What is mindfulness?
Mindfulness is the practice of paying full attention to whatever you are experiencing in the present, without being distracted or overwhelmed by whatever else is going on around you.
Being mindful is about achieving a state where you can observe your thoughts, your feelings and your environment without making a judgment about whether they are good or bad.
It is about living life in the moment and being aware of the experience you are having in the present, rather than ruminating in the future or dwelling on the past.
You don’t need to be a Zen master, or vegan or religious or anything in particular to be able to practise mindfulness.
Anyone can do it and it is something we can all do naturally, but it may take a bit of practice to do it effectively.
Ok, great. But why would you bother to practise mindfulness?
Simply because it is an easy way to promote emotional, physical and mental well-being! It costs you nothing and can be done almost anywhere at any time.
Here are 7 different ways to practise and incorporate mindfulness into your life every day.
1. Mindful Breathing
Of all the exercises you can try to practise mindfulness, the simplest is one to start with is probably mindful breathing.
If you’re reading this, the chances are you breathing right now, so you’re already halfway there!
You can do this one-minute exercise standing up or sitting down – whatever works for you right now and as long as you are comfortable.
Breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth slowly. Each breath cycle should take 6-8 seconds.
Try to clear your mind and think of nothing other than breathing. Be at one with your breath.
Be conscious of the air entering your body and the way it fills your lungs and how it passes back out through your mouth as you exhale.
Do this for 10 breathing cycles. I’ll wait for you while you finish.
2. Eating Mindfully
If you’re breathing, you’re probably also going to want to eat today at some point.
You eat every day, but how often do you really notice and appreciate the food you are eating? Like me, you probably just feel like eating is a necessity you cram in between the multitude of tasks you need to do each day.
Next time you eat though, really pay attention to the first bite of your meal.
Notice the texture, the temperature, the taste and how it feels in your mouth.
Be aware of the chewing and swallowing sensation.
Repeat for the next few mouthfuls – you don’t need to do it for the whole meal, but feel free to do so if you want to!
3. Observing Mindfully
Observe an object. Just look at it.
The object can be man-made or natural, but ideally something natural. Pay attention to the lines, the colours, the texture.
Look at it closely and in detail as if you are seeing it for the very first time in your life. See and appreciate the beauty of its form. That’s all you’ve gotta do!
4. Listening Mindfully
We tend to tune out a lot of the noise around us, especially in a big city. Instead of blocking out whatever you can hear now, take the time to really listen to what is going on. Listen carefully and isolate and identify the different sounds.
If you’re listening to music right now, really listen to all of the instruments. Try to isolate them individually. Hear the baseline. Pick out the percussion. Pay attention to the gaps in the melodies. The pauses. The harmonies. You’ll probably discover elements in the music that you had never noticed before, which makes you appreciate it more.
5. Mindful Awareness
Most of the things you do everyday, you do on auto-pilot. This exercise is about consciously noticing these activities.
Cleaning your teeth, making a coffee, turning on the computer, opening the door – it doesn’t matter. Whatever it is, focus on it as if it is the first time you have experienced it and really enjoy it.
For example, if you’re opening the door, make a conscious effort to notice the temperature of the handle and how it feels in your hand; the force required to turn the knob or push don the handle; the weight of the door as you open it; the change in air temperature or pressure, etc.
If you’re cleaning your teeth, notice how the brush feels against your teeth and gums, the speed you’re brushing and the pressure you’re using, the taste of the toothpaste . . .
You get the idea!
6. Mindful Appreciation
Before you go to sleep, note down six objects or people that you have encountered during your day that you usually don’t give a second thought.
These things can be largely insignificant or things that are vastly important for our lives or survival, but the point is, they are things that go largely unnoticed and unappreciated in our daily lives because of all of the other day-to-day distractions we are faced with as humans in modern society.
For example, the lights in your house; the water from your taps; the WIFI that connects you to the internet; the car that takes you to work; your shoelaces; the zipper on your jacket.
Appreciate them and acknowledge the benefit they bring to your life and how things might be different without them.
This exercise is about consciously noticing and being grateful for experiences that you have had throughout the day.
7. Take A Mindful Break
All too often in life these days, we jump from one thought to the next and one task merges into another. If there is an opportunity to take a break, what should be a restful interlude is hijacked with the checking of emails and text messages.
This exercise is about taking a real break. Stop what you’re doing. Move away from whatever device you are using and sit quietly while you start noticing sensations in your mind and in your body.
What can you feel?
What can you hear?
Are you aware of your breathing and your heart beating?
Take a moment to be present in this moment.
If your mind starts thinking about work or things you need to do, try to turn your attention back to what you are doing now.
You don’t need to make any judgments or assessments.
Just be in the moment.
That is what mindfulness is all about.
And if you practise it, you should find that you enjoy your life a lot more and that you are able to deal with life’s challenges in a more clear-minded, objective and calm way.
For more information on mindfulness, check out these recommended sites: