10 Ways You'll Improve Yourself By Simply Breathing

10 Ways You'll Improve Yourself By Simply Breathing

We all breathe, but only a fraction of us actually take the time to consciously focus on our breath. It’s the simplest thing anyone can do to instantly break free from the turmoil of their mind and transform almost any experience into something more tolerable and peaceful.

All you have to do is breathe. In through your nose, out through your mouth. The deeper and the more breaths you take, the better.

Remember this next time you feel yourself getting swept away by thought. Here are just a few everyday examples of experiences we all go through that breathing has the power to transform.

Balance Physical Reactions

Whether it’s something as mild as nervous fidgeting or something as serious as a full-blown panic attack, breathing helps balance these physical reactions in response to what your mind might be making you perceive as a threat to you.

Embrace Emotions

Emotions are physically felt. Breathe into them to let yourself feel them rather than using your mind to distract yourself from them and suppress them.

Tune Into Your Senses

If you want to see more vibrantly, smell more aromatically, touch more deeply, taste more exquisitely, and hear more clearly, then work on your breathing. Everything within reach of your senses will become more intense.

Improve Physical Strength

Whether you strictly stick to yoga or incorporate other forms of activity into your exercise regimen like weight training or cardio, breathing deeply in unison with the movement of your body can help you feel stronger and perform better.

Respond to Negativity

Ever blurt something out to someone who just criticized or insulted you without even thinking? If you can remember to take a deep breath first before speaking, you’ll make better choices in how you choose to respond to negativity.

Focus on Challenging Tasks

Artists, scientists, businesspeople, and all sorts of other professionals can’t do their best work if they’re not 100% focused on what they need to do. If you have a job or hobby that requires deep focus and concentration, take a few deep breaths to clear out distracting thoughts.

Focus on Other People

When we want to impress someone, we get caught up in thoughts about ourselves, which prevents us from being able to place our full awareness on whoever we’re interacting with. Breathe as you gently shift your focus away from yourself to that other person.

Relax

Breathing is the fastest, healthiest, and most effective way to achieve total mind and body relaxation. Instead of turning to TV and other forms of mental stimulation, which don’t fully relax you, consider meditating on your breath in silence.

Connect With Nature

By connecting with our breath, we’re reminded that we’re connected to everything and everyone around us. Next time you’re outdoors, breathe deeply to clear your mind of thought and heighten your senses so that you can become more aware of that connection.

Fall Asleep Faster

A racing mind and a tense body can make falling sleep seem impossible. Both can be relieved by simply breathing. Try these three breathing techniques to help you fall asleep faster.

Curious about how exactly something as simple as breathing helps balance out the mind and body? Check out these five science-backed heath benefits of deep breathing.


5 of the Most Creative and Unusual Yoga Trends

5 of the Most Creative and Unusual Yoga Trends

The amazing thing about yoga is that it can be adapted to suit all sorts of unique themes, intentions, and physical abilities. Yoga is quite literally for anyone and everyone.

The adaptability of yoga has inspired some pretty unusual style trends. If you thought hot yoga was as weird as it gets, just wait until you hear about all the other weird ways to do yoga!

Laughter Yoga

Many yogis are aware of the benefits of Om chanting, which involves using the voice to help with staying present and to promote healing. Laughter yoga is another form of yoga that uses the voice, involving intentional laughter throughout the whole practice.

Those who practice believe that intentional laughter can provide the same mind and body benefits that spontaneous laughter does. It’s best done in a class with others because laughter is contagious, which makes it feel more natural.

Doga

Dogs + yoga = doga. That’s right, doga is yoga with your dog! According to a NY Times article that featured the trend, doga involves a combination of massaging and meditation with gentles stretches for both dogs and their owners.

The idea behind it is to start off doing yoga at home like normal and then as the dog gets curious, yogis can invite their canine companion to join them. But don’t worry — there’s no forcing Fido into poses that humans do. Instead, the practice is kept gentle and designed for a dog’s body to promote dog-owner bonding and oneness.

Horesback Yoga

Horse lovers, take note! If you really want to challenge your balance, you might be interested in seeing how well you’d do at holding tree pose or a full wheel on the back of a horse.

