The holiday season may be the most wonderful time of the year. But for those of us who live in the real world—exhausted and overwhelmed, financially strapped, burdened by loneliness or depression, or grieving the loss of a loved one—it’s also the most stressful. We hope, like a relaxing spa treatment for the mind, our week of well-being and inspiration will help to alleviate a tiny bit of that holiday stress.
In our posts on mindfulness, community, and the benefits of volunteering, it’s our hope that you’ll discover new ways of fighting (potentially debilitating) everyday stress, keeping it from spilling over into the new year, and that you’ll be inspired to take the best possible care of yourself, beginning right now!
A million thanks to Jennifer Landis and Ashley Stafford, for contributing their thoughtful, inspiring posts, to Donna Brown, for creating these beautiful pages—and to each of you, for taking precious time from your busy life to listen in—or join—our conversation on personal well-being. Please relax and enjoy!
Mindfulness has become something of a buzzword of late, referring, of course, to paying attention to what we’re experiencing, internally and externally, in the present moment. All fine and good, but what exactly is a mindful state? In a world where most of us are constantly on the go, how do we get there?
Ellen Langer, a social psychologist and author of eleven books and hundreds of articles on mindfulness, associates four domains with mindful thinking: novelty-seeking, or perceiving each situation as an opportunity to learn something new; engagement, noticing details about one’s relationship with the environment; novelty producing—generating new information in order to learn more about the current situation; and flexibility, by which she means welcoming rather than resisting a changing environment.
In her engaging and informative post, Jennifer Landis, owner of the Mindfulness Mama blog, addresses each of these domains and offers excellent tips and advice on how to achieve a more mindful state.
Welcome, Jennifer! I’m thrilled to have you with us today!
12 Tips to Stay Mindful While Writing
Mindfulness isn’t a new practice, but it’s become increasingly popular lately since people have heard about its numerous benefits, which range from stress relief to improved concentration.
Many people use mindfulness to become better at careers or hobbies. If you’re a writer, there are several ways to use mindfulness to enhance your efforts.
Here are 12 of them:
1. Tune Into Your Senses
Mindfulness is about being present. To apply that skill to writing, pay attention to things you see, smell, taste, feel and hear. Then, try composing a paragraph about what you’ve noticed.
Doing that regularly could help your writing become more descriptive.
2. Don’t Worry About Perceived Failures
One of the reasons people begin practicing mindfulness is because they’re tired of being held back by past regrets or worries about the future. If your writing is hindered by your perceived inability to use words well, put fears to rest and practice free writing. Jot down whatever comes to mind — words, phrases, thoughts, etc.
That practice may generate some great ideas — as well as boost your confidence about your writing abilities.
3. Create a Nurturing Place to Write
Make a dedicated space for writing that helps you feel most comfortable. That may mean investing in a supportive chair or burning your favorite incense or candle as you write.
4. Recognize What’s Within and Outside of Your Control
Some writers become overly stressed over things they can’t control. Maybe you felt flustered lately when a client was late sending a brief for an upcoming article. Although that’s upsetting, it’s not something you could have done anything about.
On the other hand, if you’re finding it hard to concentrate on a journaling project for your creative writing class, it might be worthwhile to exert control over the situation by moving to a quieter place. One element of mindfulness relates to understanding things you can and cannot control.
5. Unplug From Technology
Technology can facilitate writing, but it can also disrupt it. Constant alerts from your cell phone are almost guaranteed to stop words from flowing. Emphasize mindfulness by turning off gadgets as you write.
If necessary, send quick, pre-composed messages to let people know you’ll call them back or when you’ll be reachable again.
6. Cultivate Happiness
Finding inspiration for your next great novel may seem impossible if you’re down in the dumps. Use mindfulness as a method of increasing happiness in your life.
You can simply practice gratitude for the things you have instead of dwelling on what you lack. You might even want to start a journal detailing all the things that fill you with gratefulness each day.
7. Practice Self Kindness
Even the best writers have off days, so you’re permitted to experience them, too. Instead of letting your mind fill up with destructive thoughts, though, be kind to yourself and realize tomorrow is a new day — and the perfect opportunity to get back on track.
8. Realize New Ideas Can Come When Least Expected
Some writers unintentionally complicate things by setting aside specific blocks of time to come up with new blog topics, article angles and chapter outlines. Break free from that technique and aim to be more aware of the things happening around you.
When you keep an open mind, things like snarky bumper sticker phrases, cool clothing styles and unusual weather could all stimulate your creativity and become new writing prompts.
9. Schedule Sessions With a Fellow Mindful Writer
Maybe your best friend is also a writer, and they got you interested in mindfulness. If so, you have an ideal chance to learn from their example. Just find out if they’d like to schedule some collaborative writing sessions.
During those times, watch how they conduct themselves and adopt some of their habits as your own, if appropriate.
10. Listen to Your Gut Instinct
Feedback from editors, clients and colleagues is often a good thing, especially if it’s constructive. However, it can also drown out your inner voice.
If you feel strongly about a decision that relates to your writing, don’t back down from it merely because of what people say. Being mindful sometimes means listening to instinct and intuition.
11. Monitor Your Attention Level
It’s natural for your attention to temporarily drift as you write. Rather than getting upset when it happens, recognize when it does and devote your energy to fully focusing on writing again as soon as possible.
Do that consistently until your attention level is characteristically high, even in distracting environments.
12. Appreciate Opportunities to Learn
Criticism about your writing can sting, especially when it’s published in major media outlets.
When receiving criticism, keep your mind as calm as possible. Try to see the negative opinion as a potential learning opportunity that clues you into ways you could improve.
Hopefully these 12 suggestions prove you don’t have to be a master of mindfulness to start seeing its benefits. It’s easy to try many of the tips the next time you sit down to write.
Jennifer Landis is a mom, wife, and healthy living blogger at Mindfulness Mama. She loves yoga, distance running, peanut butter, and spending the small amount of free time she has watching Netflix with her husband.
Follow her on Twitter: @JenniferELandis.
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