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How to Mind Your Mindfulness and Enjoy Better Health

From an early age, we've been continually reminded that diet, rest and exercise are big contributors to our overall health. But our mental well-being is also part of our overall health, and it actually impacts our physical health. So, by working on ourselves mentally, we benefit physically. A great way to start is by improving your mindfulness.

What exactly is mindfulness?

Mindfulness has been defined as the practice of focusing your attention solely on the present moment, while shutting everything else out, including judgement. Scientific studies have found that mindfulness is a key contributor in reducing stress and increasing happiness. It’s been proven to break negative thought patterns, reduce stress and anxiety and increase focus. So, mindfulness is a very good thing, any way you look at it.

mother and daughter embracing in the kitchen

10 questions to ask yourself to gauge your mindfulness level.

How mindful are you currently? Ask yourself the following questions to get a read on how well you’re incorporating mindfulness into your daily life.

  1. Are you constantly on autopilot and can’t remember getting from one place to another?
  2. Do you often find yourself doing two tasks at once? (Folding laundry while watching tv, cooking dinner while helping kids with homework?)
  3. Do you rush to get through things just to get them over with or cross them off your list?
  4. Are you an overthinker who spends more time thinking than doing?
  5. Do you complain about things throughout your day?
  6. Are you uncomfortable being alone?
  7. Do you find yourself eating without really savouring your food?
  8. Do you tend to see the bad before the good, when things aren’t going well?
  9. Are you distracted when talking to others?
  10. Do you often get frustrated and angry about little things?

If you answered yes more than no, then consider incorporating more mindfulness into your day.

mother and daughter doing yoga together

How do you practice mindfulness?

While meditation is probably the most common way to practice mindfulness, it’s not the only way. If you’re not a fan of sitting cross legged with your palms facing the sky, there are plenty of other easy ways to incorporate mindfulness into your day. Mindfulness experts even have strategies to get kids more mindful, to help control anxiety levels and boost focus and calmness.

Be “present” while walking or driving

Be aware of getting from point A to point B – even if you’re just getting up to get your coffee or are driving to the grocery store. Focus on where you’re going and you’ll start to notice things like how great that coffee smells or how sweet it is that the elderly couple crossing the street is holding hands. Low and behold, you may find yourself smiling at little things a whole lot more. Plus, by paying more attention, you’ll be helping make our roads safer too.

man enjoying his coffee

Be aware when eating

Put away the phone, the book, turn off the TV and try focusing on just eating. Inhale the aroma, notice the colours and textures of your food. Slow down and take the time to taste and savour what you’re eating. If you’re the type to wonder how you just ate an entire bowl of popcorn while watching a movie, this practice has your name on it.

Make time for gratitude

It’s been scientifically proven that being grateful can boost your mental and physical health. So, take time to notice and be thankful for the good things that happen throughout your day – large and small. Think about things that have gone well, the feel of sunshine on your face, how good it feels to complete a task, something nice that somebody did for you. Find the silver linings and make mental note of them.

friends talking while sitting

Listen completely

Try to clear your mind of clutter and actually focus on the conversation you’re in. That means giving people the chance to finish their thoughts without interruption. That little period of extra silence when you’re not speaking will give you the opportunity to digest what’s being said and may just help you see the other person’s perspective a little more clearly.

Notice your breathing

Take a few minutes to focus on your breaths in and out. To do this, you’ll have to naturally push all other thoughts out of your head. That’s a good thing! Ready to take breathing a step farther? Try meditating. Even just 10 minutes a day has been shown to increase energy, happiness and calmness.

Mind wandering? Return to the present

It’s not easy to stop our minds from wandering into places of anxiety or stress. When you feel this happening, take a deep calming breath. Then think about three things you can see, hear and physically feel right at that moment. That will get you centered on the “here and now” again.

woman resting at home with laptop on desk

Press pause

Don’t jump from task to task on auto pilot. Scheduling in mini pauses throughout your day before starting new tasks renews your energy and gives you more focus. What do you hear, smell and see? What are you feeling? Taking “stock” will help you start that next task in a better place.

Get lost in what you love

Whether you relish reading, cooking, painting, the great outdoors or just spending time doing nothing with a loved one, give yourself permission to enjoy it fully without guilt for taking the time to do it. Set a timer if you need to, to signal when you need to head back to reality. But give yourself that time to get lost in the flow, if only for a little while.

Ensure you have a good health plan in place to take care of your mental and physical health

Knowing that you have protection to help with unexpected health care costs can help reduce feelings of stress and anxiety. Purchasing a health care plan can help cover costs which may not be covered by your government health insurance plan such as vision care, dental care and prescription drugs, as well as services provided by specialists such as psychologists, registered dieticians, naturopaths and registered massage therapists. BCAA offers Health and Dental Insurance plans in association with Manulife, to help you take care of your physical and mental health and fill in the gaps not covered through BC’s Medical Services Plan (MSP). Starting from only $1 day*, you can customize your coverage to suit your needs and budget.

From practicing mindfulness to making sure you have a good health plan in place, be sure to take care of yourself. After all, if you’re not going to do it, who will?

Article shared with permission from CAA South Central Ontario

*Applies to the Basic Extended Health Care product – individual rate and aged 18-54. Health & Dental Insurance is sold through B.C.A.A. Holdings Ltd. dba BCAA Insurance Agency, a licensed insurance agent, and underwritten by the Manufacturers Life Insurance Company (Manulife Financial). Manulife, Manulife & Stylized M Design, and Stylized M Design are trademarks of The Manufacturers Life Insurance Company and are used by it, and by its affiliates under license. CAA and BCAA trademarks are owned by, and use is authorized by, the Canadian Automobile Association. © 2021 The Manufacturers Life Insurance Company. All rights reserved. Manulife, P.O. Box 670, Stn Waterloo, Waterloo, ON N2J 4B8.