Horseback yoga isn’t actually all that new, but it’s rare. It’s really only taught privately by instructors who know what they’re doing at some retreat destinations.

Silent Disco Yoga

If your typical yoga environment seems like it could use an upgrade in decor and ambiance, perhaps a silent disco class could be the weird new yoga environment to put yourself in. Silent disco yoga has you in a dark room where everyone wears a pair of colorful headphones that light up.

All sound from outside is blocked so you only hear the yoga instructor leading the class, combined with music (mixed by a live DJ of course). The headphones help minimize distraction and support yogis to connect closer with the instructor and themselves.

Standup Paddleboard Yoga

Lastly, another very interesting yoga trend designed to challenge your balance and get you outdoors is standup paddleboard yoga. Yogis take their practice to the pool, lake, river, or ocean on 10 to 12-foot boards to use the fluid movement of calm waters as an extra challenge with various poses.

Besides having to just stay balanced on the board, the spontaneous change of current adds another layer of difficulty to it. There’s no room for perfectionism and fast-paced movement here — super slow movement and lots of patience is the name of the game with this one!

Which one would you try first? These unusual yoga styles certainly aren’t for every yogi, but it’s certainly intriguing to become aware of just how incredibly adaptable yoga really can be.

Photo (edited) via Mike Lewinski


Indulge More in Mindful Eating

Indulge More in Mindful Eating

Do you remember what you ate yesterday? We're often so busy during the fall season that we hardly realize exactly what or how much we’re eating when it’s time to fuel up.

In fact, most of us can probably admit to merging most our meal and snack times with everything else we need to do — getting ready in the morning, working, commuting, checking email, catching up on those fall TV shows, and so on. Eating is just another opportunity to multitask.

Research has shown that multitasking and distraction while eating leads to higher food intake. Not only that, but we never really get to enjoy our food when we do this, because we’re focused on something else.

Mindful eating is incredibly simple, but not easy to do on a regular basis. It has a lot of benefits to offer though — the obvious being better regulation of appetite and avoidance of unnecessary foods used to deal with emotions.

Here’s how to become a more mindful eater and balance out your diet in the healthiest way possible.

Find a Peaceful Environment

First things first — get away from or power down all the technology you love to look at while eating. That means computers, televisions, smartphones, and tablets.

If you can, head to a picnic table outdoors or to your own kitchen table. Getting yourself away from environments you associate with other activities — like your desk, your car, your couch — and into an environment meant for eating will go a long way in keeping your attention focused on your food.

Grab a Friend

Mindful eating doesn’t necessarily mean eating alone and in silence. Going out to a restaurant with others or having a meal with family at the dinner table where good conversation can happen is a great way to practice shifting your focus from the people you’re with, to the food on your fork, and back again.

If you are alone, however, put on some soothing ambient or classical music to make your environment a little more comfortable. Sitting by a window with a view is another option.

Breathe and Savor Every Bite

Hunger can sometimes feel so strong that we start wolfing down everything right away, barely getting chance to really taste each bite. Instead, start with taking a few deep breaths in through your nose and out through your mouth before you take your first bite to help clear your mind of thoughts and bring you back to the present.

Don’t rush through eating, and practice using all of your senses throughout your meal. Observe the shapes and colors with your eyes, take in the aromas through your nose, feel the texture and/or warmth with your mouth, and of course taste every flavor with each chew.

Go Beyond Your Mouth

Using your five senses to take in each bite will certainly help you enjoy your food more and taste it more fully, but taking your mindfulness beyond your mouth to your throat, esophagus, and stomach will help you identify when your hunger has been satisfied.

With each swallow, notice each bite moving down into your stomach as you occasionally shift your focus to feel your level of fullness. Slower eating and more chewing will likely make you feel fuller with less food in your stomach compared to faster eating and less chewing in a more distracted state.

Keep practicing! Remember not to beat yourself up if your mind wanders elsewhere. Simply bring your focus back to eating and enjoy the nourishment you’re giving your body.


