6 Ways to Incorporate Mindfulness Into Your Life
Updated: Jan 6
Mindfulness has become a buzzword in the therapy world. But what is mindfulness exactly? And how can it be incorporated into daily life?
Mindfulness can be described as a state of presence in which you are aware of what is occurring in the moment both internally (inside your mind and body) and externally (the outside world, your surroundings) without judgment. Doesn’t that sound great? Well, yes. But it is unrealistic to expect yourself to be in that state one hundred percent of the time. Thoughts and feelings (more so judgments about those thoughts and feelings) are bound to creep in and pull you out of presence. This happens to everyone and is part of our experience as humans.
One way practice mindfulness is to develop a meditation practice. However, formal meditation is not the only way to strengthen the “mindfulness muscle.” If formal meditation is not your thing, there are many ways to practice this state of being throughout your day. Below are six ways to incorporate mindfulness in your everyday life.
1. Mindful Breathing
Mindful breathing can be practiced anytime and anywhere throughout your day. The breath can act as an anchor to the present moment. All that is involved is bringing awareness to breathing in and out. No need to count, analyze, manipulate, or visualize the breath. Just breathe naturally and become aware of where you experience the breath, whether it be in the nose, chest, belly, entire body, or wherever else.
At times of stress or anxiety, it is recommended to breathe into your abdomen to help regulate breathing patterns and reduce the stress response in the body. However, in this exercise it is best to let the breath be and just observe without judgment.
In the inevitability of mind wandering, simply notice the thought or feeling with compassion and then shift your focus back to your breathing. It's important not to get frustrated at yourself when this happens (because it will). These moments are when the "mindfulness muscle" is strengthened!
2. Mindful Listening
When someone else is speaking, we often are waiting for them to stop so that we can get our point across. We aren’t truly listening. Bringing mindfulness to listening involves seeing if you can pay attention and not interrupt until the other person has completely finished speaking. Notice when your mind begins to wander off, either distracted by what you have to do that day or in creating the best counterargument. When this happens, simply become aware of it and bring your attention back to listening. This creates a space in which the other person truly feels heard, making them more connected and less on guard. To allow more time and less reactivity, take a breath before responding once the other is finished speaking.
3. Mindful Eating
We often approach mealtimes distracted by something else, like reading, working, or watching TV. This results in not really tasting or enjoying what we are eating. Extend mindfulness into eating by simply giving the experience your full attention. Slow down, take in all senses, notice tastes, smells, and textures. Act as a scientific researcher, observing the mind and body with curiosity and objectivity, without judgment. With practice, you may find that you enjoy eating more. And perhaps you will become more able to recognize fullness as you tune in to what your body really wants and needs.
4. Habit mindfully
We all have established daily habits and routines that are done without thought or
attention. Why not use them as an opportunity to engage in mindfulness as a way of life? Choose to be mindful during household tasks, work interactions, and even in play. Here are some common habits and routines to weave mindfulness into:
Take a moment when you wake up to pause and mindfully check-in before reaching for your phone or jumping out of bed.
As you shower or brush your teeth, notice where your mind is and bring yourself back to the present. Take in all senses and sensations.
As you drive, find opportunities to drive a bit slower. Use red lights as a reminder to notice your breath.
Eat mindfully during mealtimes. Maybe take a meal alone to focus on the present moment.
Mindfully wash dishes (or any other household chore you dislike!) Turn the unpleasant chores into a game of openness and curiosity.
SLOW DOWN! We all rush far too much. Slowing down is the easiest way to become more mindful.
5. Mindful Walking
We often take the ability to walk for granted. But think about the balance involved in holding the body upright by the feet which are very small by comparison! Throughout your day, take time to walk mindfully, without purpose or intent of getting somewhere. Mindful walking involves noticing the movement of each foot as you lift it, move it forward, and place it back down with each step. Slow the process down and use the movement to develop a careful awareness of your body.
6. Minding Your Pain
When we experience stress, tension, emotional, or chronic physical pain, we usually have an immediate negative reaction of discomfort and try to make the feeling go away. However, there is always the option of trying to relate to the pain in a different way. Throughout your week, try to “mind your pain” by bringing awareness to how you are holding the experience of pain and notice your immediate reactions. Once you become aware, you have the choice of responding differently. Ask yourself, what does “pain” actually feel like? Why is there a need to make the sensation go away? Try to allow the experience to play out completely. Likely, you find that no experience or feeling is permanent! Remember this: you are 100% complete and whole as you are already!
These six skills are a guide towards a more mindful life. However, you can arrive in the state of mindfulness at any moment by simply taking a breath. Remember to not get frustrated at yourself for having difficulty staying present, as this is a judgment in and of itself!
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