anymore.
I live with these things everyday, which can get exhausting. It’s the same fight everyday just to keep my head above water and it can make it difficult to enjoy life the way I want to; many of the things I used to enjoy I can’t because of the pain. This can make you become very reclusive. People don’t understand; it’s difficult to explain and people often can jump to conclusions. I feel like I’m constantly judged for things that go on behind the scenes, for things that people can’t see. And I think that’s why it’s important we talk about these things, so others facing their own challenges know they’re not alone. It’s always comforting to speak with others who do understand and are going through the same or similar- and it’s a source of comfort speaking to them and knowing they feel the same way, face the same challenges.
Through everything, I’ve really learnt the importance of having a positive attitude, but will also be the first to admit it’s damn hard some days. You definitely have the days when things get the better of you and you throw yourself a pity party. But on the good days when you have a positive attitude it definitely helps, and you can remind yourself of why you do the things you do, why it’s all worth it. The pain’s always going to be there, but I can choose to be miserable and stay in bed all day or choose to be positive, to get up and live life. Mind over matter really does make a difference.
If I could give any advice to others struggling with similar things, it’s this: Don’t let the pain stop you from living life. Going out and living it will actually make it better. And sometimes you really aren’t doing it for yourself; you’ll do it for a loved one, push yourself for a loved one, and afterwards you’re glad you did.
A lot of times it’s easier to do things for other people because it’s easy to say no to yourself, avoid things for yourself. I find it’s harder for me to let others down than to let myself down; I want to make my loved ones happy and that pushes me even on the tough days. If my wife and kids weren’t in my life, I wouldn’t be working as much as I am; family is a good motivator (even if they can make life crazy and wild sometimes) they’re the motivator and reason to keep going, to keep trying.
To those who don’t suffer but are trying to understand for a loved one: things that help are love, patience and understanding. I don’t choose to suffer the way that I do and I have no control over it. I do what I can to make things better where and when I can, to stay positive, but it’s rarely that simple. It can be frustrating for loved ones and I know they can lose their patience, but it helps when we feel loved and supported, even if they can’t understand what we’re going through.
To those who are suffering from chronic pain- or have another challenge they’re facing: Focus on the positive and you’ll find the positive. It helps. It can turn a shitty day into a good day. If you focus on the negative, all you’re going to find is the negative and I know that first hand. Know that you’re not alone and make an effort to connect with others who do understand, if only to help you keep your sanity intact.
For our family, we are working on finding things that work for us: improving communication within our marriage, speaking with counsellors, and setting realistic, flexible goals as things to look forward to and get us through the tough days have helped. Eating healthier and exercise have also made a difference. There is no formula, you have to find outlets that work for you, but they do exist.
We hope sharing about this contributes to the conversation of tough topics in a positive way, to help break down the stigmas surrounding mental health and other challenges people face. Whether you are the person struggling with something or you know someone who is, we hope sharing about our journey helps in some way. Like the saying goes ‘don’t judge a book by it’s cover’- you never know by looking at someone what they may be facing in life, and sometimes something as simple as a smile or a hug can be the thing that turns someone’s day around. Life isn’t always happy and positive, sometimes you have to find your happy place, and that’s ok. It doesn’t mean it’s not there. You just might have to work a little harder, but you’ll appreciate it that much more once you get there.
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