Mindfulness: tips to avoid going through life on autopilot

Hi Beauties,

I’m so excited to share today’s guest post by Dawn Olivares. Mindfulness has been something I’ve been thinking a lot about lately and I love Dawn’s perspective on the topic.

In today’s post she provides practical tips and advice about how to stay present and avoid going through our days on autopilot. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!

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Growing up in the Midwest, seasons were clearly defined. From the farmers’ fields to the leaves on the trees, one look around, and you knew what season it was. Seasons can be defined not only by nature, but by spans of time in our lives. For me, seasons are often blocked around school years. I went from being in school, to college, to working in schools as an Occupational Therapist, and now my own children are in school.

There are many ways to consider seasons. Some are shorter like being engaged, pregnant, nursing, transitioning between jobs, or even the time spent without water while the plumbing is fixed. Some are longer like childhood, parenting, marriage, time at an employer, or time in a certain home. Some seasons are easy, some are difficult, some are happy, some are sad, some are left with fondness, some are ended with a “Whew I made it!” thought process, and some are transitioned out of with a sense of accomplishment.

Any way you look at it, our lives can be seen as a series of ongoing and overlapping seasons. No matter how the season is characterized, it is a part of your life, your story, meant to be written, meant to be lived. The trick is fully living and being fully present in each one.

How many times do we just “go through the motions” of our day, of our lives?

How many times have you taken a yoga class and instead of meditating, you made your grocery list? Have you ever been in the car or at home and had your child or spouse speak to you and not really heard a word of what they were saying? How often do you long to just get to the end of your day?

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Our need to accomplish, our glorification of our own busyness, our inability to say no to distractions often put us in the fast lane with life passing by so quickly, it is all a blur. The mundane tasks of our life can make us feel like we are on the hamster’s wheel, the road to repetitive nowhere.

But what if we found joy in the mundane?

What if we applied the brakes just a little so we could enjoy the ride?

That is what it takes to be fully present in your seasons. It is true that there is a season, a time, for everything. There is a time for joy, a time for grieving, a time for rest, a time for every season and every activity under heaven. Just because your day may seem boring or difficult doesn’t mean you shouldn’t live it to the fullest.

Remember the childrens’ book Going on a Bear Hunt? “Can’t go over it, can’t go under it, gotta go through it!” That is how living intentionally is….you’ve just gotta go through it. So, pull yourself up by the bootstraps, and get involved in YOUR life! Be fully present, fully mindful of the moments in your day, in your life. Live a life that counts.

What does it look like to be fully immersed in your day?

• Be 100% there in every activity. Don’t hang out on the sidelines….fully participate.

• Focus on the present….not what happened this morning or what will happen later….but focus on NOW.

• Be cognizant of the here and now. Look around and acknowledge where you are and what you are doing.

• Embrace every moment as if it were your last, as if it counted….because it does! Go for it!!

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Below are some of my tips to being fully present and living intentionally:

1. Sleep. Get the best rest you can. I am convinced the phrase “presence of mind” is directly correlated to good sleep. Therefore, being mindfully present is greatly influenced on your restoration and level of alertness.

2. Prioritize. Choose wisely the activities which fill your day. Some are necessary. Work. Homemaking. Parenting. But, be honest. We sometimes take on too much. And, quantity does not equal quality. My husband laughs, but to help me prioritize, I often say things like, “When I am on my death bed, am I going to be glad I folded towels or glad I went to the park with my kids?” Some things can just wait.

3. Create space. This ties into prioritization. Make space within your activities to enhance them. Use the “down times” within your day’s activities as opportunities to connect. For example, I always make sure that I turn off the radio and talk with my children while we are in the car. Do activities together so you can visit while doing them. Also, create space within your day to just BE. Time to sit for a minute, time to be still, or silly, or reflective. These little spaces are often the most peaceful and/or the most joyful.

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4. Minimize distractions. This is a biggie. In fact, it should probably be at the top of the list. Multitasking is the thief of being mindfully present. How can we be fully engaged cognitively, emotionally, physically, etc. when we are doing three things at once in an overstimulating environment? We must set boundaries. Turn off the technology. Look at people when they are talking to you. Ask questions. Actually hear yourself think. Do ONE thing at a time.

