Mindfulness: it’s one of those trendy buzz words that have been gaining a lot of popularity in the health and fitness world, like kale or alkaline or “ancient grains.” But what is it REALLY?
I used to think you could only practice mindfulness if you were a hip and fully bendable yogi, fresh off your latest meditation retreat where you and the Kundalini crew ate exclusively vegan tofu and discussed tips on optimizing your DIY composting toilet-that’s-really-a-bucket.
But after taking a mindfulness quiz in which I scored extremely poorly (the quiz literally told me to “Think again”, which made me laugh sheepishly), I realize that one can easily practice a little bit of mindfulness in everyday situations.
I’m a firm believer of practice makes perfect, and that holds true for mindfulness as well! Here are 10 actionable ways one can begin practicing mindfulness:
1. Instead of scarfing down your food, chew with purpose! Mindful eating is a great place to start because, hey, WE ALL EAT. Consider the texture, taste, and smell of your food. If it’s one of your favorite dishes, relish the act of eating it! Why exactly is it your favorite dish? Do you have any fond memories associated with it?
2. Be truly cognizant of your surroundings while driving. For many people, we go on auto-pilot during our commute. Change this by practicing mindful driving: feel your palms on the steering wheel or your foot on the pedal. Listen to the cars around you.
3. Be aware of your breathing. Feel your lungs slowly expand in and out and listen to the rhythm of your heart beat.
4. Feel the textures of your clothing as you wear them. Are you wearing a particularly soft hoodie? A silky blouse? The rough denim on your legs? How do these articles of clothing make you feel?
5. Notice your mood, and acknowledge any shifts in emotions. Do you feel hungry? Nostalgic? Melancholic? Happy? Anxious? Impatient? Why do you feel that way?
6. Set a 5 minute alarm on your phone. Then, for the next five minutes, practice concentrating on an object in the room. It can be a pen, a potted plant, anything. Be fully aware of that object: how it feels, its functions, how it is built or created, etc. If your mind starts to waver or you become distracted, practice focusing your attention back on the object. Keep at it until the five minutes is up.
7. Practice walking meditation. You can do this while walking in the parking lot, grocery shopping or even just taking a walk down the street outside of your house. Feel your legs carry you from one place to another. Feel your foot stepping on the pavement or floor. Feel the muscles of your body acting in unison to transport you to a different location.
8. Go to a busy area, like a park or a restaurant, and listen to the sounds around you. It can be a bird chirping in the free, a dog barking in the distance, your neighbor’s wind chimes. Listen to the different pitches of each sound and focus entirely on hearing the environment around you.
9. Pay attention to seemingly mundane or normal tasks – even the little inconsequential things that you do on a regular basis. Feel the smooth glass on your smartphone, or listen to the rhythmic clickety-clack of your keyboard as you type an email.
10. Embrace stress and acknowledge how it affects you physically and mentally. When you feel stress, become aware of the physical changes that are taking place in your body that have resulted because of the stress. Perceive the stress in your body as energy that will allow you to accomplish the task at hand. Accept the stress, and mindfully channel it towards productivity.
This is by no means an exhaustive list: there are hundreds of other ways one can practice mindfulness. With enough hard work and effort, you’ll be on your way towards becoming a more mindful and self-aware individual!
About the Author: Nicole Clarke is a content writer in the addiction treatment and holistic health niche. When she isn’t blogging, she is probably spending time with her family or online shopping! She discovered the benefits of mindfulness at the beginning of her journey with sobriety from substance abuse. Please reach out to her on Twitter at @NicoleHClarke!