15 Relaxing Things to Do When You Can't Fall Asleep

15 Relaxing Things to Do When You Can't Fall Asleep

As the days grow shorter and darker, it can be challenging to maintain a proper routine and a regular sleep schedule. When it’s late at night and you find yourself unable to fall asleep within a few minutes, you’re likely better off getting up and doing something that will relax you and prepare your mind and body for sleep rather than continuing to toss and turn.

First things first: Avoid anything too physically or mentally stimulating. Intense exercise may exhaust you, but it’s best to avoid doing that too close to bedtime. Likewise, remember to keep the lights dim and the tech powered down to avoid tricking your brain into thinking it’s daytime.

Instead, pick a couple of the following things to try. These are relaxing activities that almost anyone can do to help them fall asleep faster — and stay asleep!

Do Yoga

Some gentle poses can help with insomnia. Poses like reclining hero pose, head-to-knee forward bend, bridge pose and cat/cow pose can be done right in bed!

Write

Grab your journal or a blank piece of paper and a pen to write out what’s on your mind. You may just need to let those thoughts out in order to relax.

Stargaze

If it’s a clear night, go outside or sit by a window and gaze at the stars. See if you can spot the moon, the big dipper, or any other astronomical markers!

Read a Book

Reading can be surprisingly relaxing — as long as the subject matter isn’t work-related or too mentally stimulating. Remember to stay away from e-readers and pick up a real book.

Meditate

Meditation is especially helpful when you’re holding onto physical tension or can’t seem to ignore all the crazy thoughts flowing through your mind. Do it long enough and you might just fall asleep before you finish!

Do a Body Scan

Speaking of meditation, it’s especially helpful to do a body scan meditation at the end of the day. Here’s how to do one.

Drink Herbal Tea

Resist the temptation to indulge in comfort food before bed and instead brew up a nice cup of hot, caffeine-free tea. Chamomile and lavender are a couple soothing herbs to try.

Listen to Calming Music

Music can be a great help in taking your mind off of distracting thoughts. Find out what music is best for falling asleep.

Breathe Deeply

This is basically meditation, with a focus on the breath. In fact, you can breathe deeply in a very specific way to help induce sleep within as little as a minute.

Take a Bath

Baths are great for winding down after a long day and can help encourage mindfulness too. The feeling of warm water might be just what you need to get you to relax.

Clean Up

If physical clutter and messiness is calling your focus away from sleep, get up and do a bit of light cleaning or organizing. It might just tire you out and bring you some peace of mind knowing it got done.

Cool Down

While tea or a bath may help, sometimes the opposite is needed — a lower body temperature. Turn your thermostat down, ditch some of the blankets or pyjamas, and maybe consider leaving your window open a crack to let the nighttime breeze in.

Get Intimate

If you share your bed with a partner and they’re not already sound asleep, take it as an opportunity to get intimate and show them some love.

Try Massage

If a body scan doesn’t work, maybe a massage will. You can massage yourself with some natural oils to help relieve tension from your body or get your partner to do it if they’re around and awake.

Be Grateful

Finally, if you try all of the above and still find yourself wide awake, well, the last thing you can do is to just be grateful for this moment, and for all that you have. Gratitude always makes everything feel better.


4 Ways to Be More Open-Minded

4 Ways to Be More Open-Minded

Having an open mind means considering all new ideas, opinions, and possibilities — even the ones that may be undesired or unfavourable. The highest form of open-mindedness means being completely detached from any beliefs or desired outcomes, and it’s the state we want to be in if we want to grow ourselves as much and as quickly as possible.

Open-mindedness, however, isn’t always so easy to consciously activate and maintain all day, every day. From the day that we’re born, we start learning about the world and how to be human as our minds take in information from the people who raise us and the environments we grow up in.

Out deepest beliefs, developed mostly throughout childhood, are completely subconscious. People who might call themselves open-minded are often in fact completely unaware of the deeper subconscious beliefs they still cling to no matter what.

Here are a few habits you can start, guaranteed to improve your level of open-mindedness if you stick with it.

Meditate Daily

Meditation allows us to observe the thoughts that are constantly flowing through our minds from a mindful distance. When you become aware of your thoughts, you also become aware that those thoughts are not necessarily true in absolute reality. This opens the gates to greater open-mindedness.

If you only do one thing to become more open-minded, let it be meditation. For 20 minutes at same time every day, sit in silence (or with calm background noises like traffic or birds) and bring your awareness to the present moment so you can calmly observe what's happening without judging it.

Practice Switching Perspectives

Highly emotional intelligent people who are great at empathizing and communicating with others are usually very open-minded because they’re able to step outside of their own little worlds into the perspective of another. They can put aside all of their wants, needs, beliefs, fears, and other components of their own self-agendas so that they can see a situation from a completely different point of view.

When someone annoys you, intimidates you, or otherwise makes you feel some sort of negative emotion, notice what’s happening to you on an emotional level and get curious about it. Getting curious will encourage you to look at the situation differently by seeing it from that other person’s perspective.

Notice How You Judge Others

We all automatically judge others, even if we don’t want to. Our judgments are based on our own self-image and how we think other people should be in ways that serve us most. They’re essentially a reflection of what we think about ourselves.

Don’t resist judging others. When you do pass judgment on someone — maybe about their appearance, their behavior, their actions, their values, or something else — just simply notice that you passed judgment so that you can ask yourself why. What beliefs do these judgments correspond to?

Question Your Morals and Beliefs

True open-mindedness in its highest form is not for the faint of heart. It requires a willingness to detach from your deepest beliefs and no longer see yourself as a separate and centrally important “self” in the way that most of us do in our own little personal, ego-driven worlds.

It’s not bad to have morals or beliefs, and you can still have them as an open-minded person, but the key is to remain detached from them. Question the morals and beliefs you have about yourself and the world — even the good ones — so that you can determine whether they line up with your core values or whether they were planted there by someone else.

Open-minded people have morals and beliefs that serve them personally, but they know that they’re not necessarily true, untrue, good, or bad. They know that morals and beliefs are creations of the mind, which vary from culture to culture, region to region, and person to person.


4 Creative Ways to Find Solitude

4 Creative Ways to Find Solitude

The benefits of solitude include everything from stress relief and relaxation, to introspection and creative inspiration. We all need a little time to ourselves every now and then, but personal lives and work schedules can make that seem nearly impossible on a daily basis.

You don't need hours and hours. Even just five minutes taken out of your busy day can benefit you. The trick is finding the time for solitude, and remembering to take it when your mind is already racing from everything you've done and everything you still have to do.

It's possible for even the busiest of people to find some quiet time for themselves each day. Here are some tips on how to do that.

Visualize your day.

Solitude starts with visualizing where you’re going and where you’ll be so you can predict breaks or environmental advantages. Do this in the morning and consider doing it at the same time you plan out your to-do list or write your daily journal entry — if you do those things, which you should!

Consider whether you can be the first of your household to get home from work/school, whether you can spare some time to sit quietly in your parked car, or whether you can postpone something for at least another day to free up more time. Work solitude-friendly opportunities like these into your to-do list if you can so you don't forget.

Be alone with others.

It’s certainly possible to feel alone while surrounded by others when you interpret solitude as more of an emotional state rather than a physical state. For example, a yoga class brings many students and teachers together in one room to practice together, but the practice is still very independent and personal.

You can achieve emotional solitude among strangers while sitting in a coffee shop, walking in a park, or reading in a library. Just keep in mind that if physical solitude isn’t an option, you can still make it work on an emotional level.

Get productive.

Nobody ever said that your sacred time for solitude has to be spent sitting in silent meditation without moving an inch. You can combine your alone time with other activities and chores, and in fact, you can actually use them as excuses to be alone!

Offer to get the next coffee run at work so you can get away from your busy work environment for a few minutes. Tell your spouse you’d like to go do a bit of organizing in the spare bedroom of your home. If you can get creative with breaking away for a bit and be a little productive at the same time, people around you will be more than happy to let you go do your thing.

Ask others for help.

When life just gets hectic and you seriously can’t catch a moment to be by yourself no matter what you do, tell others around you that you need it, and ask for support. Most of all, don’t feel ashamed for asking. It’s not selfish, and it’s definitely not a sign of weakness.

If you work in an open office environment, ask your boss if there’s some way you can create more privacy at your workspace, or if there's somewhere you can go periodically for a brief moment — like an empty meeting room. If you’re wrangling the kids 24/7 and seriously need a break, ask your spouse or a family member to take them off your hands for a bit. Just ask, because you never know how helpful people can be until you do it!

When you do get that precious chunk of time to be in solitude, don’t waste it getting caught up in thoughts or falling victim to distraction. Breathe, become aware of your body and your surroundings, and enjoy those moments of peace.


5 Essential Tips for Doing Yoga At Home

5 Essential Tips for Doing Yoga At Home

Whether you can’t make it to yoga class because of bad weather, a tight budget, no time, or other priorities, getting your practice in at home (or anywhere, really) is always better than not doing it at all. Even if it’s short and sweet, it still benefits your mind and body, and it helps keep you consistent with your practice.

Yogis who are used to getting on their mats in the company of others with a real, live teacher guiding a class may have trouble getting motivated or figuring out how to start doing yoga at home. But by tweaking just a few things here and there, you can definitely make doing yoga at home just as effective and enjoyable as a real yoga class.

Schedule It

Just because you’re at home doesn’t mean you shouldn’t set a strict start and end time for your practice. In other words, treat it like a real class. Set reminders on your phone if you have to, and tell yourself well ahead of time that you are going to get your practice in during this exact time slot, even if it only involves stepping into the next room to roll out your mat!

Banish Interruptions

Sure, practicing in the wide open space of your living room might make a lot of sense, but if you’ve got the dog running circles around you, your family or roommates chatting away about who knows what somewhere nearby, a stack of last week’s mail in clear view that you need to still open, and all sorts of other things taking your focus away from your practice, then that’s a big problem. Pick a time and place where nobody and nothing can interrupt you.

Plan Your Practice

So you scheduled your practice for a time and place with no interruptions, but do you know what you’re going to do after standing there in mountain pose or any other starting pose for a few seconds? Whether you plan on creating your own practice or follow along with video workouts online or with DVDs, make sure you have a plan. As a suggestion, Do Yoga With Me is great source for free yoga classes that you can follow along with (as long as you have internet access).

Get the Right Tools

Many yogis often bring their own mats to class, but extra equipment like blocks, blankets, straps, and bolsters are usually provided by the studio or teacher. If you know you’re going to need extra tools like these for your practice, either invest a bit of money to get your own ahead of time, or get creative with substitutes. You can use stacks of books for blocks, a belt for a strap, throws or towels for a blanket, and pillows for a bolster.

Don’t Skip Savasana!

When you’re practicing yoga by yourself at home and are strapped for time, it sure can be tempting to finish that last pose and then roll up your mat so you can get on with your day. But seriously, don’t! Whether you made up your own practice or you’re following along with a yoga video that cuts it short and encourages you to do savasana on your own, make sure you do it — even if it’s just a minute or two of relaxing surrender. This will complete your practice and leave you feeling refreshed enough to get up do what you need to do next.

Mixing up your yoga environments can be a great way to avoid getting stuck in a rut and continue improving. Try doing yoga at home, outdoors, on the road in your hotel room, or anywhere else where there’s enough space and uninterrupted time to do it!


3 Myths About Positivity

3 Myths About Positivity

Yoga is considered by many to be a very positive practice. Whether we feel that rush of joy and positivity from the endorphins our bodies create, the calmness of mind that melts away our anxieties, or the connection we feel to nature, it’s no wonder that yogis are some of the most positive-minded people out there.

For the more rational-minded yogi (or aspiring yogi), however, the idea of being so positive all the time can seem impractical, or even downright delusional. This is actually quite common, but when practiced properly, living a more positive life has nothing to do with being impractical or delusional.

Here are just three of some of the most common myths many skeptics tend to assume about positivity.

Myth #1

"Some people are just born to be more positive than others."

This myth is partially true, but not entirely true. Most of us have undoubtedly known at least a handful of people in our lives who seem oddly happy and positive all the time. And sure, the genes they inherited may have very well shaped their personalities and mindsets so that they naturally lean toward positivity.

