There are many things we can do for ourselves each day to keep our spirits lifted and our consciousness elevated. These intentional practices start to become second nature once we incorporate them into our daily lives. Below are 20 ideas to help you get started on creating an every day spiritual practice that works for you.
1. Set intentions that have to do with developing your personal growth and reaching your highest divine potential.
Be introspective when creating goals. For example, setting the intentions to be wealthy and famous will always cause your happiness to depend on whether or not you achieve these objectives. However, if you instead aim to be happy with whatever success comes your way, you have set a motivating intention that helps you to continue striving for more, but your joy no longer depends on realizing a certain outcome. Think about whether what you are asking of yourself will lead you down a path of greater awareness, help you become a better person, and most of all, allow you to keep an even-mindedness at all times.
2. Practice measured breathing.
Take a moment to tap into your breath by practicing this simple breathing technique a few times: breathing in for 4 counts, breathing out for 4 counts. You can adjust the ratio, as you feel comfortable. Measured breathing helps us to breathe deeper, something we don’t do as much as we should on a daily basis. Also, notice how your mind becomes focused on the counting and not on the eleven things you have to do today or the conversation that went awry with your partner last night. When we can concentrate on one thing, we are taking the first critical step to meditation.
If you are new to meditation, begin with a one-minute practice. Find a comfortable seated position and bring your mind to your inhalation and exhalation. If thoughts arise, it’s okay, just gently bring your mind back to your breath. Often times we get caught up on the myths of meditation (4 Meditation Myths Exposed!), but don’t let the initial difficulty discourage you. As you get more comfortable, slowly increase your time, keeping in mind that there is no timetable or deadline.
4. Slow down.
Try keeping a daily flexible and open schedule. If you cannot avoid or postpone certain commitments, then do each action slower, literally. Walk slower, eat slower, and read slower. Do not rush through your activities. It helps to completely bring your focus to your present actions and do one thing at a time.
5. Bring awareness to what you are doing in the moment.
Ask yourself a few times throughout the day- What am I doing right now? This simple question stops us from wasting time, prevents us from saying things we don’t mean, and can motivate us to take action. When we stop going through life on autopilot, we better understand how our daily habits, thoughts, and patterns prevent us from exceling.
6. Prioritize spirituality.
Just as you would schedule anything else, put your spiritual practice in your planner, on your calendar, and set it as reminder on your phone. Do not sacrifice it. Treat it as the food you eat daily and the sleep you take nightly. Strive to make it a part of your routine. Spirituality is part of our mental health. It has the potential to prevent diseases, depression, and stress.
7. Elevate your mood with calming scents.
My daily meditation practice includes burning a stick of incense. The reasons we light incense are because it purifies the air and elevates our mood, which in turn calms the mind. This same feeling can be achieved with essential oils and scented candles.
8. Carry spiritual items with you.
Whether you are carry an inspirational message in your wallet, hang a set of mala (necklace) beads on the rear view mirror of your car, or keep earbuds with you to listen to soothing music on your phone, find ways to take spirituality with you wherever you go. I’ve tried to create the habit of always keeping some calming and uplifting reading material in my purse. If I find myself ever having to wait somewhere, instead of pulling out my phone, I pull out my book. Shanti Path Meditation Kits are also great to keep while traveling!
9. Do something for someone else knowing you won’t receive credit for it.
One of the ways we can go beyond thinking purely about ourselves is by not only doing a selfless act, but doing it knowing that you will not receive any credit for it, only that you made someone else a little happier. There are many ideas for random acts of kindness. Here are a couple of websites to get some inspiration—Kind Spring & Random Acts of Kindness.
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10. Talk Less, Observe Your Thoughts More.
Talking takes up a lot of our energy that could be used towards more useful pursuits. Most of our conversations are idle talk. This is why yogic philosophy focuses on preserving energy, so that it can be used towards meditation, concentration, and building self-awareness. The Vipassana, 10-day silent retreats, incorporate this same philosophy, as well as other retreats that observe quietness. When we don’t speak we are better able to observe our minds and our reactions to whatever is happening in the moment. Bring your attention to what you are thinking and why. Get to the root of your problems and frustrations, so that you can find healthier solutions.
11. Speak only kind words.
When you do talk, be mindful of the language you use. Consider only speaking words that contain positivity and add something to a conversation. If you feel the urge to speak ill of someone, stop and imagine someone else saying the same thing about you that you are about to say about this person.
