How To Become More Conscious In Your Everyday Life
If I were to ask you, what was the last thing you were doing when you landed on this article, what would your answer be?
Chances are, you were most likely multitasking at some level. Maybe it popped up on your notification tab in the middle of work. Or, you may have come across it while casually checking your phone as you sat down to eat. Or maybe, you found it while scrolling through your social media feed at bedtime.
With our lives becoming increasingly hectic and rushed, coupled with the pervasiveness of distractions and the constant influx of information beckoning for our attention, thanks to smartphones and social media, our ability to “tune out the noise” and be present in the moment is decreasing.
This kind of distracted or unmindful living comes at a cost. From mental fog, stress, and anxiety to insomnia, impaired memory and decreased ability to learn, distracted living can severely affect your physical and mental well-being. Unsurprisingly, it can also limit your productivity. In fact, science suggests that the mere presence of your smartphone can diminish your cognitive capacity when you’re trying to focus on a task.
Plus, not to mention, you miss out on so much of life simply because you aren’t paying attention.
On the other hand, when you live consciously or mindfully, “you have a more joyful, energetic body, a clear and creative mind, a loving, compassionate heart and healthier relationships,” says Dr. Deepak Chopra, celebrity meditation maestro, clinical professor of family medicine and public health at the University of California and co-author of Living In The Light.
Moreover, “you have [a] lightness of being and you do not have the fear of death,” he adds. “Because [death] happens to your body and your mind, but not to awareness or consciousness. So that’s the ultimate goal in every spiritual tradition—it’s called waking up,” says the integrative health expert.
“To be awake is to embrace full self-awareness,” writes Dr. Chopra in one of his self-help guides, Metahuman: Unleashing Your Infinite Potential. “[It’s] like tuning in to the whole radio band instead of one narrow channel,” he notes.
Simply put, it’s about bringing intention and awareness into all aspects of your life.
To help you on this wellness journey, Dr. Chopra shares five essential keys to living life more consciously:
- Be proactive, not reactive. It’s a mental shift from simply letting life happen to you to being conscious of it and making intentional choices. “Without conscious living, we wouldn’t be able to connect with anything or anyone at the level of creativity. We would always be at the level of reactivity,” Dr. Chopra points out. “It’s like being at the mercy of every stranger on the street. That’s no way to live,” he adds. Practicing active listening, taking a five-second pause before responding, assessing your triggers and learning to not take everything personally are a few effective strategies to overcome emotional reactivity.
- Find and reconnect with your authentic self. “We have sacrificed ourselves for selfies,” says Dr. Chopra. We no longer seem to know the difference between who we really are and our outward selves. Your body, your mind and your relationships, are all influenced by your ability to connect with your authentic self. “You can’t be in touch with anyone or anything, for that matter, if you are not in touch with yourself,” notes Dr. Chopra. Cultivating self-compassion, doing regular emotional check-ins, setting personal boundaries and learning to let go of perfectionism are a few ways to help you rediscover and reconnect with your true self. In addition, Dr. Chopra recommends practicing Royal yoga (Raja yoga). This form of yoga includes eight key steps or eight limbs (ashtanga). Namely, Yama and Niyama—for honing social and emotional intelligence, Asana or the physical postures, Pratyahara which is the withdrawal of the senses, Pranayama or controlled breathing to regulate the autonomic nervous system, Dharna which is basically focused attention, Dhyana which is meditation and lastly Samadhi—the final stage at which you attain spiritual enlightenment. “We use these eight limbs to be consciously aware of every choice we make and every sensory perception [that] we have,” says Dr.Chopra. The goal of this eightfold practice is to help you achieve a state of self-realization instead of living like “a bundle of conditioned reflexes that are constantly being triggered by people and circumstances into predictable outcomes.” Over time, you’ll become more and more intentional about your words, actions, relationships, how you manage your ego, how you spend money and where you spend it, etc. “That’s the difference between a biological robot and somebody who’s an awakened being or a conscious being,” says Dr. Chopra.
- Be mindful of who you let in your life. Negative or toxic relationships deplete your mental and emotional reservoir and chip away at your sense of self-worth over time. Conscious living involves focusing on forging strong, meaningful relationships that are rooted in joy, positivity, mutual love and compassion, says Dr. Chopra.
- Sync your lifestyle habits with your biological rhythms. Biological rhythms or biorhythms refer to a series of repetitive biological processes that are regulated by your internal clock (eg: sleep, hunger, hormone secretion, etc.). Since these biorhythms can be easily influenced by environmental cues, it’s important to make sure that our lifestyle doesn’t disrupt these natural cycles. Making sure you have a sleep routine and sticking with it, waking up at the same time every day, exercising regularly, keeping a consistent meal schedule—all of these lifestyle tweaks can help you stay in tune with your biorhythms, says the endocrinologist. In addition, he recommends incorporating the Mediterranean diet or the Ayurvedic diet as both these eating plans are antiinflammatory (since they favor the consumption of whole foods like fruits, veggies and whole grains).
- Embrace living in the moment. You miss out on a lot of valuable moments and opportunities if you’re always “on the go” or constantly ruminating about the past. Instead, learn to focus on where you are, what you are doing and who you are with in that given moment. As renowned British philosopher, Alan Watts said, “The only way to get the best out of yourself is to live deliberately.” If you find your thoughts drifting away, simply bring your attention back to whatever you’re doing. Simple strategies like practicing breath awareness, monotasking, paying attention to your surroundings and savoring can help you develop this mindful habit.