What scientists know, however, is that meditation — a central component of yoga — can physically change the brain in regions associated with learning, memory, self-awareness, compassion, and introspection. Meditators often report lower levels of stress and anxiety, which naturally makes room for positivity.

Essentially, you don’t have to be born with a predisposition for positivity. You can rewire your brain for it by practicing yoga and meditation.

Myth #2

"Positive thinking only distracts us from the negative and doesn't solve anything."

Ever try to think positively about something but feel like you’re faking it? We’ve all been there, and it’s one of the main reasons why so many people think positivity is so phoney. It’s because they’re doing it wrong.

Positivity doesn’t involve covering up the problem by over-exaggerating the good stuff. Real positivity involves mindfully observing or experiencing the situation for what it is, accepting it without judgment, and choosing the perspective from which we wish to continue observing or experiencing it from — a.k.a. a positive perspective. We can be completely aware and accepting of what’s unfavourable and what might need to be resolved, but that doesn’t mean we can’t look on the bright side of things while we're tacking those things.

Awareness is key. As a yogi, you have the freedom to focus on the poses that you can’t do and let that drag you down, or you can focus on what you know you need to improve on as well as how you’ve improved already. The question is, what do you want to focus on?

Myth #3

"We need negativity to paint a more realistic picture of the world."

This is perhaps the biggest excuse that practical-minded people give for their inability to be more positive. If they don’t recognize their own faults, how are they to discipline themselves to become better? If they don’t look at how much suffering is going on in the world, how are they going to be motivated to help?

The thing about focusing on the negative and using that to balance it out with positives is that it creates a habit for negativity that attracts more negativity to them, which makes it increasingly more difficult to be more positive. If someone thinks they’re really not smart enough, is it even worth studying? Or if someone thinks there’s so much evil in this world, is their contribution even going to make a difference?

We need positivity first to build upon it. We attract the same energy we send out into the world, so if it’s mainly positive vibes that we’re thinking, feeling, and doing, then that’s exactly what we’ll get back.

Positivity isn’t a joke, nor does it have to be a cheesy, delusional way of life. Simply expand your awareness to see everything from a completely fresh perspective and then shift your energy toward what’s authentically good about it — even when there's work to do to fix mistakes or cope with misfortune.


Ayurveda Tips for a Balanced Fall Routine

Ayurveda Tips for a Balanced Fall Routine

Feeling like your brain is more scattered than usual? Hearing more cracks and pops in your joints when you get on the mat? Perhaps your daily routine could use a few tweaks to align your mind and body with the the changes of the fall season.

According to Ayurveda, a.k.a yoga’s “sister science,” a daily routine that incorporates calming and warming practices throughout the fall can help us prevent getting swept away in the whirlwind of a season. By balancing out excess movement, dryness, and cold that may be caused by the predominant vata dosha this season, we can ward off unwanted mental and physical conditions like anxiety, depression, insomnia, dry skin, and digestive discomfort.

Consider going over the following Ayurveda tips for a healthy fall routine. If your habits are currently way off, try slowly working toward changing them by gently shifting them little by little so that your mind and body have time to catch up.

Sleep and Wake Early

Aim to go to sleep no later than 10:00 p.m. so that you can wake around 6:00 a.m. This will help to balance out restlessness and erratic thinking that can lead to irregular sleep schedules and insomnia. Set aside 30 minutes to an hour before bed to do something that helps you relax and prime you for a good night’s sleep, like a body scan meditation.

Slow Down Your Practice

The best time to get your yoga practice in during the fall season is in the late evening (between 6:00 p.m. and 10:00 p.m.) and in the early morning (between 6:00 a.m. and 10:00 a.m.). Rather than sweating it out with an intense/fast-paced vinyasa flow, try shifting your practice to include more hatha and restorative sequences that focus on slow movement to help you restore and conserve energy.

Regulate Your Meals

Whether you prefer sticking to three main meals a day or just one main meal plus a few small snacks, try to regulate your mealtimes and snacks so that you eat them around the same time each day. Practice mindful eating by eating in peaceful environments while incorporating seasonal fruits and veggies that have been cooked rather than eating then raw.

