8 Ways to Practice Mindfulness Everyday
Full disclosure: Even though mindfulness is something I’ve been preaching for years, it’s something I have a hard time fully putting into practice. That being said, the ways I have been able to implement mindfulness strategies and concepts into my daily life (without having to meditate) have benefited me significantly. Mindfulness has proven to be more than a trendy buzzword for me, individuals I’ve worked with, and for researchers in the field who have found benefits of mindfulness to include a reduction in symptoms of anxiety and depression, improved cognition, better sleep, improved emotional regulation, and decreased stress.
In short, mindfulness is the practice of being present. It’s a state of awareness surrounding thoughts, feelings, and sensations that are going on in the moment – now, instead of the frequent state of being wrapped up in all-consuming thoughts and feelings associated with the past and future. It involves attending to what it is that you’re doing now in the space that you occupy. It’s a kind of self-regulation of attention that involves curiosity and acceptance without judgment of the things you happen to be noticing – even if what you are experiencing happens to be a negative state-of-mind.
There are a couple different types of mindfulness. The first being the “meditation kind” (a more purposeful approach that requires setting the time aside for a structured – perhaps guided version of meditation) and the second being a more everyday kind of mindfulness – the kind that can be woven into daily life and all of its associated activities. For the purpose of what I’m discussing today, I’ll be putting more of an emphasis on the second kind – the kind that can be put into practice immediately, without the need for sitting still or scheduling it in.
Below is a list of 8 ways to incorporate mindfulness into your life with a link to a guided exercise below.
1 – Recognize when your mind is in the past or future. So much of our distress in life has to do with thoughts associated with the past or future. We replay past events, think about things we could have said or done differently, and dwell on regrets. We imagine future situations, worry about things that haven’t happened yet, imagine worst case scenarios, and rehearse our lines for interactions we plan to have throughout the day. If you’re having a cup of morning coffee and in your mind you’re already in the meeting you have scheduled in a couple of hours, you’re not being present. Acknowledging this is the case can sometimes be enough to help ground you a bit. Why spend more time in the meeting than you need to?
2- Give attention to and notice your current surroundings. Take in your current experience. What do you taste, smell, hear, and see? When having a meal, taking a shower, or driving to work, practice the experience of being present by paying attention to your current experience and the things you notice going on around you. Whatever it is that you happen to be doing – whether with or without other people – try to be in that moment. Next time you’re having a meal, try to eat mindfully. Take your time, identify the smells, textures, and flavors. You’ll probably notice more about your meal than you ever have before.
3 – When negative emotions occur, notice them without assigning any meaning. Although feelings can be useful indicators of what might be going on, they don’t always mean anything. If for example, you are feeling worried about a future event or have a feeling that something bad might happen, you can recognize that feeling and also recognize that it might not mean anything. Worry and fear, as with many other negative emotions, are very often not useful emotions or accurate indicators as to what will come.
4 – Notice and observe your thoughts. Thoughts come and go all the time without much control as to which thoughts come to mind. Like feelings, we can acknowledge thoughts without assigning any meaning or judgment to them. We can allow them to come and allow them to pass by, imagining them as clouds in the sky. When we are aware of our thinking, we can make attempts to redirect our attention back to the present.
5 – Use waiting as an opportunity to be mindful. Patience is a struggle for most people. When waiting in line somewhere or stuck in traffic, try to view it as an opportunity to soak in your surroundings. Notice what’s going on around you.
6 – Listen mindfully. When engaging in conversation with others, try to really tune into that person and the message they are trying to convey. Pay attention to the words they are saying and emotional cues they are giving, without judgment. Recognize impulses to jump in and speak before the other is done and wait to respond. Be aware of your own emotional reaction to what is being said and factor that in to your response.
7 – Breathe. If you find yourself stressed out, take a minute to stop and take a few deep breaths. Try to focus on breath – notice how it feels when the air enters and leaves your lungs and how you feel afterwards. Scan your body to notice physical sensations within.
8 – Try a guided mindfulness meditation. If you have a few minutes and could use a little reset during or at the end of your day, try a guided exercise. You can find guided mindfulness meditations on podcasts, apps, or youtube that range from just a few minutes long to a half an hour. See video below for an 8 minute guided mindfulness exercise by Sam Harris.
Joel Schmidt, MA, LMHC – Office in the Carrollwood area of Tampa, FL
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