Life is often a fast-paced mess.

There’s that project, working towards a promotion, that other side-gig, your brother’s wedding, your best friend’s birthday, the grocery store, dry-cleaning, errands, and what about that book you’ve been trying to write for the past two years? When on EARTH are you going to find time to do that?

man-practicing-mindfulness
Photo Credit: Afonso Coutinho on Unsplash

That was my life before I found mindfulness.

At the time, I practically gave myself a panic attack from over-exertion and found myself with enough stress and anxiety to last a lifetime. I knew something had to change, I just didn’t know what or how.

Mindfulness helps you go home to the present. And every time you go there and recognize a condition of happiness that you have, happiness comes.

Thich Nhat Hanh

Nearly a decade ago now, I discovered the practice of mindfulness.

Not only did it help me manage my stress and anxiety, but it also brought peace and balance to my life as a whole. Without having found it, I don’t really know where I’d be.

Mindfulness has changed my life in many ways and taught me a lot about life, but there are five things that have been really significant for me.

1. Peace and balance is found by rooting yourself in the present

We cause ourselves quite a bit of pain by hanging on to the past and future. It can be useful, but, like any good thing in life, it’s not so great in excess.

By focusing on the past, we develop regret and slow our progress. By becoming obsessed with the future, we don’t tend enough to our day-to-day life and cause ourselves suffering.

It’s important to remember the past and plan for the future, but mindfulness practice taught me that keeping ourselves primarily rooted in the present allows us to cultivate a sense of peace and balance that extends into our entire life. This alone makes the practice invaluable.

2. This moment is a renewable source of joy

happy-customer-clientMindfulness also showed me the beauty in each moment of life.

We’re always so occupied with our plans and responsibilities that we rarely notice what’s going on around us. But in each moment, there are tons of tiny little events that can bring us joy and that we easily ignore.

Examples include:

  • The swaying of the trees
  • The smile or presence of a loved one
  • The feeling of the sun on your skin or the cold air hitting your face
  • Or a view of nature (I love noticing the mountains from where I live)

These are all simple pleasures, things that are easy not to notice unless you’ve refined your moment-to-moment awareness. But once you do, you’re able to find an infinite number of joyful moments within reach.

3. You don’t have to live life in fast-forward

It’s hard, really hard to get over the idea that we always need to be rushing around. However, mindfulness practice allowed me to realize that rushing around wasn’t born of necessity but rather a flawed idea within the mind.

We feel like we can’t slow down. But this couldn’t be more false. Mindfulness taught me that I could slow down and — wait for it — get more done in the same period of time without killing myself. If this sounds unbelievable, there’s actually science to back it up.

What does this mean in practice? It means actually allowing yourself to get a good night’s sleep, take breaks during work, and — gasp — take the occasional day off. You’ll be surprised how much more productive this makes you the next time you sit down to work.

4. If you change your perspective, you change your life

By heightening your awareness with mindfulness practice, you gain an entirely new perspective on life.

This shift in perspective can help you work through stress, anxiety, daily challenges, and even tragedy. It teaches you about the impermanence of life and about the precious nature of every living thing. In fact, by gaining a new and clearer perspective, you’re able to more effectively work through many of life’s most difficult moments.

5. Self-awareness is incredibly powerful

Mindfulness practice teaches you the power of self-awareness.

Self-awareness is key in virtually everything you do, from becoming a better communicator to increasing emotional intelligence and confidence. But until you begin to develop your self-awareness, you have no idea of its power because you’ve never felt or experienced it.

Self-awareness is the basic ingredient for mastery. Think about it: how can you become better at something unless you’re clearly aware of what you’re doing wrong? You need to know what’s wrong before you can fix it. Without enough self-awareness, we can’t clearly identify the issue, especially if it has to do with our own psychology.

Before mindfulness, I lived stressed out and anxious, wondering how I was going to figure it all out. Now I’m in control.

My challenges haven’t disappeared, as that’s not the point of the practice, but I’m armed with a tool that’s powerful enough to help me stare those challenges down and come out the other side happier and more at peace.