Balance Activities With Downtime

Our professional lives and personal lives can get hectic in the fall, which is why it’s so important to schedule at least a bit of time every day for self care — especially anything that involves solitude and silence to promote inward focus. Ayurveda encourages giving ourselves daily massages with a moisturizing oil to help combat dry skin this time of year. This is a great habit to use after a nice warn shower in the morning or a bath in the evening.

If you’re interested in learning more about Ayurveda and how it can help with balancing your mind and body, you may want to look into getting a personal plan designed specifically for you to help restore your imbalances with the help of a qualified and insured Ayurveda practitioner. The National Ayurvedic Medical Association can help you find one.

Please keep in mind that while anyone can typically incorporate the simple Ayurveda-based lifestyle tips explained above into their lifestyles to promote balance and overall wellness, they’re not a replacement for medical diagnoses and treatments for certain health conditions. Speak to your doctor if you have health concerns!


A Practice for Being Kinder Toward Others

A Practice for Being Kinder Toward Others

One of the harshest truths a person can admit to themselves is that their kindness toward others is conditional. When other people agree with us or serve us in some way, it’s easy to be kind.

When they do the opposite of agreeing with us or serving us, we often get caught up in our own egos and our own self-agendas and subconsciously decide that they don't fully deserve our kindness. We get impatient with the slow people in line at the grocery store, we roll our eyes after parting ways with a coworker who disagreed with us on some work matter, and we may even shout at the guy who cuts us off on the freeway.

We can all take this sort of conditional kindness as an opportunity to become mindful of our thoughts and feelings so we can maintain a more open mind when we become aware of other people’s differences. With a short and simple practice, you can slowly transform the way you treat people in your everyday life, regardless of whether their behavior lines up with your expectations or not.

Here’s how.

Practice People Watching

Pick a time of day in your daily routine where you typically get to spend a few minutes in some kind of public place. You're going to start by doing a bit of casual people watching. Some examples might include:

  • Standing in line to buy something at a store
  • Waiting for an appointment in a waiting room
  • Taking public transit
  • Sitting in a coffee shop
  • Walking down the street or through public place like a mall
  • Taking a break at work and observing coworkers around your workspace

Don’t worry — this kindness practice doesn’t require you to go up to strangers and start interacting with them. All you have to do is notice them from wherever you are.

Decide on Something You Love About Each Individual

Once you’ve found yourself in your people watching environment and have mindfully tuned into observing who’s around you and what they're doing, place your attention on just one individual. Next, say this to yourself in your head:

“I love you for __________ because it suggests ___________.”

And fill in the blanks.

For example, let’s say you’re sitting in a coffee shop and notice a woman come in and walk up to the counter to place her order. You might notice that you really like her outfit. In this sort of situation, you could say something to yourself like:

“I love you for your incredible fashion sense, because it suggests that you’re a creative person who is not afraid of expressing herself.”

As another example, let’s say that you see a man sitting on the other side of the room looking frustrated with a stack of paper, a laptop, and a pen. Maybe he's a teacher grading reports, or maybe he's working on a book. Whatever he's actually working on, you could notice the work he's doing and say something to yourself like:

"I love you for your incredible work ethic, because it suggests that you're focused on a purpose that's important and meaningful to you."

There Is Good in Everyone

You’re essentially looking for interesting aspects in these strangers that you simply observe and then telling yourself positive stories about them. The stories don’t necessarily have to be absolutely true so long as they can be a possible suggestion made by what you observe. Do this for 5 or 10 minutes a day for several months to a year and you'll start to find that noticing the good in people will have become a habit.

The true test will come when you notice someone doing something or behaving in a way that you don’t approve of. Truth be told, there are good things to notice about the super slow people in line at the grocery store, coworkers who make seemingly ridiculous objections to your ideas, and yes – even those drivers on the road who cut you off.

For now, however, start with observing strangers by watching their mundane behaviors in very casual public places. This is a nice, gentle way to practice this kindness exercise without getting too caught up in judging too quickly.