A state of awareness is known as mindfulness. It is observing something without categorizing it or thinking about the implications. Meditation and mindfulness are two different therapies. Mindfulness can be practiced without meditation. Mindfulness is non-judgmental awareness of sensations, thoughts, surroundings, and emotions. Meditation is a tool for developing mindfulness but not the only tool.
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When you are consciously bringing your wandering mind to the present moment, you are cultivating mindfulness. You can do it in everyday life by tuning into your surroundings. Use your senses to notice the new things throughout your day, and see what happens. Mindfulness is a practice of paying attention, on purpose, to the present moment, without judgment. Regular mindfulness practice can have several positive effects such as improved focus, energy and sleep as well as increased overall life satisfaction and reduced anxiety.
Mindfulness is practiced through some form of meditation such as breathing focused activities, focusing on a mantra or guided imagery. However, mindfulness can also be practiced inadvertently and yield the same benefits. Below are tips to practice mindfulness without meditating.
- When you first wake up, notice the feeling of your bedsheet, mattress and pillow against your skin. Feel the air against your face, and notice the air moisture as well as air temperature.
- Enjoy sipping your morning beverage of choice. Smell your coffee or tea before taking a slow sip. Close your eyes, feel and taste the beverage on your tongue before swallowing.
- Mindful walking is an opportunity to focus on the present moment, your feet on the ground, the wind on your face, or the sounds you are hearing without any judgment. When your mind wanders, notice that your mind has wandered and gently return your attention to your walk.
- Have you ever paid attention while having a bath? Notice the soap as it lathers, feel of water and tune into the feeling of the soap on your skin. Massage your scalp mindfully while shampooing your hair. Being in the shower provides an opportunity to connect with your senses. Try focusing your attention on the smell of your shampoo, the lather of your body wash, or the temperature of the water. Connecting with our senses is a wonderful way to practice mindfulness.
- If you drive to work, try tuning into the feel of the steering wheel in your hands. Feel the air conditioning or heat against your skin. If you’re on a train or bus, pat yourself on the back for taking mass transportation. Then tune into the feel of your seat, and take in your surroundings by noticing who is with you and what you can see and hear.
- See your colleagues. Notice something new about your coworkers. The person next to you listens to classical music or pop music or has photographs of her family on his or her desk.
- Slow down and enjoy a meal once in a while. Practice mindful eating by focusing on the smell, color, taste, and texture of the food. Notice how each bite might be different from the last, and challenge yourself to taste each element of the dish. Eating upright at a table away from distractions such as television or cellphone can also help you focus your attention on savoring your meal. Before digging into your lunch, examine its colors, smell and textures. Take a small bite. Allow your mouth to take it all in by noticing what the food feels like. Is it crunchy or soft? How it tastes? Does the taste change as you chew? Try to take slow and mindful bites. If your mind wanders, bring it back to the process of eating.
- Stretch your legs in the afternoon with a walk, and allow your senses to engage with your environment. Can you see something that you’ve never seen before, whether it’s on the ground, on the side of a building, or in the sky? What do you hear? Notice how do your legs feel with each step. Also, notice your feet.
- Do you have a habit of checking Facebook or Instagram without knowing it? Tune into those habits and see if you can be more intentional with your time. Don’t judge yourself for the time you spend on social media, only observe it.
- When listening to music, pick out one instrument and follow it throughout the song, or repeat the lyrics to absorb them. If your mind wanders that’s okay, notice those thoughts, and bring your attention back to the song.
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- Choose a color to focus on and find that color as many times as you can. It is a great activity during your commute home or while waiting for an appointment. Once you are done with one color, move on to another.
- Observe and describe your surroundings. Practice it while waiting in a doctor’s clinic or waiting room. Keep your descriptions non-judgmental as you are observing what’s around you.
- Close your eyes. Tune into your body. Start at your toes and move up. Observe each body part until you reach the top of your head. Be curious about what you find, any tension, tightness, heat, pain, or other sensations. If the mind wanders and creates stories about those feelings, bring it back to the sensations without judging.
- Every activity can be performed mindfully. Coloring, cooking, painting, singing, washing dishes, laundry and playing are examples of activities that you can practice focusing your attention on. Being intentional with mindfulness is the key because we know that the above activities can be completed mindlessly as well.
- Progressive Muscle Relaxation (PMR) involves focusing on each muscle group of your body. Tensing those muscles for a few seconds, and then relaxing those muscles while noticing the sensation as you release. Once you have finished each muscle group, you will feel relaxed and more present with your body.
- Step outside to take in the colors of the sunset and notice something you’ve never spotted before like shape of cloud, color of clouds, air temperature changes once the sun dips below the horizon. Take in the sky above you. Are there clouds? Do you see any birds? Can you observe something in the sky that you’ve never seen before?
- The night sky offers a feast for your eyes. When is the last time you looked at the stars and moon? Notice what’s beyond the atmosphere and allow yourself to feel.
- Try to listen to the sound of silence. At bedtime, relax, close your eyes, and listen. Notice the sound of silence with enthusiasm. Allow your ears to hear the texture of each sound?
- Cherish your family. If you have children or a partner, notice something new about their morning routines. With a non-judgmental mindset, observe their moods, energy levels, and favorite breakfast. Observe the things that you’ve never seen them do before?
Practicing mindfulness throughout your everyday life can train the mind to focus on the present. Observe what happens when you start noticing? Remember, practicing mindfulness might feel unfamiliar. It is a mental exercise with each practice leading to a strengthened attention mental muscle.