Mindful Living and the Four Pillars of Health

Women relaxing in a chair drinking coffee or tea.
© alenkasm – depositphotos.com

There’s no question that life is stressful for us all these days. In our last post, we discussed the importance of mindfulness and the benefits of mindful living. Today we’ll look more closely at mindful living, and help you use it to improve your own health and well-being.

From mindless to mindful

Before we can create new mindfulness habits in different areas of our lives, it helps to acknowledge what we’re doing now and why it’s not working.

So if mindful living is our intention, what is mindless living? In this state we might be cruising around life on auto-pilot, constantly jumping from one activity to another – or more likely doing two or three things at the same time!

This chronic, perpetual busy-ness creates a sense of overwhelm, depletion, and fatigue. Our thinking is so chaotic that we make mistakes, or we worry about making mistakes. To make matters worse, we judge ourselves and others against an unrealistically high standard that no one could ever meet, causing even more misery.

With all of the drawbacks of mindless living, why would we ever choose this? Several things can keep us stuck here, including guilt, people-pleasing, drama, overwhelm, and chronic busy-ness.

What’s possible when we embrace mindful living? By paying attention to our thoughts and actions in every moment, we can choose or accept them with purpose. We can let go of judgment, and trust that what is happening is exactly what is supposed to be happening.

This creates a sense of ease and relaxation that feels peaceful to us and wonderful to others as well. They can sense our acceptance and hopefully that helps them relax their own judgments and self-criticism. Regardless of what anyone else does, your own experience of each relationship will improve.

Mindful living and the four pillars of health

Here are some ways to apply mindfulness in each of the areas that I refer to as the four pillars of health:

1. Mindful Eating

  • Eat with awareness
  • Reclaim the pleasure of food
  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Improve your digestion
  • Appreciate all the senses
  • Recognize the sources of your food
  • Contribute to your community
  • Eat with compassion

2. Mindful Movement

  • Moderate – not too much or too little
  • Check your purpose
  • Have fun
  • Feel good
  • Customize a plan just for you, with things like:
    • Walking
    • Yoga
    • Pilates
    • Tai Chi
    • Stretching
    • Dance

3. Stress Management

  • Mindfulness meditation
  • Relaxation (e.g., progressive muscle relaxation)
  • Breathing techniques
  • Writing and journaling
  • Delegating
  • Sharing
  • Asking for help
  • Supporting others

4. Clear Thinking

Use these suggestions and tools to create your own mindful living plan. Remember to take slow, small steps as you build these habits. Some of these things may be totally new to you, and it’s okay to feel some discomfort or even embarrassment. Name your emotions and accept them as part of you.

Above all, have compassion for yourself. If you forget or choose not to do one of your mindful living practices one day, notice and then let it go and move on.