What does it mean to practice mindfulness? Mindfulness is the practice of being fully aware of what is going on in the present moment without judging it. It has been shown to help people manage stress, anxiety, pain, depression, insomnia, and even high blood pressure! It can also help improve your sleep, diabetes control and attention as well as decrease job burnout.
Sounds great right! But how exactly can you practice it? Do you have to meditate? Here are 10 easy ways that you can practice mindfulness everyday.
10 Easy Ways to Practice Mindfulness Everyday
1. Taking a walk
Research shows that practicing mindfulness outside in nature is really good for us. Take a walk in a park or on a hiking trail and try to really be aware of what is going on around you. Pay attention to the way to ground feels under your feet and the sounds that you hear. Breathe in the air and take note of the way it smells. Focus on the feeling of your body as you move your arms and legs.
The key to practicing mindfulness is to try to be aware of and experience through all of your first 5 senses: sight, sound, smell, taste, and touch.
Not a fan of walking around aimlessly? You can practice taking in the experience of walking to the store or even walking from your car to your house. Are there flowers blooming in your front yard? Take a moment to appreciate them!
2. Sitting at your desk
Yes, you read that correctly. You can even practice mindfulness while sitting at your desk, which is a good thing since many of us spend a lot of time there. Turn off your screens and close your eyes. Sit with your feet flat on the floor and your back straight. Now just focus on your breathing as you breathe in and out through your nose. If some sound or idea interrupts your concentration, just take note of it and get back to focusing on your breathing. This exercise helps you train your brain to be able to focus when there are internal and external distractions. The more you practice doing this, the more natural it will become. It is as though you are building muscle memory in your brain!
3. Going to sleep
It can be hard to fall asleep sometimes. I know that if I have used my brain and not my body during the day, I have the hardest time. This is probably one of the best times to practice mindfulness! For this exercise, close your eyes and concentrate on your breathing. Then, starting with your head, focus on relaxing each part of your body. Feel the tension leave your neck and shoulders as you breathe and focus on relaxing. By the time you have worked your way down to your toes, you should feel relaxed and have a calm mind so that you can fall asleep.
4. Listening to someone speak
Let’s face it, most of us could be better listeners which makes this a great way to practice mindfulness. It will not only help you but it will help improve your relationships! The next time you find yourself listening to another person speak, focus on the words they are saying. Take in their body language and facial expressions. Really focus on them and listen to them instead of thinking about your response. If you find yourself getting distracted, take note of it and then return your focus to listening to the person speaking.
5. Looking in the mirror
This is a great exercise because it helps you see yourself objectively. The next time you look in the mirror, suspend your judgement! Take note of the color of your eyes and hair, the shape of your jawline, or the silhouette of your body. If you find that you are thinking judgemental thoughts, stop yourself. Breathe and go back to observing yourself objectively. Imagine that you are looking at one of your friends, and view yourself as though you were your friend instead of yourself. We are far more harsh in our self judgements and that can be bad for your self-esteem. Practice looking at yourself without judgement as often as you can and see how much more confident and comfortable you feel with yourself!
6. Getting angry
We all get angry from time to time, and it isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as long as we can harness those feelings and use them constructively. When you find yourself feeling hot under the collar, this is a great time to practice mindfulness. Focus on your breathing while inhaling through your nose and exhaling through your mouth. Try to take the deepest, longest breaths that you can. This will help you to physically relax and focus your mind. Don’t focus on your anger or your feelings in this moment, simply breathe and focus on the breaths that are calming you and allowing you to think clearly about the situation.
7. Indulging a bad habit
One of the biggest benefits of practicing mindfulness is that it trains you to be able to stop in the midst of doing something that you don’t really want to be doing, like indulging in a bad habit. The next time you find yourself engaging in behavior that you are trying to change, pause and be mindful. Take a moment to concentrate on yourself – how you are feeling and what you are doing. Don’t judge yourself, instead examine your motives. Reflect on the way you feel and how your feelings contributed to your desire to engage in the behavior. Then you can try to avoid it in the future. Or at the very least, you will be more able to stop yourself in the moment!
8. Waiting in line (or traffic)
I don’t know about you, but waiting is one of my biggest annoyances in life! I am the person that will get off the highway to take a longer route through town just to get out of sitting in traffic. Waiting in line is less annoying to me because I love to talk, and there are always a lot of people around in a line. But in general, most of us hate waiting, I think.
The next time you find yourself waiting in line, in traffic, or anywhere really, take a moment to practice mindfulness. Focus on your breathing and calming your thoughts. Breathe deeply and slowly to help calm any anxiety you may be feeling in the moment. Choose something interesting to look at and focus on it instead of focusing on the chaos that is around you. Go to your happy place in your mind where things are calm and you feel soothed. Before you know it, your wait will be over and you will not have gotten all worked up from it!
9. Cooking a meal
This is a great time to focus on your first 5 senses because they are all activated by food! The next time you are cooking something, use the experience to practice mindfulness. Focus on the way the ingredients look and feel in your hand, the sound as you chop up an onion and the sensation of the tears welling up in your eyes. Listen to the sizzle as the food hits the pan. Smell the herbs and spices as they cook and develop. And finally, the best part, when you eat the food, really be aware in the moment of the texture of the food in your mouth as well as the taste. Taking the time to really enjoy your food is also practicing mindfulness!
10. Waking up
Practicing mindfulness is a great way to start the day! It helps you stay focused and calm all day long. I don’t know about you, but I often find myself checking my phone the first thing in the morning. If I look at my social media, emails, and the news right away, I feel less in control of my day. I find myself reacting to posts, messages, and stories instead of thinking about my day and my goals. So I have started practicing mindfulness first thing instead.
Instead of reaching for your phone in the morning, focus on yourself. Pay attention to your breathing and the sensation of your feet hitting the floor. Sit up straight before you stand up, focus on the morning sounds of birds or the smell of the coffee. Take some time to notice the transition your body is going through as it moves from sleep to wakefulness. You will find that you feel more centered and in control of your day!
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