Conscious Living

Your guide to a conscious lifestyle

What is conscious living?

Conscious living is a term that means adopting a lifestyle that is more aware – or conscious – of the things going on around us as they happen. Many people who turn to a conscious way of living will find that they spend more time enjoy moments as they occur rather than thinking ahead too much and making plans. The basic idea is to be more earthed or connected in the here and now rather than worrying excessively about what might happen. For some, it means feeling more empowered about their daily lives and less restricted in what they perceive their choices to be. As such, it is often interpreted as a form of self-awareness that can be incorporated into daily life. Someone who is living consciously, for example, might find adopting healthy eating habits easier because they are more engaged in all of the micro-decisions that are involved in deciding what to eat and what not to consume. That said, it has a role to play in all aspects of life, not just food.

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Can anyone enjoy conscious living? 

Some people seem to be more predisposed to conscious lifestyles than others. People who consider themselves to be spiritual and empathetic are more likely to adopt a conscious way of life than people who consider themselves to be go-getters and goal setters. That said, if you find motivaton in your career rather than your home life or if you are more concerned with material things rather than self-development, it is still possible that you might find a more conscious form of living is for you at some point. This is because many people who enjoy a more materialistic lifestyle end up feeling dissatisfied with it at some point and ask themselves what the point of their life is if they have everything they seemingly need but don't seem to be satisfied. In this sense, a conscious lifestyle is something anyone can adopt to some extent. It is not about rejecting the material world, after all, but about being more conscious of what it truly is.

How can conscious living reshape your life?

Many people who adopt a more conscious form of living find that it helps them in many areas of their daily lives. As previously mentioned, it can help with improved decision-making, such as choosing to eat healthier things that sustain rather than the quick-fix of a junk food snack. However, conscious living will also mean making better choices when talking to friends and family. By being more conscious of the impact of what we say, choosing to refrain from cheap shots or negative comments becomes more likely. Consequently, relationships can improve. Equally, the choices we make with respect to the wider environment should get better. This might mean being more conscious of nature even if you happen to live in a busy city. In turn, this can also lead to feeling more thankful for what is going on around us and enjoying greater satisfaction with our lives along with fewer frustrations at the same time. Some people summarise these effects by simply saying they feel happier.

What are the benefits of conscious living?

As you have just read, some people will say that a conscious lifestyle will mean they feel more in the moment of their life as it is being lived, which, in turn, leads to greater levels of satisfaction and happiness. Therefore, if you want to feel happy, a key benefit of adopting a conscious lifestyle will be that it becomes less likely you will feel dissatisfied with yourself and those around you, something that people frequently report is associated with how happy – or not – they feel. In addition, consciously doing the right things with your mind and body should improve a raft of other health outcomes. These can be both physical and mental. Then, there is the question of productivity. By focussing on what is most important to you, you should be better placed to make time for the things that count and spend less time on trying to please friends, customers and colleagues who will never be satisfied. In the end, though, it is more about the ability to be kind to oneself that many people see as the primary benefit.

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What steps towards conscious living are there?

There are numerous steps you can take towards a more conscious lifestyle. Which ones constitute conscious living will depend on the individual concerned, of course. Some will have a more profound effect than others. That said, most people who practise conscious living would agree that taking time out to reflect on oneself and others is a good first step. This might be regarded as 'me time' in which you shut yourself away or practise meditation on your thoughts and feelings to better understand yourself and your reactions. In turn, this can lead to another important step, that of self-acceptance. By empowering yourself by accepting you are good enough, you will spend less time and mental energy fruitlessly trying to please others. Conscious self-kindness can also be another way to move to a more consciously aware lifestyle too. Equally, being more grateful for things in life that are positive will help you, as well.

What examples of conscious living are there?

There are plenty of examples of conscious living in the world. In some cases, they seem incompatible with the pressures of modern – especially Western – lifestyles which tend to place a greater emphasis on materialistic gain, wealth acquisition and the ownership of property. In Buddhist traditions, for example, a great deal of attention is given to the rejection of material things in order to free up headspace for more spiritual concerns. Buddhist monks, for example, will often have only a few personal possessions and rely instead on the generosity of the community around them to sustain them. More realistically, perhaps, people find it by giving their time to their community, perhaps by volunteering or from their commitment to choosing more positive values. Rejecting things they might have thought in the past but now know not to be right is another form of living more consciously. For example, realising you have said or believed sexist or racist views in the past and repudiating such positions having learned better is also a form of living more consciously.

Is living in the moment the same as conscious living?

Yes and no. Living in the moment is an important part of living consciously, but it is not the only thing you need to concern yourself with. That said, being able to live in the moment is something that many people report helps them to take a pathway towards a more conscious lifestyle. This is because living in the moment and enjoying events as they occur – as opposed to trying to manage everything or worrying about how events will eventually turn out – helps people to let go of what they cannot truly control and to see their life for what it is. For some people, it also means letting go of the past or, perhaps more accurately, coming to terms with the past and not letting it dominate the future or the present. In this sense, living in the moment and conscious living are closely linked because the former helps to enable the latter.

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Can conscious living help with depression?

