Can’t seem to find the time to meditate? Check out these 10 ways you can infuse little doses of mindfulness into your daily life. Just a few minutes each day can have a big impact on reducing stress and increasing positive emotions.
What is mindfulness?
According to Greater Good, “mindfulness” can be described as, “maintaining a moment-by-moment awareness of our thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations, and surrounding environment.”
I also like to define “mindfulness” as focused, present-moment awareness that engages all five senses. Simply put, mindfulness is fully experiencing the moment you are in, right now.
Why is mindfulness important?
Mindfulness is incredibly beneficial for your physical, mental, emotional and spiritual well-being.
It helps to cultivate a sense of inner peace and calm, reduce stress levels and increase positive emotions. Not only does mindfulness allow you to be in the present moment, it gives you the ability to fully experience the present moment even more.
Oftentimes people multitask throughout the entire day. And I totally get it, life can be so busy. But multitasking is the opposite of mindfulness. It is impossible to be fully present when you are doing multiple tasks at once.
It may seem counterintuitive, but if you do each task mindfully you’ll probably accomplish them faster anyway because you won’t be distracted, which will make you more effective at what you are doing.
Research shows that mindfulness can help you tune out distractions, focus more easily and improve your memory. Another study also found that just eight weeks of practicing mindfulness can boost your immune system and help fight off illness.
And mindfulness is one of the most effective practices to reduce stress. By fully being in the present moment, we are able to release many of the everyday distractions that produce anxiety, worry, fear and negative emotions.
Mindfulness also helps to reduce overwhelm and produces a calming effect on the nervous system, which makes it easier for your body and mind to relax.
How to practice mindfulness:
One way to practice mindfulness is through meditation. You can do this by taking a seat in a quiet place, breathing deeply and anchoring your awareness to your breath. Don’t worry if your mind wanders, that is totally normal. Gently return your awareness back to the breath and back to the present moment.
Every time your mind wanders it is an opportunity to come home to your breath. The goal in mindfulness meditation is to become aware of your inner and outer experience in a way that is free of judgment and full of self-compassion.
Even if you feel like you don’t have time to meditate, there are still many ways to infuse your life with small doses of mindfulness.
10 ways to practice mindfulness in daily life:
Go outside and take a walk through your neighborhood, a park or on a hiking trail. Be sure to turn off your phone and to not have any other distractions with you. Simply enjoy being in the present moment and observe everything around you.
You can even practice this when you are walking to and from your car or even around your house. Just a few moments of mindfulness can make a big difference in how you feel.
Yoga gives you a chance to slow down, calm your mind and release tension in your body. Breathe deeply into each pose and send your breath to any areas that may feel tense. Be sure to scan your jaw, neck, shoulders, low back, hips, and knees as these are common areas that people hold tension.
You could even just do one or two poses mindfully as a way to take a break during your day or to wind down before bed.
A warm shower can help release muscle tension and make your body feel more relaxed and comfortable. This is the perfect place to practice mindfulness. Really notice the smell of your shampoo or body wash, feel the sensation of the warm water on your skin, and hear the soothing sound of the water.
If you’re feeling really stressed, try visualizing the water carrying the stress out of your body and down the drain. You can even pair this with deep breathing to amplify the effects.
Any task can become meditative if you bring your full awareness to it. For example, when you are washing dishes, really focus on what you are doing: smell the soap, feel the dishes in your hand, notice the sensation of the warm water on your skin.
You can do the same for folding laundry or vacuuming. Simply be aware of all the sensations that are connected with what you are doing in that present moment. This will transform any chore into an opportunity to practice mindfulness.
Deep breathing can help your nervous system move from “fight or flight” (the stress response) to “rest and digest” (the relaxation response). Make sure you breathe fully and deeply into your belly and so you can turn on the “rest and digest” part of your nervous system.
I know this may sound to good to be true, but give it a try and see for yourself. Deep breathing is one of the most effective ways to shift your body out of the stress response and into the relaxation response.
Think back for a second to the last conversation you had before you started reading this. Were you listening to the person mindfully? Or were you thinking about how you were going to respond while they were talking…or maybe even spacing out a bit?
Mindful listening is being fully present with the person who is speaking, listening to what they are saying, attuning to their emotions and allowing for moments of silence.
Practicing mindful listening will not only help you feel more relaxed, it will make your relationships better too. An easy way to practice this is to set the intention to practice mindfulness in the first conversation of your day.
7. Waiting in line
Do you get bored or frustrated while waiting in line? Next time you find yourself waiting, try to tune in and notice how you are feeling. Instead of feeding negative emotions by ruminating on them, use this time as an opportunity for mindfulness.
Focus on your breathing, notice the people and environment around you, listen to all the sounds and practice radical acceptance. If you’re up for it, you can even think about a few things you are grateful for.
Gardens provide a wonderful setting to practice mindfulness. Being in nature is relaxing and rejuvenating on it’s own, but you can take it a step further by really focusing on what you are doing in the present moment. Feeling the soil in your hands, smelling the wet earth and flowers, hearing the birds chirp around you.
Even if you don’t have a garden, you can still practice mindfulness by caring for house plants or by planting flowers or herbs in a pot on your deck or balcony. Or if you’re feeling ambitious, you can even get a garden box.
Cooking is an activity that really engages your senses. Stay present by enjoying all the color, sounds, textures and smells that come from preparing and cooking a meal.
Allow yourself to experiment with different types of foods and notice what you are intuitively drawn to preparing. If cooking is new for you, be patient with yourself as you learn and practice self-compassion.
There’s no better way to engage all five of your senses than with eating. When you eat mindfully, you are chewing your food thoroughly, feeling the textures and sensations in your mouth, tasting all the flavors and appreciating the color and beauty of the meal.
Also, be sure to turn the TV off and set your phone aside when practicing mindful eating. In order for a meal or snack to be eaten mindfully, you must be completely focused on the food and sensations, which is not possible while watching TV or scrolling through your newsfeed.
Remember, the key to doing these tasks mindfully is to anchor your attention in the present by engaging your senses. When your mind wanders (which it will!) simply bring your awareness back to what you are doing. The more you practice returning your attention to the present moment, the easier it will become.
Infusing your day with little doses of mindfulness will help you to feel more relaxed, will calm your mind, and will improve your focus and productivity in everything you do.
How will you practice mindfulness this week?