3 Ways to Live Mindfully Every Day

3 Ways to Live Mindfully Every Day

Happy (belated) Fourth of July! 🇺🇸

It was kind of a weird one, wasn’t it? On a Wednesday, right in the middle of the week, forcing most of us to stick near our homes rather than jet (or boat) off to some sandy coast. And — in Sioux Falls, anyway — the weather was moody, too wet for fireworks.

Still, we made the best of it. We brought out the burgers and the beer and the American flag bandanas, all in the spirit of independence and pride.

Naturally, the festivities got me thinking. What are we really celebrating on the Fourth of July? Our country’s freedom, of course.

But that’s a bit of a blanket statement, isn’t it? There are so many freedoms — specific, individual freedoms — worth our celebration. It’s not enough to wave a flag in a crowd and call yourself “patriotic.” We need to name these rights, to own and cherish these personal privileges we’ve been granted.

I’m trying to be more present to the small blessings in my life, and I’m finding it makes me a more appreciative person in general.

Here are three simple ways to pay closer attention to the concrete freedoms in your own life — morning, noon, and night.

1. Start Each Morning with Paper + Pen 📝

The Five-Minute Journal with glasses and pen

Image credit: Intelligent Change

After filling my coffee mug, the first thing I do every morning is settle into my favorite chair by the window, gathering my Bible, my Five-Minute Journal, and my pen (and sometimes my puppy) into my lap.

Given to me by my Secret Santa last year, the Five-Minute Journal is intended to help you practice mindful reflection, prompting you with five thoughtful statements or questions to consider each day:

  1. I am grateful for . . .
  2. What would make today great?
  3. Daily affirmations. I am . . .
  4. Three amazing things that happened today . . .
  5. How could I have made today better?

Technically, you’re supposed to write in the journal both morning and night, but I do it all in the morning — first jotting down the wonderful things that happened yesterday, then moving on to how I hope the coming day will unfold.

This morning routine has become a pivotal part of my day. It grounds me, calms me, points me toward what’s truly worth my focus. If I miss a day, I feel noticeably more unsettled as the morning unfolds.

Before you begin your day, take a few moments to practice mindfulness, preferably on paper. Not only will the act of writing reinforce your words, it will also provide a record of gratitude that you can reference down the road.

Even after only a few months of journaling, I’ve already been encouraged to see patterns revealed. By learning what I’m good at noticing, I’m able to more proactively work on what I’m not — making me a more attentive, intentional person overall.

2. Take (At Least) One Picture / Video a Day 📸

Woman taking photograph with sunset and ocean behind her

Think about it. Have you ever actually regretted taking a photograph (other than in middle school)?

Awkward stages aside, old pictures often elicit in us a sense of nostalgia, reminding us how happy we were, “how good we had it.” But old pictures weren’t always old.

It’s like that old Chinese proverb: “The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.”

Videos are, arguably, even more important to capture. Last year, when my sister had her first baby, she made a secret pact to take at least one video of her little girl every day. At Stella’s first birthday party, Lauren surprised her husband with a compilation of those videos, which she made with the app 1 Second Everyday.

The app’s motto? “Life is made of seconds.”

Don’t let those seconds slip by unnoticed. Document them — even if it feels stupid — and you’ll catch them like fireflies in a jar; they’ll illuminate now and then, giving you a greater appreciation of your life and the light it’s made.

Disclaimer: Don’t document purely with social media in mind. If you’re already dreaming about filters and likes, you’re not staying present to the moment you’re hoping to remember . . . which defeats the entire purpose.

My husband and I are trying to take more pictures and videos of not only our special occasions, but also our everyday lives. There will be something infinitely precious, I think, about sitting on our couch 50 years from now, watching the simple scene of a summer evening on the deck of our first home, Troy grilling, me petting our preteen pup, warm breeze blowing helicopter seeds across the dirty wood floor.

It’s already making me wistful.

3. End Every Evening Outside 🌤

Hand holding jar with fireflies at sunset

Whenever I’m feeling uninspired — personally or creatively — I know it’s time to venture outdoors.

I’ve learned that I am a person who is deeply affected by my surroundings. I’m particular about my seat in the coffee shop, my spot in the office, which restaurant we choose for date night — in all cases, the setting in which I work and eat and live is important. I imagine it is for you, too, even if you don’t think about it.

For me, the best backdrop is always outside.

I know, I know; weather can be fickle. There are bugs and humidity and noisy neighbors, and sometimes the A/C just beckons. But I find that — like going to the gym — if I just get my butt outside, I won’t regret it.

Especially at the end of a long day, nothing feels more peaceful than enjoying a meal on the patio or taking the dog for a meandering walk. I seem to do my best writing outside, too — something I’m sure most nature photographers, plein air painters, and other artists can understand.

If you’ve been stuck in a nightly rut of Netflix and takeout, I encourage you to change things up tonight. Look up a new recipe. Invite someone over. And go outside. You’ll notice your life in a whole new light.

What Freedoms Are You Grateful For?

People partying on a deck at night by water

This July — and this year — I’m trying to be mindful of more than just “independence.”

Yes, I am thankful for my freedom . . . but more specifically, I am thankful for my freedom of speech, my freedom to work flexible hours, my freedom to blare “Party in the U.S.A.” at the pool, plastic cup in hand.

Gratitude means nothing if it doesn’t come from the heart. So what, specifically, is your heart grateful for?

Take some time this week to recognize the little blessings in your life — in words, in images, in nature. Together, those little blessings are what make your life worth living.

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