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Easy Ways to Incorporate Mindfulness into Your Daily Life
Mindfulness & Why We Need It!
If you are like most people, you spend much of your day hurrying from one activity to the next, with a dialogue constantly running through your mind. You are thinking about what you need to do next, where you need to go, what you will eat later, how much that tank of gas will cost, what that co-worker said to you this morning, and so on. Before you know it, you may find yourself at the end of the day with little memory of what you actually did!
Mindfulness is simply the act of purposefully noticing what you are doing while you are doing it. It is all about paying attention to the present moment and the details within that moment. Rather than rushing through the task of washing the dishes in the sink, a person practicing mindfulness may stop to feel the warm water on their hands, to hear the clanging of the dishes and to look carefully at each dish to ensure that it has been scrubbed clean. This brings a sense of calm to the body, and grounds a person so that they are able to actually experience their lives rather than finding themselves at the end of each day, month or year with little to no recollection of what went on other than stress and rushed activities!
Being mindful involves taking time to notice the beauty in life
Step One: Drive Mindfully
Many people have experienced it at least once: you get in your car to drive on familiar roads and suddenly you are home, but you don't remember driving! This is an example of a lack of mindfulness. Rather than noticing the surroundings or the details of the cars around them, distracted drivers are busy "daydreaming" or thinking about conversations, work, school or other things rather than focusing solely on what they are doing.
The next time you drive alone, try this: As you are driving, take time to notice trees, buildings, the colors of cars and so on, and describe your surroundings out loud and even the feeling of your hands on the steering wheel. Label the things that you see out loud. For instance, you may say "I see a red car, I see two large brick buildings and two small children playing outside, a yellow yield sign," and so on. You may be surprised at how much you see while driving, not to mention how much more focused you will be on your actual drive and the road in front of you. Over time, you may develop the practice of always noticing the things around you while driving, as well as the sensations you feel while driving, which will not only help you pay attention to the road but it may help you to notice when you are getting frustrated or developing road rage! If you catch it early, deep breathing and taking time to become mindful of the sensations in your body will help you to remain calm and safe on the road!
Step Two: Mindfulness Meditation
Mindfulness meditation involves sitting quietly with a straight back or while laying on the floor on one's back, usually with the eyes closed. The individual focuses on their breath, while allowing their thoughts to come and go - noticing as the mind wanders but doing so without judgment and without focusing on thoughts - always returning to the breath. As a person practices this meditation over time, it becomes easier to develop the skill of focusing on the breath without honing in on the train of thoughts running through your consciousness. Some people think of their thoughts like bubbles, floating down a river or like clouds being blown away in the wind, and they imagine watching the thoughts go by. Oftentimes the mind is in the "monkey mind" state, meaning our thoughts are constantly jumping around like a monkey would jump from branch to branch. Mindfulness allows us to escape that "monkey mind" state and to find a sense of calm and presence. Again, with time and practice each person comes up with their own way of "watching" their thoughts, while deepening and focusing on their breath.
A great deal of research has shown that there are many benefits to mindfulness meditation. For instance, mindfulness meditation has been shown to reduce stress, anxiety, and depression.
A Great Video on the Benefits of Mindfulness Meditation
Step Three: Mindful Eating
Mindful Eating: This exercise involves choosing one food (a common food for this exercise is an orange.) First, feel the orange and notice how the outside of the orange looks and smells. Pay attention to the small details. Next, slowly peel the orange and notice how it feels as the peel pulls away from the the orange. Has the smell changed? How does it sound as you peel the orange? Continue peeling while paying close attention to all of your senses. Finally, pull the orange apart into it's pieces and put one slice into your mouth. As you do so, notice the texture of the orange as you bite into it, and the taste. Chew slowly and continue to do so with each individual slice of the entire orange. Is this different than the way you normally eat? What do you notice?
These are only a few ways to incorporate mindfulness into your life! Mindful living is living in the present and noticing your own experiences as they happen, without judgment. Rather than rushing through each day with so much on your mind, take time each day, even just a few minutes, to really notice your experiences. Mindfulness reduces stress, anxiety and depression and leads to a sense of calm as the body and mind are able to slow down and take the time to take in the world around you.