A quick google search of the word “mindfulness” produces results around meditation. There’s apps to follow, there’s online articles on best practices, there’s meditation retreats you can sign up for, and there are the psychological, mood-boosting benefits of mindfulness.

Let’s define mindfulness:

mind·ful·ness

ˈmīn(d)f(ə)lnəs/

noun: mindfulness 

  1. the quality or state of being conscious or aware of something.
    “their mindfulness of the wider cinematic tradition
  2. a mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations, used as a therapeutic technique.

TL;DR – Mindfulness is all about focusing on the moment.

There’s a huge emphasis on this concept today because of how easy it is to get lost in the noise and frivolity of social media, entertainment, and the internet.

Meditation is a great way to build mindfulness. The resources for learning such a practice are abundant. There are apps you can use, there are articles and books you can read about, there are even free podcasts and YouTube videos on guided meditation.

I think meditation is great for building mindfulness. Many successful people meditate for this benefit. In fact, I meditate during my morning routine. Related: How successful people make the most of their mornings

However, that’s not the only way you can become more mindful. If the premise of mindfulness is simply to be present, then any activity that emphasizes your focus on the present will help build this skill.

Here are some activities that work for me.

Reading

Warren Buffett, one of the richest men in the world, is a huge reading buff. In fact, he touts that reading 500 pages a day is a key contributing factor to his success.

Another bookworm is Tony Robbins. Robbins is a world-famous life coach and entrepreneur, and once read 700 books in 7 years to exponentially grow his knowledge in psychology.

The reading habits of Tony Robbins and Warren Buffett already seem out of this world, but I want to do some rough calculations to emphasize how crazy this is.

According to a ReadingSoft.com, the average person reads at 200 words per minute (wpm).

According to Meg Cabot, #1 New York Times bestselling author, most adult books contain 90,000 – 100,000 words. Cabot further explains the average words per page is between 250-300 word.

Assuming we read at the pace of 200 wpm, let’s apply these numbers into the reading habits of Buffett and Robbins.

To read like Warren Buffett, we would need to read for 750 minutes or 12 1/2  hours per day.

(300 words per page X 500 pages) / 200 wpm = 750 minutes

The time it would take us to read like Tony Robbins, it would take you 350,000 minutes or 5,833 hours or 243 days of consecutive, non-stop reading.

(700 books X  100,000 words) / 200 wpm = 350,000 minutes

I don’t know about you, but I cannot dedicate that much time to reading, yet.  

When you realize how much time it would take to read like Tony Robbins or Warren Buffett: Source 9Gag

This is where Speed reading comes into play. Speed reading is a skill people are actively trying to get better at. For example, there are Chrome Extensions like Spreed or Reedy, that help you develop this skill.

In fact, Tim Ferriss, the marketing guru and author of the 4-hour Work Week, has a blog post on it. His technique is inspired by The PX Project. He breaks down the study, asks readers to create a baseline, and then walks readers through a series of exercises on how to improve their reading speed. Ferriss breaks down the study with three synopses:

  • A) Synopsis: You must minimize the number and duration of fixations per line to increase speed.
  • B) Synopsis: You must eliminate regression and back-skipping to increase speed.
  • C) Synopsis: You must use conditioning drills to increase horizontal peripheral vision span and the number of words registered per fixation.

If you want to speed read or simply comprehend what you’re reading, you need to be focused on the present moment and the words in front of your eyes.  

There are countless moments where my mind wandered while I was reading. Then I ask myself “WTF did I just read?”

Then I have to reread the paragraph or page I thought I completed. After this happens a few more times, I get frustrated and lose my drive to read.

By being more mindful of what you’re reading, you’ll reduce the number of “reread” mishaps and can increase your comprehension.

With reading, you can build your mindfulness while learning something new!

Hiking

I have many colleagues, friends, family members, and peers that love to hike. Hiking is a relatively cheap, simultaneously active and relaxing, and fun outdoor hobby.

People tend to use hiking as a means to escape the chaos and hectic moments of city and suburban life.

Hiking is also a great time to build your mindfulness. You can do so by taking in your environment. It doesn’t get any more serene than being outdoors observing the sights and sounds of nature.

A panorama I took during my hike through Glacier National Park with my girlfriend this past year

If you’re hiking with a group of friends or with a partner, it’s a great time to practice mindfulness together. You can spend quality time with your company by eliminating your everyday distractions and being fully immersed in the experience.

It can be as calming as meditating, while getting a solid workout in as well.

Journaling

Journaling is a technique that successful people like Mark Twain, Thomas Jefferson, and George Lucas practice.

As you know by now, I’m a huge fan of journaling. I prefer to Journal in the morning, as part of my morning routine. It feels the best for me at this time. However, I am not opposed to journaling during other times in the day. Related: Dear journal…

If I have a disagreement with my girlfriend or make a mistake at work, I may need to write down my thoughts.

Usually it’s stream of consciousness writing. For 10 minutes or so, I tap into my current mental state and jot down whatever I’m feeling.

This exercise is only successful if i’m mindful and present. The reflection and introspective thoughts on the preceding events are only valuable if i’m fully focused on what transpired.

If I let my thoughts wander off to what i’m having for lunch, then I’ve lost it.

Writing for Secondhand Success

The blog is another means for me to practice mindfulness. Whenever I write a piece, I focus for about an hour and crank out as many words as I can within the allotted timeframe. Related: Creativity block? Try dollar-cost averaging

During that hour, I remove all distractions. I place my phone on DND mode, full screen my google doc, put my headphones on and listen to instrumentals.

Then I proceed to write.

Given the topic I decide to research and discuss, I focus all my energy and mental muscle towards creating content about the subject matter.

My initial drafts are almost often shit, and that’s okay.

My intention isn’t to produce a perfect piece within the hour. If that happens, great! My motives for writing are to get my ideas out from my neurons to my fingertips to generate the letters onto the screen.

I can edit and modify later.

Public Speaking

Statistically speaking, I know that there are a majority of you who fear public speaking.

From my experience, public speaking can be scary, and there are a variety of ways to make it easier and less fearful. Related: 5 speech techniques learned from a Toastmasters competition

Once you get the hang of it, it can be a meditative experience.Here’s how.

Whenever I am on stage, my brain is moving at light-speed. Thoughts are racing, and there’s an internal war between my confidence and insecurity.

At times, I can feel the nervousness creep up. My adrenaline starts to pump, my palms get sweaty, and I start to feel hot.

On top of that,  I become concerned with things I cannot control. What are people thinking about me right now? How do they feel about my speech?

However, I combat the negative emotions by being mindful of my content and remembering that for the 5-10 minutes I’m on stage. I am the star. I am the commander of their attention. I focus on the present experience happening in that very moment.  

By being mindful of that experience, I’m able to suppress and overcome any insecurities. Afterall, I cannot control how people feel about me. All I can do is choose to focus on delivering my content as I have prepared.

Conclusion

As a reminder, here are some of the health benefits around mindfulness are:

  • Reduced rumination
  • Reduced stress  
  • Improved Focus
  • Improved relationship satisfaction

It’s so easy to get lost on social media, and as our phones become increasingly more powerful, and as technology makes entertainment more mobile and convenient, we are susceptible to losing our mindfulness.

I hope I was able to inspire you to explore other methods of building up your mindfulness. Readers, what are the ways you strengthen your mindfulness?