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You may have heard the word “mindfulness” here and there. It seems to be a buzz word these days. But do you really know what it means and how it can help you?

According to the dictionary, mindfulness means the quality or state of being conscious or aware of something. In other words, it means being “present” or paying attention to what is happening as it is happening.

As we go through our days, many times we just go through the motions. We get up and end up on autopilot. We eat breakfast and go to work or get the kids to school, and sometimes we have a moment of clarity but wonder how we got here. Sometimes I think to myself, “I don’t remember driving here,” or “Why am I doing this?” It seems like so many of us end up thinking these types of thoughts.

So how do we start to really LIVE and enjoy every minute? One big way is through mindfulness.

Any time you are feeling like life is going too fast or things are happening without you noticing, you can simply stop and do a mindfulness exercise. You can find a bunch on practicingmindfulness.com. According to the website, here is one to try:

“Wherever you are, just stop and look around when safe to do so. Become aware of everything that your senses pick up.  How do you feel?  Do you feel over-stimulated? Do you feel anxious?”

The important thing during mindfulness practice is to allow your feelings to flow in and out. Notice them, and then let them go. Don’t judge your feelings as being good or bad—just notice them for what they are. This is just a beginning, so make sure to practice being mindful often and soon it will become second nature.

Besides being mindful of life in general, you can also be mindful of different things about yourself. One thing that is really effective is building a positive image through mindfulness. Maybe you are skeptical of how your thoughts can change your body image. Let’s talk about that.

Answer the following questions:

What do you think about your body?
Overall, is your body image negative or positive?
What do you like about it?
What do you dislike about it or what would you change if you could?

As you answer those questions, I want you to think about where your thoughts about your body come from. If you think you are “fat” or “ugly,” where did your ideas of fat and ugly come from? Do you ever think that about other people? At what point is someone fat or ugly? If you don’t like your nose, is it because of what other people have said about it or is it from comparing your nose to other people’s noses? Are you realizing that body image is completely subjective to feelings?

Maybe you don’t realize it, but as you have been considering these questions you have been practicing being mindful. You aren’t just passively allowing your body image to be a certain way, you are consciously thinking about your feelings and why they are happening.

One big thing to consider: make sure not to judge that your feelings are right or wrong—just let them come. Feel them. I know many of you may feel that you are ugly or fat in some way. It feels bad. Those feelings aren’t right or wrong, they are just feelings. Let them come and just let them be. Only then can you start to let them go.

It really helps if you start to “observe” your feelings. For example, if you don’t like your nose, look at yourself in the mirror and allow your feelings to come. But try to “observe” your feelings. Imaging yourself watching your feelings as they float to you, then watch as they float away.

The nice thing about observing your feelings is that it helps you start to separate yourself from them. YOU aren’t your feelings. You are just YOU. Being mindful means you are just allowing yourself to BE.

Once you master that, you can then actively allow yourself to think differently. This is going to take more work over time, because you are letting go of your old feelings and realizing the reasons WHY you thought that way don’t have to create your future feelings.

Just because you didn’t like your nose before doesn’t mean you can’t start liking it now.
Just because you think you are ugly doesn’t mean you can’t see yourself as beautiful.
Just because you feel negatively towards yourself doesn’t mean that you aren’t amazing.

You ARE amazing.

Don’t expect to change negative feelings into positive feelings overnight. It takes mindful practice and the hope that change can happen. If you’ve had a negative body image for a while, it is definitely going to take a long time to shift from that mentality. But when you are more aware of your life, and more aware of YOU, then you can start to focus on living and being in the moment.