One of the key things that makes conscious lifestyles so appealing to people is that it strips things back to the bare essentials, to what truly counts. This can help to lift mental 'fog' if nothing else, and, in turn, it can help people to focus on taking the actions that will help to improve their mental outlook. This might be on taking more exercise or avoiding depressants, for example. That said, conscious living also helps people to feel more anchored in their community and often their family, something which can be reassuring, especially if there is a history of mental health problems. Although living consciously cannot cure depression, it can help to make bouts of depression less severe or frequent for some. The same goes for many people who suffer from anxiety disorders.

Is modern life a brake on conscious living?

For some people, modern life is the very reason we need more conscious lifestyles. However, it is also fair to say that lots of people are able to balance conscious living with a thoroughly modern lifestyle and all of the activities one entails. It seems that it depends on your point of view as to how much modern life is distracting from a more conscious way of life. Of course, modern urban environments tend to offer fewer chances to interact with the natural world and to be grateful for it. This is why in Japan and other places in the world, city dwellers will often consciously seek out time in the woods or other natural environments. Equally, modern lifestyles can mean it is easy to end up rushing around from place to place with a seemingly faster and faster lifestyle. However, living consciously would mean taking on fewer commitments with one's time, and this can be achieved just as much by busy people as less busy ones. In the end, it is a question of what sort of lifestyle you are moving towards rather than reflecting the lifestyle you previously enjoyed regardless of how modern, busy or pressurised it may have been.

Which quotations about conscious living help?

“You have to be the change you want to see in the world,” is a quotation often cited from Gandhi. It can be interpreted in a political sense but also in a much more personal one that reflects conscious living. According to Amy Leigh Mercree, “The heart is a powerful force, so use it consciously.” Author of 'The Compassion Revolution: 30 Days of Living from the Heart', a best-seller, Mercree encourages people to celebrate who they truly are from what she refers to as their 'deepest heart'. Eckhart Tolle said that self-awareness and ego cannot coexist. A spiritual teacher, Eckhart was referring to one's ego as something that was a conditioned mindset that, once consciously let go of, no longer has an undue influence over us.

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How can you be more reflective for conscious living?

Reflecting on oneself and others is a key part of conscious living. It is only by observing what we do, say, think and feel about ourselves that we can truly come to understand ourselves. Therefore, anyone who is seeking a more self-aware lifestyle will usually need to reflect on themselves. Some people will achieve this by having a frank and non-judgemental discussion with someone they trust about themselves and their actions, perhaps picking apart motivations, both positive and negative. Others might turn to a professional for help in this regard, such as a psychologist. These days, it is more likely that people will meditate and mindfully observe their own emotions and thought processes in a detached way. This can help people to be more mindful of themselves and to, therefore, live more consciously going forward.

Does mindfulness help with conscious living?

As previously mentioned, reflection, especially self-reflection, is something that helps to lead a more conscious lifestyle. After all, it is only by better understanding ourselves that we are able to make the right choices that are positive for us while avoiding the negative ones. Self-reflection can be achieved in many ways, but mindfulness is one that is becoming increasingly popular across the entire world. With mindfulness techniques, people are able to observe their thoughts and emotions dispassionately, which means being able to see them as they truly are while not being affected by how they make us feel. A mindful meditation, for example, might mean imagining you are observing something that made you upset. With this approach, you will observe the emotion you felt without judging yourself and watch its effect – in your mind's eye – as it passes. This way, you'll probably feel more empowered over your emotions and better placed to live more consciously as a result.

Which books about conscious living are worth reading?

'The Art of Happiness' by the Dalai Lama, the spiritual leader of Tibetan Buddhism, is a good place to start if you are interested in why many people are choosing to adopt more consciously aware lifestyles these days. The aforementioned Eckart Tolle wrote 'The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment'. It expands on conscious lifestyles from a spiritual point of view. Published in 2013, 'Conscious Living: Finding Joy in the Real World' by Gay Hendricks is a self-help style of book which offers numerous insights. 'The Do-It-Yourself Guide to Conscious Living: Unraveling Your Mindsets in 21 Days' by Lorie Givens is an award-winning book that also falls into the self-help category. Finally, 'How to Ikigai: Lessons for Finding Happiness and Living Your Life's Purpose' by Tim Tamshiro offers insights into conscious living from a Japanese perspective.

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Conscious living in summary

To conclude, living in a more conscious way does not mean micro-managing your life such that everything you do is thought about or controlled in some way. Rather, it is about adopting a more positive mindset that is anchored in the moment and less concerned with material matters or things which, in a month or so, will seem very trivial. Instead, conscious living is about trying to get the best out of life in a way that is more satisfied with the good things that are available to be enjoyed. It does not necessarily mean accepting everything as it is, but it is about viewing the world more realistically and working out what any individual can do to make it a better place.

For some, conscious living is a way of slowing down, being more at ease with oneself and of realising that some life goals are not worth it if, in the end, the pursuit of them means that the rest of what life has to offer is passed by. For others, it is about being able to accept oneself and one's relationship with the rest of the world, whether you are talking about friends, family or the natural world. In the end, a conscious lifestyle is something that many people find empowering not because of the effect it has on them as an individual – although this can be very profound – but on the effect, a person will subsequently have on the world around them, physically, emotionally and spiritually. As such, many people who adopt more conscious lifestyles simply feel happier about themselves and their lives.

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