There are many things in life that we can’t control. But there are many things that we can. The key to better control is mindful living. Dr. Melanie Austin-McCain, an occupational therapist and Assistant Professor at New York Institute of Technology School of Health Professions, says that mindfulness can help us live a longer, more positive life.
Austin-McCain says evidence shows that having a purpose in life is helpful in promoting good health and preventing chronic disease. While short-term goals like finishing school or completing a project are important, she says look beyond those kind of goals and find out who you are and what’s meaningful to you. Then, you can set goals that align with your unique sense of purpose.
Dr. Austin-McCain offers these six steps to purposeful living.
Meditate. Set aside brief periods of time to be still so you can visualize goals and set daily intentions. It’s easy to lose track of what your purpose is when you succumb to to-do lists, expected and unexpected tasks that each day brings and the pull of others who need your attention. Meditation throughout the day – even for a minute or two — is an effective way to reset your focus and process the impact of things to which you devote your time.
Move. Stretch your body and mind. Stay physically active and commit to exploring new ideas and strategies. Physical activity will bring oxygen to your blood and your brain, which can restore focus and concentration. Taking it one step further, research shows that there is a bi-directional benefit to physical activity. People who exercise regularly exhibit higher executive brain function and vice versa. An active lifestyle improves your brain’s ability to engage self-control, set and meet goals, resist temptation and solve problems.
Manage. Be the CEO of your life. Try a Strengths-Weaknesses-Opportunities-Threats, or SWOT, Analysis on your life. A personal SWOT Analysis can help identify and eliminate the mindless activities you do and put perceived threats to your goals in perspective. Afterward, you might discover that you need to declutter your personal spaces, plan meals to make eating healthy easier, or employ methods to address distractions and stay on track.
Maximize. Austin-McCain recommends adopting a “Future is Mine” mindset where challenges are opportunities. This way of thinking allows you to see the potential in yourself and others instead of dwelling on the negatives.
Find Meaning. Seek joy in the things you choose to do, be grateful and acknowledge those who support you. Even some of the bad things you experience can have meaning if they’re tied to your purpose and goals. If there is no joy or meaning in how you spend your time, you may be working against your purpose, which can drain your energy and even lead to depression.
Finally, Mentoring. Connect with people who can help improve various aspects of your life. Spending time with people who are achieving can be contagious. Tapping into the positive energy of others can boost your morale and renew your spirit. In addition, mentoring others can increase your confidence, giving you the mental and emotional fire to push through in the way you might encourage someone else to.
My book, “LIES That Limit: Uncover the Truth Of Who You Really Are,” was written for people looking to master conscious choice and mindful living. It provides tools that help you understand who you are at the core, rather than what society or well-meaning people in your circle have steered you toward. Until you peel back the layers of your upbringing, your relationships, your experiences and your passion, you may never uncover the strengths that are hiding beneath the person you are on the surface.
Remember, mindful living is a marathon. It’s a way of life that requires constant vigilance. But if you remain true to living with meaning and purpose, fear and obstacles will be easier to overcome.