Mindfulness has been increasingly popular and the term seems to be everywhere these days. There have been many prominent teachers like Eckhart Tolle, Jon Kabat-Zinn and many others who teach us about the benefits of mindfulness and its importance to our well-being.
Practicing mindfulness is the cultivation of our ability to focus on what is happening in the present instead of allowing our minds to wander into the past or the future. Research has shown that benefits of mindfulness range from reduction of anxiety and stress to slow down mental aging. Given the benefits of mindfulness practices, you might be curious about how you can practice them!
The most common way to cultivate mindfulness is perhaps through mindfulness meditation. However, it can be sometimes difficult to squeeze in a good 30-45 minutes of meditation into our busy lives. Here are some easy ways in which you can incorporate mindfulness into your daily activities to reap the benefits of it:
The easiest way is to notice how you are breathing as your breath moves in and out of your body. Focusing on our breath is a way to bring our attention to the present moment. Our breath is happening with or without our conscious awareness and by bringing our attention to our breath we can focus better on the present moment. Take in a few deep belly breaths and focus your attention on the inhale and exhale during ordinary activities such as waiting in a queue or running an errand.
When you are having a conversation with a colleague or coworker, try to practice active listening by giving your fullest attention to another person. To listen actively to another person, make eye contact, observe their facial expressions and simply listen without an agenda. The practice of active listening helps to bring our attention to the present moment and it can even increase the quality of our interactions with others.
Our emotions are another way the body communicates with us at any given moment. Throughout the day, you might experience a range of emotions from sadness to joy. By attempting to label and describe the emotions you are feeling at any given moment, you may find yourself being more in touch with the present. Mood journaling or talking to a friend is a few effective ways to help you express and get in touch with your emotions.
Our body is constantly sending us messages through sensations. Take a few moments throughout the day to pause and check in with your body. Pay close attention and notice if you are able to observe any aches, pains or tensions in certain areas of your body. Bringing your attention to the bodily sensations can help realign your attention to the present and it also provides you with information on what your body needs at a given instance.
Engaging our five senses can give you access to the practice of mindfulness without having to sit through long meditations or books. Notice the sight and sounds of traffic when you are outdoors and people walking by. Notice the scent of a beautiful flower, feel the warmth of the sun on your face and the wind in your hair. Wherever you are, pay attention to what is around you by using your five senses to bring your full attention to the present moment.
Meal times are also a great opportunity to practice mindfulness. Most of the time, we may find ourselves watching a video or reading a book while we eat. But research has shown that when we eat with more mindfulness, we are able to digest our food better which aids in overall nutrient absorption and digestive health. So next time you sit down for a meal, put down your mobile devices and focus on chewing your food mindfully instead, and notice how you eat.
Depending on your daily schedule and preference, you may also want to explore more structured mindfulness exercises in the form of meditation. Here are a few different types of structured mindfulness meditation which require you to set aside some time to perform:
As you can see, there are multiple opportunities and ways to incorporate mindfulness into your daily life- from simple exercises that are easily incorporated into your daily activities to more structured meditation exercises. While structured mindfulness meditation such as walking meditation and body scan meditation requires dedicated time and place to practice, simple mindfulness exercises can be practiced anywhere and anytime. Find a practice that you are likely to stick with and aim to practice mindfulness every day for about six months. You might come to find that mindfulness becomes more effortless with practice.
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