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Well For Culture: Five Ways to Improve Mindfulness

Chelsey Luger offers five ways to improve mental health.

There is a reason we use the term “well” as opposed to “fit” or “healthy” or anything else. It is because wellness is not bound by a narrow definition - it is all-encompassing. I cannot emphasize this enough: wellness is just as much, if not more, about mindfulness as it is about physical fitness. And just like it is possible to improve physical fitness, it is possible to improve mindfulness: but it takes work, time, attention and discipline.

It is possible to train yourself to become more mindful. It is possible to make decisions in your day-to-day life which impact your ability to feel deeply, to think critically, and to live compassionately. If we take the time to evaluate our own lives - the nature of our day-to-day existence - and make intentional adjustments to our routines in line with these themes - we can grow closer and closer to living in a good way. Here are five things to consider:

1. Pray

However you know how, as often as you can.

2. Develop your creative memory.

A logic-minded person might tell you that they have no use for the arts, but I would argue otherwise.

“You are the books you read, the films you watch, the music you listen to, the people you meet, the dreams you have, the conversations you engage in. You are what you take from these. You are a collective of every experience you’ve had in your life.” -Anonymous

With that in mind, try to be intentional about your leisure time. You may think that spending a few hours per day watching reality TV or spending a lifetime listening to no other genre but pop music is harmless, but these habits are actually harmful. Not only that, but they take precious time away from other activities that are so much more enriching.

I haven’t done the research, but common sense and life experience tell me that watching bad TV shows or reading garbage on the internet makes us more materialistic and empty, whereas reading beautiful books or creating artwork or appreciating a thoughtful film actually inspires us and makes us better people.

Think about the intentions behind the producers of reality TV, for example. They want to reel you in with scandalous storylines and shock value so that they can sell advertisements and turn you into a consumer of some useless product. On the other hand, think about the intentions behind producers of thoughtful documentaries or films: they want to teach you something, they want to make you feel something real – to make you more compassionate to a certain issue. Which would you rather support?

In that same vein, be aware of and careful of who you spend your time with. Time is precious. Develop relationships with people who are truly going to influence you for the better, because whether you like it or not, your surroundings will influence you.

The unfortunate truth is that we are living in a world where cheap, mind-numbing entertainment is not only at our fingertips, but incessantly thrown in our faces. Avoid these traps at all costs. The good news is that the better forms of entertainment are equally accessible to us - we just have to focus a little harder on engaging them. But when we do, we reap benefits far greater than can even be imagined.

3. Remain open-minded and willing to change.

A good book or a beautiful song could actually change your life. Recognize that power, and acknowledge that change is growth.

Some people look at learning like this: “I want to learn more so that I can know the most and tell everybody like it is.” That is wrong. It is better to look at learning like this: “I want to learn more so that I can get closer to understanding how little I understand.”

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Never become satisfied in this quest for knowledge. The best experiences are those which transform us. Listen, listen, listen to everybody and anybody who can offer you a new perspective. If we are stuck in our ways, we are weak and stubborn. If we are open to change, we grow closer to peace.

4. Turn off the noise.

Another unfortunate reality is that we are constantly overstimulated by technology, social media, delusions of other people’s seemingly glamorous lives, video games, advertisements… you get the point. Just remember that it is important to be aware of your energy and the types of energy that are at work around you.

Overstimulation leads to decreased attention span which leads to a lack of thoughtfulness and increased carelessness. Shut out any and all kinds of technology as often as possible, and you will see vast improvements in each day.

Even better, go out in the country and spend time on the land. It’s always a good thing.

5. Be careful with language.

I’ll give you an example. A few months ago, one of my friends pointed out to me that I use the word “hate” a lot. My initial reaction was defensiveness “Huh? Really? Do I?!” “Yes,” he insisted, “I’ve noticed.”

Even though I wasn’t using the word in its most literal sense (I wasn’t saying “I hate this person” but rather “I hate waking up early”) it was enough to exude negative energy. So, from that moment, I quit using the word “hate” and in that same spirit I also made a big effort to quit cussing. I remember that my Grandma Thelma NEVER used to cuss and I thought about how classy and noble of a woman she was.

My decision to quit using bad language and negative terms has improved my outlook on life and has cleansed my internal energy. I cannot describe what a difference this has made. It is the little things, sometimes, that we don’t realize are actually big things.

Another component of that - also beautifully exemplified in the life of my Grandma Thelma - is to try as hard as you can to avoid talking bad about other people.

This one is *way* harder than you might think because people do it ALL the time and it’s hard not to engage.

Remember that gossip and negative talk is the cheapest form of human connection. We instinctively feel more comfortable when we can exclude other people - which is actually the root of horrible things like racism, discrimination, and bullying. Even though common gossip is often not negative to that degree, it comes from the same hateful place. So shut out the gossip. It will bring positive changes to your life by making you a more respectable, dignified person. Connect with others on a more meaningful level: shared interests, passions, or just a simple extension of kindness.

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I would be lying if I told you that I am perfect at practicing all of these ways. Far from it. These are things that I am getting better at, but as I stated before, require a lot of focus. There will always be negative forces at work pulling us away from the things that we know are important. I thank you for interpreting my words not as judgmental or pretentious, but rather as encouraging and optimistic. I know that we can all become closer to leading happy, productive lives, and I support you in your efforts as I trust you support me in mine.

Chelsey Luger. Photo courtesy Eller Bonifacio.

Chelsey Luger is Anishinaabe and Lakota from North Dakota. She hopes to be a strong link in a long chain of ancestors and descendants by spreading ideas for health and wellness. Follow her on Instagram. Ideas for articles? Email her: wellforculture@gmail.com.