5. Be thankful. Not just at the end of the day. Be thankful during the activities of your day. This is one of the biggest tricks to redirecting your attention to the present. Take 2-3 seconds to be thankful….for a reliable car or a beautiful day or your precious child or the time and energy to exercise…..etc, etc, etc.

6. Be intentional. Not much happens accidentally. If you want to be fully immersed in your own life, you have to purpose to do so. Set little goals for yourself for each day or week to help you develop intentional habits. For example, you could decide that every time someone speaks to you, you will look them in the eye and really listen. Or, put your phone on silent during all meals. Maybe you write your favorite verse or quote on a card to take with you to the gym/studio to look at while you exercise. Decide to smile more often and at more people.

7. Breathe. When we get busy or distracted, often our breath becomes quicker and shallower. Taking a deeper, fuller inhale and exhale (or two, or three) will flood the brain and body with oxygen AND help you be fully aware of the moment you are in.
In everything you do, there is the opportunity to be fully aware of your own experience. Take time to notice those around you, to digest your surroundings, to make note of how you feel at that particular moment. Log every moment into the mental scrapbook of your life. Being intentionally present in your life is mostly about BEING in the things you do, not about DOING the things that make you be.

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My mother-in-law used to always say, “This too shall pass.” And, I have always taken those as words of encouragement during stressful times. However, at the end of every summer, my friend, Brenda, always looks at our kids and says, “They will never be this way again. They will never be 6 years old (or whatever age). Next summer, they won’t be into the same things or reading the same books or even the same size.

They’ll be different.

This is it.

This is the one time they will be like this.”

And we become a little choked up and stare at them a little longer than usual. As with all things in life, you see, this season will change….. This Too Shall Pass…..and you don’t want to miss it!

Dawn is a Christian mom of 2 and wife.  Although she has the pleasure of  to staying home now, she is Pediatric Occupational Therapist and an ACE-certified fitness instructor who focused soley on teaching yoga for the past 10 years. Dawn spends her time volunteering at her kids’ school and being their #1 fan in the stands for all of their activities.  She LOVES to read, makes time for exercise most days, fancies a DIY project here and there, enjoys baking, and tries like crazy to live a full, intentional life.

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10 Comments
  1. Joanne Wood 4 years ago

    Amazing article Dawn!

  2. Colleen 4 years ago

    Beautiful article filled with lots of wisdom. Such a challenge to be mindful and present in this season. Appreciated the practical tips and encouragement. Thank you, Dawn!

  3. Marcie M. 4 years ago

    Love this! I needed to read this today as another reminder to stop multitasking and just be present. Thanks so much for sharing.

  4. Brandy Garner 4 years ago

    I really enjoyed this post. Totally relatable to my season of life now. Just the gentle reminder I needed to tackle yet another crazy day! Thank you.

  5. Luz R 4 years ago

    What a wonderful article yes on time for me to stop and think…. like you said be at present, thank you for sharing.

  6. Holly 4 years ago

    Great timing for this! I can’t help but feel like, where did the summer go? How are we already doing the fall activities + commitments? Being present is tough!!

  7. Staci 4 years ago

    being present is a gift. that’s why they call it a present……not easy to do but always a blessing when you allow yourself to be there. thanks for the helpful hints.

  8. Kandice Hicks 4 years ago

    Great article, Dawn! Thank u for the reminders. 🙂

  9. Hillary 4 years ago

    I love this! I have been struggling the past year or so with mindfulness and connecting with moments in my life. This was a great read and came at a perfect time for me. It is good to know I am not the only person that struggles with this. 🙂

  10. […] “Mindfulness” is a popular buzzword right now, but mindfulness is a real skill that can help you to maximize your highest life potential. On The Balanced Life, Dawn Olivares shares some tips about how to be “fully present and living intentionally,” as she says, in order to avoid going through life on autopilot. Her list includes items like “sleep,” “prioritize,” and “minimize distractions” — simple things that are too easily forgotten in our daily lives. Check out the rest of her list here. […]

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