If enjoying more calm and clarity in your life sounds like a good thing (and let’s get real – who doesn’t need this?), adding a mindfulness practice to your days is an excellent way to go about it. In case you’re unfamiliar with mindfulness, it is the practice of being consciously aware of your experiences — everything from thoughts and feelings to body sensations — and residing in this state of awareness without judgment. It’s an opportunity to become a mindful, objective observer which, with practice, allows us to create more and more comfortable distance between ourselves and the general chaos of life.
You can practice mindfulness as a meditation, but you can also weave it seamlessly into your day so that you’re practicing this calming skill whether or not you have time to sit and meditate. It’s easier than you think to get started. Here are some quick tips to help you incorporate more mindfulness into your life.
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- Practice mindfulness while brushing your teeth: This is a great place to start. Begin your mindful day as you wake up and do your morning routine. Brush your teeth mindfully by tuning your full attention into each step (i.e., putting on the paste, brushing, rinsing) and each sensation (i.e., tastes, smells, and textures; the feeling of the brush). Tip: it’s easier if you close your eyes!
- Practice mindful eating: Be the observer and pay mindful attention to the way you prepare, serve, and eat your food. Slice and dice mindfully; put your fork to your mouth mindfully; taste and chew mindfully. It’s also lovely to consider the source of the particular food — where and how it was grown, the farmers who produced it, the distribution chain that allowed you to enjoy your meal. That naturally leads to a moment of gratitude.
- Practice mindful walking: You can do this mindful activity whether you’re taking a leisurely stroll at your favorite outdoor spot or hoofing it across the parking lot as you head into work. Pay attention to the soles of your feet as they meet the ground; the rhythm of your steps; your breath in and out of your nose; the sights, smells, and sounds around you; the feel of the air on your face; etc.
- Practice taking in the good: Amidst the chaos, life is full of beautiful moments. Whenever you experience one, really take it in for a few breaths and relish it. Do this often and you will begin to experience the beauty of rewiring your brain for happiness.
- Let music help you be in the moment: Make a playlist of songs that fill you with good feelings. You can use this playlist to boost your experience of cooking or walking or driving or anything else you can enjoy with music. (You can even just sit back and focus on the music!) The more goodness that fills you up, the more you can practice number four above.
- Practice the Receiving-Sending Meditation (Tonglen): When you experience moments of strife in your own life or you wish to support those around you (whether people you know or strangers), this is a great mindfulness practice to use. Breathe in the pain; breathe out goodwill. Breathe in the chaos; breathe out peace. Observe how your experience and that of others begins to shift.
- Call yourself “sweetheart”: Choose something silly and sweet to call yourself and use this term of endearment to soften and comfort you when things feel rough. Let this practice bring you back into love and compassion whenever you need it.
- Practice Loving Kindness: Loving Kindness invites you to expand your ability to have compassion for yourself and others, including those whom you find off-putting. Here are a few phrases to experiment with: “May I be safe. May I be healthy. May I live with ease.” You can also try replacing “I” with “you,” or with “all beings.”
- Make a joy list: Write down a list of things that bring you joy, then do one or two of those activities every day.
- Start a gratitude practice: Write down a few things you are grateful for or a few things you enjoyed each day. Write a gratitude letter to someone. Let these feelings of gratitude fill you up.
- Get grounded: Whenever you need some extra calm and comfort, mindfully ground yourself in your body. You can do this by putting your attention on the soles of your feet and focusing your energy downward (either while sitting or walking). Keep your attention there and breathe slowly and deeply.
- Practice meditating: If you are interested in adding meditation to your daily mindfulness practice, there are several great apps out there to try (i.e., Insight Timer). Even if you only have a few minutes, you can select a short meditation that works for you. Pick a time and a meditation that fits into your schedule.
Hopefully, this list gives you some new ideas to try. As you can see, adding more mindfulness to your days doesn’t have to mean setting aside time for “one more thing.” In fact, using mindfulness throughout your day will begin to condition you to tap into this calmer, clearer way of being more easily when you need it most. Pick a few ideas from this list and get started today.
About: Mindfulness expert and author Julie Potiker is an attorney who began her serious study and investigation of mindfulness after graduating from the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction program at the University of California, San Diego. She went on to become trained to teach Mindful Self-Compassion, and completed the Positive Neuroplasticity Training Professional Course with Rick Hanson. Now, she shares these and other mindfulness techniques with the world through her Mindful Methods for Life trainings and her new book: “Life Falls Apart, but You Don’t Have To: Mindful Methods for Staying Calm In the Midst of Chaos.” For more information, visit www.MindfulMethodsForLife.com.
Mindfulness expert and author Julie Potiker is an attorney who began her serious study and investigation of mindfulness after graduating from the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction program at the University of California, San Diego. She went on to become trained to teach Mindful Self-Compassion, [...]