12. Use quotes, affirmations, or excerpts from spiritual/religious texts as daily inspiration.
Hand-write a couple of your favorite quotes or excerpts from spiritual/religious books, and post them in your everyday visual line of sight. Some ideas of where you can have them displayed are the bathroom mirror, refrigerator door, kitchen counter, or bedroom nightstand. You can also create your own affirmations. An example would be, ‘ Today, I will remain calm, mindful, and understanding no matter what comes my way.’ Typically, with affirmations, you should work with one for a while before moving on to a new one.
We often underestimate our need to think and reflect on our inner sense of being. If you can be alone with your thoughts, then you are one step closer to finding more peace of mind. Give yourself one hour each day where you are not engaged with any electronics (laptops, phone, iPads, television, etc.) If this sounds like a lot right now, start small and gradually work your way up.
14. Engage in self-study.
Be genuinely curious about your spiritual progress. Without judgment or preconceived ideas, sit and reflect every few weeks or months on how you have changed since you started your practice. If you are just beginning, set one intention and work on that for some time. If you have stayed committed to your practice, you will realize how far you have come since you began. Do not discount anything, even if it seems small and insignificant. This can also be a good opportunity to see what changes you need to create in your life so that it will be easier to make a greater commitment.
In the eight stages of yoga, self-study is one of the main sub-principles on the yogic path. Patanjali, in Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, uses the word Swadhyaya (or Svadhyaya) in two different ways. First, it means the study of scriptures, and secondly, it means to be constantly engaged in the study of ourselves, particularly to understand the different aspects of our personality including the physical, mental, spiritual, and emotional. Self-study helps to develop the practice of looking at our own consciousness.
15. Value your time.
Think about the most important aspects in your life and then make time for only those things. This is what it means to let go of those things that no longer serve you. Until recently I was spending a lot of time answering emails and taking phone calls that didn’t help me to reach my personal goals. At the end of the day, I would think about what I accomplished and it wasn’t nearly as much as I had set out to do. In an effort to remain kind to others, I realized I wasn’t respecting my own time. We each have control over how we use our time, value it and use it wisely.
16. End your day or begin your day 1 hour earlier.
Utilize this time to re-connect with yourself. You can combine this with another suggestion on the list, such as unplugging, meditating, self-study and/or affirmations. In creating more time for ourselves, we build a space in our day dedicated to our self-care.
17. Take a couple of slow, long, deep breaths in and out throughout the day.
Guaranteed you will feel immediately better. If at any time during the day you find yourself feeling overwhelmed, anxious, or angry, take a moment to take a couple of intentional slow, long, deep breaths in and out. Notice your chest rising and your belly expanding. It’s remarkable how this simple act can help us think clearer and make us feel calmer.
18. Do something spiritual every morning.
Start each day with a relaxed feeling and calm thoughts. Engage in something to remind yourself of your higher purpose. It doesn’t have to take much time. Once you start doing it everyday, it will naturally become part of your routine. In fact, things will feel off-balance when you don’t do it. Ever since I was a kid, as soon as I awake and before I get out of bed, I pray and thank God for another day. Your morning ritual doesn’t have to be religious. A couple of ideas include subscribing to an email list that sends out daily inspiration, DailyOM & DailyGood are two options, or looking out the window to observe nature or the cityscape for a few minutes before beginning your day. You can write out any thoughts that come to mind as soon as you wake up, while they are still fresh and untainted by the wear of the day. You can even have a mini-celebration for the opportunity of a brand new day and a chance for self-improvement by doing something in the morning that you enjoy. For me, that’s a healthy breakfast!
19. Control your mental input.
This has become increasingly difficult in our world. We are constantly bombarded with advertisements, the opinions of our friends, and media stimulation. We may turn on the television or log into our Twitter accounts and be unexpectedly met with cursing, lewd comments, vulgar photos, and demeaning language. All of those subtly influence our thoughts and feelings. Determine what you have control over. Work towards eliminating the negative. Replace it with calming, uplifting, and positive words and images.
When we are able to keep our bodies healthy, we have energy to devote to our minds. Think about how difficult it would be to focus on spiritual pursuits if you were malnourished, weak, or sick. All of your attention would be on you physical well-being. Stay strong, so you can bring more of yourself to your spirituality.