“It’s always weird to see people talking about meditation for relaxation while it’s embedded in systems of belief in the East. The same thing happens with mindfulness sometimes.” – Dat Tran, an awesome friend.
What is mindfulness? Mindfulness is the art of bringing attention to the present moment and tuning into your senses that we have such as to smell, hear, and see. Mindfulness means simply to become more aware and have a heightened awareness of things. There are so many benefits of practicing mindfulness on a regular basis. From reduced stress and anxiety, a better ability to cope with stressors, more mental clarity, better attention, and focus. I am by no means the best of practicing mindfulness all the time but when I do make an effort to be more mindful in different small daily actions it makes a huge difference. And this is what I want to talk about today. I want to share some small ways that work for me to incorporate more mindfulness into my day. Maybe it works for you, too.
Mindful Eating. This is a wonderful daily practice we can include in our lives. What this means is simply becoming more aware of the eating process and the experience with food and mealtime. It helps us to digest food better, and we are aware more of all the tastes, textures, preparing the food, the smells and it also helps to tune into hunger and satiety cues that help when we are eating.
When eating mindfully, we are better to tune into how we feel when eating. A way to practice this is to turn off all distractions when you eat. Put your phone and computer away, turn off the TV, and really be present with the food in front of you. Also, try to slow down when you are eating. Take a few breaths between bites, put the fork down, and notice the taste.
Morning Routine. Taking time to start your day in a mindful way is a great thing you can do or start to add to your daily routine. It can be just a couple of extra minutes where you can be with yourself in silence, to have a richer experience when you for example prepare your morning tea or coffee and to be fully present when you are involved in preparing those things. Boiling the water, sitting down to fully enjoy it, smelling it before you check your emails, or rush out of the door before you fully have to start our day.
Mundane Activities. A great way to make a mundane activity more interesting is to simply engage your senses and be fully present in it. Even if it is just for a moment or two. And this applies especially to the things that apply your hands, touch, and feel. Notice the feeling of slicing a vegetable, and preparing food, doing the dishes, and the feeling of scrubbing the plate or pan. How do these things feel to you? For me, it takes on a whole new life if I am fully present in the moment.
Another way to be more mindful is to check in with yourself. And you can do this at any time of the day. It is really just tuning in to see how you are feeling. Like, what do I need right now? Do I need to put my phone away? Do I need to stop scrolling through social media? Do I need to get up from my seat and move or go for a walk? Am I hungry or thirsty? Checking in with ourselves is a great way to figure out where we need to take some actions. This is also a good thing to do when you feel any emotions, especially such as anger and frustration, or when you are feeling overwhelmed or upset. Bring your awareness into that emotion and ask yourself, “What does this feel like? Where do I feel it in my body?” When we do this, we are sort of able to detach ourselves from that emotion and take more of an outsider-look at it. Like being the observer of that emotion.
Meditation. Another way to add some more mindfulness into your day is to meditate. You don’t have to do this for a very long time so if you are new to sitting in silence with yourself you can just set a timer for five minutes and there you go. It doesn’t have to be rocket science. Meditation is a great way to see what is going on inside of you and you can do this simply by sitting down somewhere, closing your eyes (or not, I can actually meditate with my eyes open while standing), finding a comfortable position, and focus on your breath and the sensation of air going in and out of your lungs. And when it comes to your thoughts, and yes, we are often thinking about so many things, we can take a moment to stop while meditating. Think about “thought-clouds” and observe your thoughts as if they would be indeed clouds passing through your mind. This way, you can better disconnect from them and no longer identify with them or even become your thoughts.
I like to practice “Inner-Body Awareness” while focusing on my hands. I learned about this exercise in Eckard Tolle’s book “A New Earth”. You simply sit and enjoy the liveliness of your hands which is a great way to redirect your focus and just be in the here and now.
Mindful Interactions. The next way to practice more mindfulness is to have mindful interactions with others. Not only is this a great way to improve your listening skills but also a great way to enrich your relationships. Fully emerge yourself in an experience you are having with someone or a conversation but just pay full attention to what it is they are saying by listening fully and giving them your full attention and not getting distracted by things you hear or see around you. Or getting caught up in what your response is going to be. We so easily get caught up in the grind or the need for approval from others that we lose sight of what we want. Reconnect with those things and be specific about what exactly they are, whether or not you’re making space for them in your life, and consider ways that you can begin to if needed. To be more mindful, notice your surroundings. Walk in nature. What do you see? What do you hear?
Doing Less. I think that rest and recovery between periods of work are not only a big part of a less stressful life, but essential for supporting your ability to function at your best. Constantly having things to “do” with no real space to breathe is what leads to burnout. Doing less is all about welcoming this slowness into your life and recognizing what is and isn’t worth your time. We can’t say no to everything, but we can still set boundaries for ourselves.
Stillness. We have become so accustomed to noise and activity that when stimulation, distraction, or entertainment is taken away, stillness makes us uncomfortable. We often believe stillness has no value or means wasting our time as productivity and achievement are so heavily prized. But if we drop the idea that we need to fill every ounce of silence with some kind of familiar activity or distraction, we can begin to understand ourselves better and recognize what actually matters. Just chill. Just be still.
Stay sane. Stay mindful.